GREEN BAY – This would've worked wonderfully as a playoff preview story, but unfortunately it's a different kind of retrospective.
The Packers' 2022 season will be remembered for a late-season turnaround that came up one win short. While thinking about all the failures in Week 18 vs. the Lions will make for a long offseason, the unexpected excitement generated from a season that appeared lost is still worth revisiting.
Subjectivity certainly applies, but here are the five plays, in chronological order, that (almost) saved the Packers' season.
1. Christian Watson's 58-yard touchdown vs. Dallas
The Packers were 3-6, coming off a maddeningly frustrating loss at Detroit, and trailed the Cowboys 7-0 in the second quarter. Watson went deep down the sideline on third-and-1, hauled in Aaron Rodgers' pass to tie the game, and punctuated his first NFL TD catch with a backflip.
Green Bay would go on to fall behind by 14 points in this game and would need a 39-yard, fourth-down TD from Watson to spark the comeback. The Packers also would still lose their next two games to fall to 4-8.
But this play starts the list because of what it signified. Watson finally put the first-play-of-the-season drop in Minnesota behind him, and the score began a binge that saw Watson pile up eight TDs in a four-game span, changing the Packers' offense and the way teams defended it.
2. Dean Lowry's blocked field goal at Chicago
With a 4-8 record and on the brink of effective elimination, the Packers trailed the Bears 19-10 entering the fourth quarter. AJ Dillon's 21-yard TD run in the first minute of the final period pulled Green Bay within 19-17, but the Bears countered with a 49-yard pass to N'Keal Harry to get into field-goal range.
But then Lowry blocked Cairo Santos' 40-yard attempt, keeping it a two-point game, which proved huge when the Packers' ensuing drive stalled at the Chicago 14-yard line on fourth-and-5 with five minutes left.
Had the Bears been up by five points instead of just two, the Packers probably have to go for the touchdown, and who knows what happens. A field goal gave Green Bay its first lead of the game at 20-19 lead and led to …
3. Jaire Alexander's interception at Chicago
As the clock approached three minutes remaining, Chicago had driven across midfield and was nearing scoring range with a first down at the Green Bay 43.
Alexander, who had been burned on the deep ball to Harry and on another long pass earlier to former Packers WR Equanimeous St. Brown, redeemed himself by stepping in front of QB Justin Fields' pass for St. Brown inside the 30-yard line.
The pick with 2:52 left set up Watson's 46-yard TD run on an end-around three plays later to seal the victory and start the winning streak.
4. De'Vondre Campbell's interception at Miami
The Packers intercepted Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa on three straight drives in the fourth quarter to pull out the Christmas win, but there's an argument Campbell's was the most significant of the three.
The Packers led only 23-20 at the time and Miami faced second-and-13 from the Green Bay 30. Even without a first down, the Dolphins were in field-goal range to tie the game when Campbell snagged an attempted seam throw for RB Raheem Mostert, and the Packers turned the takeaway into another field goal and six-point cushion.
This isn't to discount the other fourth-quarter interceptions by Alexander, which put the Packers in position to take the lead, and by Rasul Douglas, which came on the second play of Miami's final possession. But forced to pick one pick, Campbell's was the biggest.
5. Keisean Nixon's 105-yard kickoff return TD vs. Minnesota
There were several big moments in the blowout of the Vikings, but Nixon changed the tenor of the game.
Huge props go out to defensive lineman T.J. Slaton, who stopped Vikings RB Dalvin Cook on third-and-goal at the 1, forcing Minnesota to settle for a field goal. That got the Lambeau Field crowd into it after the early blocked punt spread some nervous energy.
But then the crowd exploded when Nixon took the ensuing kickoff to the house, jetting through a monstrous running lane and easily side-stepping kicker Greg Joseph, the last defender with a chance to stop him.
The Packers had the lead for good, as it turned out, and the crowd resumed roaring when safety Darnell Savage took a deflected interception 75 yards for another score just a few possessions later. The rout was on before Green Bay's offense had scored a point.