Stream of Consciousness: Bottom’s Up Edition
What a way to end a season.
It doesn’t get much rougher than this kind of loss, but it was most certainly a team loss shared by coaches and players alike. In a hard-fought game in which the Green Bay Packers dominated the action for the majority of the day, they fell short in the end. Partly a result of questionable coaching decisions, but it was mainly a result of multiple player failures during the most important moments of the game that ultimately secured this Packers’ loss as one for the ages.
And with that… here are the 10 things that happened en route to the Packers’ most devastating defeat in franchise history.
1. Wind and Weather
In the predictions leading up to the game, I had Seattle winning 20-19, so clearly I gave the Packers a better than average chance of coming into Seattle and taking down the champs. On Sunday morning, however, when I saw rain and winds at 18 MPH with gusts in the high 30s, my spirit was substantially dampened. Without Aaron Rodgers’ ability to flee the pocket and allow his receivers additional time to get separation, his passes needed to be extremely accurate versus the Seahawks’ secondary.
The weather wasn’t discussed nearly enough as a reason for the poor quarterback play for both Seattle and Green Bay. Also, receivers on both teams were struggling to catch routine passes.
Weather isn’t what cost the Packers this game, but it might have played a role in Rodgers’ ineffectiveness.
2. A Reversal in Philosophy
Answer this question:
In the NFL, for playoff success to be achieved, a team should be more ____________ in the playoffs than the regular season.
There are those out there who liked the fact that the Packers settled for field goals deep in Seahawks’ territory, but as far as I was concerned, it sent a really bad message to both teams that the Packers were playing scared.
What do the Packers normally do in that situation? They go for it.
What do they do in the biggest game of the year when 99 and possibly 100 out of 100 people would choose letter “A” above as the obvious answer to the question? They lose their nerve, take the points and set the tone for the entire game.
Well what if they wouldn’t have made it? So what!
Sometimes they didn’t make it, like week 17 versus Detroit when they got stuffed, but Mike McCarthy would correctly defend the action as the correct one. How can he now sit there in this press conference and not admit that his actions were a little conservative?
Later, I was continually surprised by the patience that Pete Carroll demonstrated. In the fourth quarter, he continued to run the ball and never got into an up-tempo offense. Even with less than two minutes and needing a touchdown to win, there was never the slightest hint that there was any panic on Seattle’s side of the field. And maybe that’s because McCarthy showed all his cards in those three early 4th-and-short situations where he took the conservative route each time.
Does Pete Caroll feel confident enough to punt from midfield with seven minutes left in the game and down by two scores if he thinks McCarthy will do anything on offense? Passing on the opportunity to go for it early revealed McCarthy’s conservative mindset and seemed to provide Carroll with a calm throughout this game.
Let me be very clear. I have never been a big fan of Pete Carroll. That being said, this was a masterful coaching performance and an utter domination of the Packers during the most crucial moments of the game. The Packers were acting like clock-watchers, while the Seahawks acted like patient stalkers, confident that they would eventually finish their timid prey.
Coaching isn’t what cost the Packers this game, but the conservative approach allowed Seattle to stay in it.
3. Rodgers looked pretty nimble there
Aaron Rodgers barely moved out of the pocket on Sunday, but on his one touchdown of the day, he appeared to move with relative ease. His scrambling out of the pocket to the right allowed Randall Cobb a massive passing window that I didn’t expect Rodgers to be able to create. Apparently, he could only do it that one time though and that wasn’t enough to get the job done.
Rodgers’ lack of mobility didn’t cost the Packers this game, but it certainly didn’t help.
4. The 15-yard penalty that wasn’t
Prior to the 3rd and 19 debacle, which will be discussed below, there was a strange call on the field where the Packers declined a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty on Seattle. This was the play where Clay Matthew sacked Russell Wilson for a substantial loss and then was immediately jumped on by Seattle’s J.R. Sweezy, which brought a yellow flag.
The reason the Packers declined the penalty is because the referees ruled the cheap shot by the Seattle lineman happened during the course of the play and was not after the whistle. Thus, the Packers could take the result of the play or back Seattle up 15 yards and give them the down over. As the sack was a loss of exactly 15 yards, the Packers correctly took the result of the play.
The bigger question is, how is this not a penalty after the conclusion of the play, and therefore subject to an additional 15 yards tacked on at the end of the play? After all, the play is over once Clay sacks Wilson and Wilson is clearly on the ground and down before Sweezy jumps on Matthews, but guess what? It’s a judgement call for the referees to determine if it was during or after the play.
As it turned out, this would be a very bad break for the Packers and lead to dire consequences.
5. 3rd and 19
Has a three-man rush ever worked for Dom Capers during his tenure as Packers defensive coordinator? I don’t think so.
So Dom thought he would do himself one better and rush only two and spy the quarterback with the other guy, thus creating the much feared two-man rush! This gave Russell Wilson over eight seconds to scan the field and find an open receiver. We all know where this game went from here.
Dom Capers called a hell of a game, minus a couple plays. This was one of them.
I don’t know why coaches in the NFL don’t do some of the things I’ve been doing on Madden for years. One such example is when your opponent is in a fourth down situation where a fake field goal is highly likely, just as it was before the Packers got burned on Sunday.
The response to such a scenario? Don’t even put your special teams unit on the field!
At that point in the game the Packers are up 16-0 and this is a freaking chip shot. Just concede the damn three points and put your nickel or dime out there and be done with it.
The blatantly obvious idea that a fake COULD be coming had to be at least somewhat present, right? I mean, they had to consider the possibility. Right? Please?
At 16 points down, you’re two touchdowns behind and at 13 points down you’re still two touchdowns down, yet the Packers marched their usual field goal unit out there and fell right into the trap.
Although this play didn’t cost the Packers the game, had they been more aware of the situation, the Seahawks would have burned a timeout and kicked the field goal.
7. Get down! Get down!
Much has been said about Morgan Burnett sliding down like the game was over. What many thought was even worse was when Burnett said he had no regrets about the decision. However, unlike head coach Mike McCarthy, who also uttered the “no regrets” mantra, Burnett’s response was used in protection of a teammate rather than as one to avoid responsibility.
Julius Peppers, and who knows who else on that field and sideline, told Burnett to get down. When a teammate, especially one that large, tells you to hit the deck… you best hit the deck.
I can imagine Burnett looking at the clock a couple seconds after the play and thinking, “Damn. I should have run with it.” But in the moment, I blame Peppers more than Burnett. What we’ll never know is what was being said on the sideline or by the coaches.
Did Peppers make this decision on his own or was it coached? Either way, it was wrong. You slide down when the game is no longer in question, not when there’s five minutes left, you have a 12-point lead, and you’re playing the best fourth quarter team ever with possibly the greatest defense of all time. What a horrific mistake.
Peppers’ decision to tell Burnett to hit the deck didn’t cost the Packers this game, but if Morgan veers right he’s got nothing but green pasture in front of him.
8. Are you trying to run clock or not?
A lot of people are complaining about Mike McCarthy’s conservative play calling late in the game. Even Aaron Rodgers seemed a little peeved about it. However, I really never had a problem with it. It was McCarthy’s decision to throw the ball on a 3rd and 4 with 5:26 left, when up by 12 that caught my attention.
Running the ball in this spot would automatically run the clock down to 4:46 and take 8 percent of the remaining time off the clock. That’s not an insignificant amount of the remaining time. Not only that, the previous play before the incomplete pass to Andrew Quarless was a 5-yard gain by James Starks. So, it’s not like it was some sort of impossibility that Starks could get four more on the following running play.
In what was obviously a conservative game plan from McCarthy, he chose to be aggressive at the most inopportune and foolish moment. Rodgers hit Quarless in a tightly contested play, but it fell incomplete.
Side note: Richard Sherman, in a piece on MMQB, stated only three teams in the NFL vary the plays they call on third downs and the Packers aren’t one of them. The Packers went 3-for-14 on third down, making it safe to assume that the Seahawks knew what was coming on every single one.
This incomplete pass that stopped the clock didn’t cost the Packers the game, but it might have made it more difficult for Seattle to come back had they run.
9. Brandon Bostick
How does one get in the good graces of the public eye? By accepting responsibility for and owning up to his actions.
Brandon Bostick may never be forgiven for abandoning his assignment and letting down his team, but if I ever run into him in the real world, he will get no scorn from me. Although he has no excuse for botching the play that helped put the cherry on top for the Seattle Seahawks, he has behaved like a man in this situation and has a reason to be proud.
Again, what we won’t know is how assignment-sure Bostick was in practice for this situation. If he made that mistake in practice EVER, then this colossal failure could also be placed near the feet of the hopefully former Packers special teams coaches.
Bostick’s utter failure didn’t cost the Packers the game, but it was the springboard for Seattle’s victory.
Jordy should have just shoved Bostick towards the nearest Seahawks player.
It’s all Jordy’s fault. Let’s get him!
10. Cover zero
Why Dom? Why?
When the only thing to fear was a touchdown, Dom Capers called a defensive formation tailor-made for a shot play. Maybe the Packers’ defensive unit was so exhausted at this point that he felt the need to stack the box a little bit more, but in an instant the game was over.
This game was not unlike the ones in the Super Bowl run in 2010-11. With the Falcons’ blowout being the exception, McCarthy and the Packers played a similar style en route to winning the Super Bowl. In the three games versus Philadelphia, Chicago and Pittsburgh, the Packers got out to big leads and then hung on for dear life, each contest ending with the defense on the field forced to secure the win. This match up was no different, but with one exception. This time the defense was only capable of slamming the door shut so many times before they toppled over.
Time of possession in the first quarter was 12:38 for the Packers and 2:22 for Seattle. At the end of overtime it would be 32:15 to 31:04, just barely in favor of the Packers. The Green Bay defense was on the field for just under 30 minutes in the final three quarters and the offense did absolutely nothing to give them a break.
Live by the sword. Die by the sword.