NFC Championship recap: Retracing the steps in Seattle and trying to make sense of Green Bay?s crushing NFC title game loss
My version of healing is to try to make sense of all the things that went wrong and lost the NFC championship game for the Packers in Seattle.
How did Green Bay lose thee? Let me count the ways:
– Brandon Bostick reacting slowly and letting the ball go through his hands and hit his facemask on the onside kick. (He was supposed to block but played a ball coming directly at him.)
– Andrew Quarless dropping a huge 3rd-and-4 pass. (He may have taken a hit in the back just prior to the ball arriving, but still could have caught it.)
– Morgan Burnett going to the ground after his interception, under Julius Peppers’ direction, with 5:04 left, not a minute remaining. Green Bay was still estimated to have a 96.1 percent winning chance at this point without a potential pick-six or long return.
– The Packers’ offensive line allowing back-to-back tackles for loss on the next two plays; Seattle players said this was the moment they decided Green Bay was playing not to lose, rather than playing to win.
– Ha Ha Clinton-Dix dropping his third interception. It may have been a pick-six due to his break on the ball and the space in front of him. His second pick was incredible; the potential third was much more routine.
– Rushing two on 3rd-and-19 (the third player was spying Russell Wilson). Three players in the middle of the field stood with swiveling heads while a receiver was wide open 5-10 yards behind them.
– Ahead 16-0 with four minutes left in the third quarter and getting completely caught off guard by the Seahawks’ fake field goal try. Seattle said they were going to kick it if Brad Jones wasn’t on the field and would go for it if he was. They had noticed Jones rushed field goals inside with abandon, leaving the outside open.
– Mike Daniels’ 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty. (Though Green Bay did later get past the original return line, and the infraction seemed extremely tame compared to non-calls on Dez Bryant with his helmet off, yelling at referees, or the non-called Kam Chancellor hit well out of bounds that hurt Richard Sherman.)
– Packers coach Mike McCarthy’s conservative play-calling late in the second half, letting Aaron Rodgers have just one pass attempt in Green Bay’s final two second half drives until the Packers trailed. (He then went 3-of-5 with two first downs and a 12-yard first down scramble after.) Especially since Sherman and Earl Thomas were both hurt at this point.
– The Packers defense shutting down Seattle’s offense unbelievably well all game only to give up touchdowns on three consecutive drives.
– Settling for the first two field goals on 4th-and-shorts near the goal line. Running on 3rd-and-3, then kicking a field goal on 4th-and-1 just outside the red zone early in the third quarter. John Kuhn and Eddie Lacy coming up short on chances for huge touchdown runs. The first two field goals were certainly legitimate decisions. This is only hindsight guessing.
– The referees missing the neutral zone infraction on Sherman’s interception. (Rodgers said he knew it was a free play because center Corey Linsley snapped the ball early. Replay showed a defensive lineman was definitely in the neutral zone.)
– Clinton-Dix missing the break-up after a huge rush on Wilson’s two-point converting sky-ball.
– No safety help over the top for Tramon Williams on the game-winning touchdown.
– Rodgers throwing to Randall Cobb before the second field goal, when Davante Adams appeared to be open for a slant touchdown – although for some reason didn’t appear to be looking for the ball.
– The miscommunication between Rodgers and Cobb on the second interception.
– Clay Matthews being out of the game for the last two minutes. A.J. Hawk throwing Seahawks tight end Luke Willson forward for a first down. Missed tackles and a possible missed holding call on the Marshawn Lynch touchdown run following that.
– After harassing Wilson all game with a powerful pass rush, no sacks or knockdowns of the Seattle quarterback on the Seahawks’ three touchdown drives.
– Tim Masthay hits a 30-yard shank punt to give Seattle the ball on the Packers’ 31 to start the first of their three touchdown drives.
– Rodgers’ passes just inches long on potential touchdown throws to Jordy Nelson and James Starks.
– Datone Jones not hitting Wilson on his touchdown run because he was fooled by a fake handoff to Lynch.
– Casey Hayward letting Doug Baldwin get open for 35 yards in overtime. (Tramon Williams played the winning touchdown pass well; it was just perfectly thrown.)
It seems that almost all of these were necessary for Seattle to somehow deal possibly the most bitter playoff loss ever to the Packers. Did I miss any?