Days after the Green Bay Packers suffered another playoff exit, this one seems heartache will linger for years to come. People will say, remember that game when the Packers blew it. When they had the defending champ Seattle Seahawks on the ropes, up 19-7 in the fourth quarter and lost.
So, what naturally happens after a loss like this is a lot of pointing and blaming. But the Green Bay Packers are too classy an organization for that. Titletown will be back. Led by Head Coach Mike McCarthy, they will learn from their mistakes.
Still, we have to look back and ask how did this collapse happen. How did the Packers, who were in control for most of the game, lose a trip to Super Bowl XLIX? Where did they go wrong?
Was it Mike McCarthy’s playcalling?
I have no problem with the first quarter field goals, especially coming off turnovers. Some would argue against the conservative six points, but it’s also too early to gamble on fourth down. The Packers got the lead and built on it.The Packers' opening drive is shut down as Richard Sherman picks off Aaron Rodgers in the endzone.
Should they have capitalized with touchdowns, of course. The Seahawks are the best defense in the league, but scoring just 16 points off of three interceptions and a fumble is embarrassing, especially for the best offense in the league.
The excuses are there; Aaron Rodgers’ calf, deflated footballs, the sun was in my eye, whatever.
The fact of the matter is, at some point in the game, the Packers played not to lose. It could’ve been that conservative playcalling, combined with the countless turnovers by both teams, that attributed to the Packers looking at the score instead of the clock. Who knows?
But it’s simple math. Instead of playing 60 minutes, they played 55, and got burned. To be quite honest, they were fortunate to force overtime.
Despite the best defensive gameplan and execution from the Packers all season, the Green Bay Packers let a trip to the Super Bowl slip right through their fingers. It’s a shame to say the player of the game was kicker Mason Crosby; five for five, including the clutch game tying 48 yard field goal to force overtime.
Everyone shares the blame.
We can start with the same defense who played lights out and yet, allowed the greatest second half comeback in Conference Championship history, allowing 15 points in 2:19.
Rodgers threw two backbreaking interceptions, both in scoring range. Too many mistakes were made giving Seattle hope. Late in the game, Rodgers still avoided an injured Richard Sherman. Sherman’s arm was hanging as he suffered an elbow strain. Why not at least test him with Jordy Nelson? But instead, two critical drives ended in back to back 3 and outs when they needed it most.Morgan Burnett slides down after the interception despite plenty of running room.
With just over five minutes remaining in the fourth, Morgan Burnett picked off Russell Wilson, Wilson’s fourth interception of the day. The ball was tipped to Burnett right at midfield and it looked like he might run it back for a score. Instead, he slid down on his own 43 yard line. We can also see in the replay, teammate Julius Peppers signaling him to get down. Why future hall of famer Julius Peppers did that, I’ll never know. But this is the play that most signifies playing it safe. It was as if the game was over in their minds. Burnett could’ve ran for at least 20 more yards maybe even putting them in field goal range. I can’t remember someone intercepting a ball and going down with 5:13 left in the game. That’s something that’s done only when the game is clinched. And clearly, it wasn’t over yet.
Then again, that could’ve been the beginning of the end for the Pack.
Or it could’ve been the fake field goal by former Packers punter John Ryan. That must’ve felt good for him finally getting his team on the scoreboard against his old teammates. Ironically, Wilson converted a third-and-19 earlier in the drive that was reminiscent of the famous “fourth and 26”. Everything started going Seattle’s way. As for the fake, the Packers coaching staff should’ve seen that coming. They shut out Seattle into three quarters. They got to expect a trick play somewhere.As Brandon Bostick fails to secure the onside kick, Jordy Nelson is left stunned as the ball pops up into Seahawks Chris Matthews arms.
Speaking of not so special teams, the onside kick recovered by Seattle was just icing on the cake. By this point, momentum had swung completely and nothing could stop the Seahawks. And sadly, that’s the kind of play that gets people fired.
Packers special teams coach Shawn Slocum could be out of a job after allowing a fake field goal, and onside kick in the same game, let alone the NFC Championship. But the player having the most trouble sleeping is Brandon Bostick. Bostick was supposed to block allowing Jordy Nelson to catch the onside kick. But we all know that didn’t happen.
Oh, how can I forget, how about the “Fail Mary 2” on a two point conversion. It was the Monday Night Miracle all over again, except without the replacement refs. This time, poor Ha Ha Clinton-Dix who played the game of his life, was there to make a play, with the ball floating right in front of him. Unfortunately, for some reason, he just froze. And the ball was caught by Luke Willson putting the Seahawks ahead 22-19 with 1:33 left. That ball thrown from the right sideline to the left hash must’ve traveled 40-50 yards in the air. It was like time stood still.Mason Crosby sends the Packers into overtime with a clutch 48 yard field goal.
It’s amazing to think if Clinton-Dix just got a hand on it, the Packers would be on their way to Arizona with a chance at the trophy as their late field goal would be the game winner.
We have to give the Packers offense a lot of credit by the way, for their final drive. With everything going wrong, 1:19 left, it would’ve been easy to call it quits. But Rodgers carried his team downfield to at least have a chance. Watching him keep the Pack alive as he hobbled 12 yards for a first down into field goal range was a heroic performance.
In one of the weirdest greatest games in NFL history, it feels like neither team deserved to win. Green Bay played 55 minutes, the Seahawks five and change. Still, it counts as a “W” for the defending champs, while the Packers went home.
The clichés are always there: maybe next year, it’s just a game.
One thing’s for sure though; the Packers learned a valuable lesson. They’ll remember this NFC Championship every game they play. They’ll remember how close they were. They’ll remember to finish strong.