(CBS) The play will forever live on in lore of the Bears-Packers rivalry. On fourth-and-8 in the 2013 regular-season finale to decide the NFC North title, Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers bought enough time to find receiver Randall Cobb wide open behind the Chicago defense for the winning 48-yard touchdown, a victory that sent the Packers to the playoffs and the Bears home.
In on that fateful play was then-Bears defensive end Julius Peppers, who’s now a Packer. He had a chance to sack Rodgers after coming free off the line, but Rodgers slipped his grasp and Peppers’ hand could only brush off the quarterback’s thigh.
Looking back, Peppers believes that’s a play that, at least indirectly, led to him being in a Green Bay uniform now.
“I was pretty close,” Peppers said, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “We joked about it. He actually cost me my job. He got me released. I guess it turned out pretty good.”
Asked a follow-up question, Peppers reiterated his belief.
“For sure,” Peppers repeated. “If I would’ve made the play, I probably wouldn’t be here now (in Green Bay). It’s kind of like one of those things, at the time it was the worst thing that could’ve happened. But now it’s like the best thing that could’ve happened.”
Is Peppers’ line of thinking correct? Perhaps, but it doesn’t seem likely. His angle is certainly that if the Bears made the playoffs, they’d be more open to keeping him and the status quo. But win or lose in that regular-season finale, Chicago’s defense still set franchise records for futility and needed revamped. Peppers carried a cap hit of around $18 million if the Bears had chosen to keep him, and general manager Phil Emery knew he could acquire several younger players for that money. So that’s the route he took, signing the likes of Lamarr Houston, Willie Young and Jared Allen with more financial flexibility.