On Sunday, Packer Nation thought they were turning on the NFC Championship game. Instead they got to witness the greatest and most epic fail in Green Bay Packers history.
11:16, 1st Quarter – An excellent opening drive for the Packers ended with an Aaron Rodgers’ interception in the end zone.
The Seattle Seahawks won the toss, which means the Packers were wrong when calling both coin tosses in this game and Seattle predictably decided to start the game with the defense on the field.
The Packers started with Eddie Lacy and John Kuhn in the wing-set with Aaron Rodgers. Going with a pass on first down, Rodgers had plenty of time to find Kuhn. Kuhn had to go to the ground to catch the low pass, which relegated the play to just 3 yards. On second down, Kuhn and Lacy got into the pro-set, and Lacy got 1 yard over right guard. Third and 6 turned into 3rd and 1 thanks to Michael Bennett jumping offsides. On 3rd and 1, Rodgers went with the quick give to Lacy over left tackle and he bolted for 13 yards, picking up a key block from Randall Cobb out of the slot.
As a strategy to deal with safety Kam Chancellor dropping down close to the line of scrimmage on running downs, the Packers frequently had their slot receiver crash down on him. It appeared to catch the Seahawks by surprise and led to a couple good runs in the first half.
Right after hitting Davante Adams for 7 yards on a quick slant that was thrown behind him, Rodgers found Cobb on the quick out underneath Jordy Nelson, which the Packers commonly run. Cobb found good room and picked up 14 yards. That moved the ball to the Seattle 29, but the Packers would go no further.
On first down, Rodgers would look for Adams on the quick slant against Richard Sherman, pump-fake and then decide to throw it into the ground. On second down, Rodgers would try the go route to a well-covered Jordy Nelson and nearly have it picked off by Byron Maxwell. Nelson allowed himself to be forced too far to the outside, giving Rodgers no room to deliver the ball and I have no idea why Rodgers tried for it.
On third down, Rodgers slid out of the pocket to his right and then fired for the back of the end zone and Davante Adams. Sherman was in good position and picked it off. Rodgers said after the game that he thought Seattle was offsides and that he was just taking a shot. He was right that Seattle was offsides, as Bennett was again in the neutral zone at the snap. However, it wasn’t called and without seeing a flag thrown, throwing a football up for grabs is, let’s say, “ill-advised.”
Ironically, Rodgers would throw the ball deep after drawing Seattle offsides three times in the game. On the other two throws in this situation, he would overthrow the receiver, which, of course, is the last thing you want to do on a free play. In this case, he correctly threw the jump ball, only to have it picked and to have no flag thrown. Haha….
At the time, considering it was a 47-yard kick in the wind and rain, I didn’t think the interception was a big deal. However, now after knowing the game Crosby would have, I can say that was three points thrown away right there.
8:10, 1st Quarter – Mason Crosby kicked his first field goal of the game to put the Packers ahead 3-0.
Seattle went two and a pick in their first series, starting the game with a real bang. The Packers were in their nickel defense, which is a slight surprise considering Seattle’s ability to run the football. On first down, Marshawn Lynch went right and got 3 yards, which would be par for the course in the first half. On 3rd and 7, Russell Wilson tried for Jermaine Kearse on a slant. Tramon Williams was in tight coverage and the ball deflected off Kearse and directly into the arms of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. He took off up the sideline, briefly advancing the ball to the Seattle 5. However, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Mike Daniels put the Packers back to the Seattle 19.
Against Dallas last week, I noticed that Daniels got into the face of a couple Cowboys after two early plays in that game. In fact, after stopping Dallas on their first third down of the game, Daniels got in the face of a guy on the sideline almost in an identical manner as this. It wasn’t called and I actually got a kick out of it. However, this time around, a referee was standing right there. Not smart, Mike.
No matter. On the first play for the Packers, Rodgers found Richard Rodgers right between the linebackers for 12 yards, down to the Seattle 7. On 1st and goal from there, the Packers ran Lacy straight ahead and he bulled his way down to the 1-yard line. On 2nd and goal, Rodgers tried the quick hitter to Kuhn right over Josh Sitton. It was initially called a touchdown. Unfortunately, it was not. On third down from the half-yard line, the Packers went with their money play with Lacy following Kuhn over the left side.
Unfortunately, the extra lineman, J.C. Tretter, and Kuhn blew the play. Tretter allowed his man to get underneath him and into the backfield. If Kuhn ran around the fallen defender and led Lacy into the hole, it’s an easy touchdown. Instead, Kuhn ran right into the defender in the backfield and blocked no one. Lacy went for the hole between Richard Rodgers and Tretter alone, only to be met by Malcolm Smith, now unblocked thanks to Kuhn, and then Earl Thomas, who together stuffed Lacy at the 1.
I am guessing he might be getting other advice, but in my opinion, Lacy needs to run near the goal line the same as he does in the middle of the field. He continues to attempt to bull his way into the end zone instead of using his quick feet. Once again, if Lacy bounced the play to the outside once Smith and Thomas committed to the hole, he easily scores.
The decision to kick a field goal here was a no brainer. First of all, the game was tied. You don’t pass up the lead. Secondly, you just ran twice from the 1 and didn’t get in. What makes you think you’ll succeed on fourth when you failed on second and third? The correct choice is to take the points and Mike McCarthy did.
The hits just kept coming for the Seahawks as douchebag emeritus Doug Baldwin got hit by Dick Butkus, I mean, Brad Jones, and fumbled the ball on the ensuing kickoff. The fumble bounced right into the arms of Morgan Burnett. That gave the Packers the ball at the Seattle 23.
Eddie Lacy was actually looking about as explosive as he looked all season and gained 16 yards on two carries, giving the Packers 1st and goal from the 7. On first down, Lacy ran against eight defenders in the box and gained only 1. On 2nd and goal, Rodgers tried Nelson on an out from the slot. It was there, but Rodgers’ pass was a foot too high and wide. Nelson could only get one hand on it and it went incomplete. On 3rd and goal, the Seahawks blitzed off the left side. Rodgers hurried, although he didn’t have to. No one got near him.
The play was a quick screen to Cobb with Adams blocking for him. The play had a high chance of success with only two defenders — Sherman and Thomas, there to defend it. One of those guys — Thomas — was starting a couple yards deep in the end zone. Unfortunately, the players involved botched it. Adams appears responsible to block Sherman, which would make sense, as Sherman was covering Cobb. However, Sherman kept outside leverage and never attacked the play. Instead, Thomas attacked the play, ran right by Adams, who was looking to block Sherman and tackled Cobb.
Cobb hesitated behind Adams and so, when Rodgers threw him the ball, the timing was off. It forced Cobb to nearly dive for the ball, making him easy for Thomas to take down. If Cobb would have cut underneath Adams, the middle of the field was WIDE open since Thomas just vacated it. Or, if Adams would have simply blocked Thomas, Cobb would have had a good chance to score. Obviously, neither of those things happened.
The replay showed Rodgers was pissed off at the decision to kick the field goal here instead of going for it. It also showed that McCarthy was pissed off at Rodgers, Adams and Cobb for blowing a play that should have scored. Regardless, I could argue for going for it on fourth here. Since you already have the 3-0 lead, might as well try to make it 10-0. However, considering the Packers ineptitude at picking up short yardage, hard to argue about it either way. Those who have argued vociferously over it likely aren’t aware of the Packers’ record in that regard.
00:00, 1st Quarter – What a quarter! The Packers scored a touchdown on the final play of the first quarter to lead 13-0.
Seattle managed to hold onto the ball long enough to punt this time. Lynch appeared to have a decent gain over the left side on first down, but Clinton-Dix flew up and took Lynch’s legs out after just a 3-yard gain. On second down, Julius Peppers discarded J.R. Sweezy like yesterday’s trash and sacked Wilson for a 3-yard loss. On 3rd and 10, Peppers, Mike Neal and Datone Jones all met at Wilson, who threw wide of a well-covered Luke Wilson. Wow. The Packer’s defense picked a good time to play their best ball of the season. Punt.
The punt was only 39 yards. Micah Hyde muffed it, then recovered at the Packers’ 44.
The Packers would follow with a 56-yard drive for a touchdown, ironically getting their only such score in the game NOT after a turnover.
On the first play of the drive, Rodgers was given eight seconds to throw the football and eventually found Jordy Nelson standing at the sideline for 15 yards. Two plays later, Eddie Lacy went over right tackle, got a block from Adams on Chancellor, pulled out a spin move and gained 9 yards. On 3rd and 1, the Packers went with a quick give to Kuhn. A pest all game, as he was in the season opener, ex-Viking and old man Kevin Williams jumped on Kuhn’s back in the backfield. Fortunately, Kuhn carried him for 3 yards and a first down.
On the next play, Rodgers found Richard Rodgers for 11 yards right in front of Chancellor. This quick pass to the tight end over the middle is one of a couple important plays that worked in the first half and then went away in the second. After Lacy bulled for 5 yards up the middle, down to the Seattle 13, Rodgers caught the Seahawks offsides again, escaped out of the pocket to his right and found Randall Cobb alone in the back of the end zone. Earl Thomas had overplayed Cobb on the cross and left Cobb wide open when Rodgers extended the play.
The Seahawks went three and out again, when Wilson missed Doug Baldwin on a corner against Casey Hayward on 3rd and 7. Jon Ryan managed only a 39-yard punt and Hyde returned it 29 yards, down to the Seahawks’ 33. Already trailing 13-0, things are starting to get real for Seattle.
If Rodgers was really upset with the Packers’ “aggressiveness” after the game, then McCarthy can pull out this mini-series as Exhibit 1. The only reason why the Packers didn’t actually end up going backwards and out of field goal range was thanks to a questionable hands to the face call against Cliff Avril on 3rd and 13, which gifted the Packers a first down and put them back into field goal range. And as Troy Aikman noted during the broadcast, the Seahawks were lucky it wasn’t worse. Randall Cobb ran a deep in and broke free wide open across the middle. Unfortunately, that play would be the second time that Rodgers threw it hard and high and Cobb could only get his right hand on it.
After a run by Lacy gained 4, the Packers went with Cobb in the backfield and gave him a draw for 3 more. Cobb actually got 4, down to the Seattle 23, but the ref who marked the ball appeared to lose track what line to put the ball on and set the ball at the 24 instead of the 23, which would be especially relevant considering what followed.
On 3rd and 3 from there, Lacy, Quarless and Cobb were all in the backfield. Rodgers clearly had the pass-run option since both Jordy Nelson, lined up wide right, and Cobb ran pass routes on this play instead of blocking. And yet, even though the Seahawks brought Chancellor down and lined up eight in the box, with only six including Quarless to block them, Rodgers went with the run to Lacy. It is 3rd and 3, not 3rd and 1, and with six guys blocking eight, the results were predictable. Lacy came up a yard short. Meanwhile, Nelson was one-on-one with Sherman and had him beat on the quick slant. If Rodgers had delivered the ball where Nelson could run away from Sherman, Nelson only would have had the backup safety to beat for a touchdown since Thomas was out at this point.
I have no idea why Rodgers chose to run the ball on this play. Fear of Sherman? Let’s face it, besides a weak attempt to appear willing to challenge Sherman in the first couple series, Rodgers still stayed away from him.
McCarthy again chose to take the field goal on 4th and 1 and considering the defense to this point and Rodgers’ decision on this play, I don’t blame him. Crosby’s field goal put the Packers ahead 16-0, which would end up being the score at half.
The Seahawks were again in big trouble when Wilson threw a pick to Ha Ha Clinton-Dix on the first play of their next drive. This was Ha Ha’s best play as a pro so far. As centerfielder, he ran with Jermaine Kearse going deep, turned and spotted the ball at the last second and then batted the ball to himself. He returned the ball to the Seattle 41, but a personal foul penalty on Clay Matthews kept the ball on the Packers’ side of the field. That is two interception returns and two 15-yard penalties on the Packers, if you are scoring at home.
No matter. Rodgers hit Nelson on a post route two plays later, good for 23 yards, down to the Seattle 33. Once again, the Packers were on the cusp of scoring territory. Wrong. On the next play, the Packers ran the familiar route combo of Cobb running an out while Nelson ran a curl in the vicinity to block for Cobb. Cobb did a curl instead. Rodgers threw an out and Maxwell got his second gift of the year from Rodgers. Logic suggests Cobb was at fault, though Chancellor lined up on Cobb and was shading him to the outside, which is likely why Cobb ran the curl instead.
Regardless, the NFC Championship game is the wrong time to be having communication breakdowns that lead to interceptions. Cobb made a nice play to tackle Maxwell or this play would have hurt worse.
I didn’t find any evidence that McCarthy let up in the second half. However, for those who still believe he did, you maybe should consider the impact of these two interceptions in the first half, both of which likely took points off the board.
The Seahawks ran out most of the rest of the half on their following drive. They drove to the Packers’ 18-yard line almost entirely on runs, as they finally got their running game untracked. However, on 3rd and 8 from the 18, Wilson took a shot for Kearse on a fade to the end zone, only to have it picked by Sam Shields.
Russell Wilson is a great leader, athlete and a clutch quarterback. However, he is also a one-read quarterback. That’s why you don’t repeatedly drop him in the pocket and have him read the defense. It is a not a strength. Wilson usually makes his read and if it isn’t there, he scrambles with the intention of buying time until the defense breaks down.
The Packers’ dedication to getting faster and more athletic on defense came home to roost in the first half of this game. Wilson was given no avenues of escape and bottled up, he forced throws even when his first read was covered rather than looking for other targets. On obvious running downs, the Packers brought either safety down to help defend against the read-option, which frankly, the Seahawks just didn’t run enough in the first half. Even more than that, the speed and toughness of Clay Matthews and Sam Barrington inside made this a totally different defense to run against.
4:44, 3rd Quarter – The Seahawks made their first big play of the game with a touchdown on a fake field goal of all things. That made the score 16-7.
The Seahawks started the second half with the ball. They ran three times and punted. On 3rd and 2, a draw to Lynch seemed likely to pick up the first with the Packers only in their nickel defense. However, while Nick Perry held the edge and forced Lynch inside, Matthews showed his value as an inside linebacker by defeating his block and then delivering a hard enough blow to Lynch to stop him in his tracks. Punt.
The Packers went three and out, which should surprise no one. Let’s all hope the Packers are better after the half next season. It was a true plague this season. The Seahawks weren’t doing anything different. They continue to line up one more defender than there are blockers on running downs. Even so, Rodgers sent Lacy into the line twice. After two carries, he gained 3 yards. On 3rd and 7, Cobb ran a slant from the slot and likely would have picked up the first down except that he nearly dropped the pass from Rodgers and ended up having to go to the ground to secure it.
The Seahawks then followed with their first scoring drive of the game. The Packers were playing mostly their base defense with Matthews back on the outside and A.J. Hawk paired with Barrington in the middle. The Seahawks went back to the book on how to attack that defense by throwing the ball on first down and then running on 2nd and short. Twice, Lynch broke off 11-yard runs on 2nd and 2.
The drive appeared stopped, however, when Matthews came around on a stunt and sacked Wilson for a 15-yard loss on 1st and 15. J.R. Sweezy cleaned Matthews off Wilson late and was called for a personal foul. Fortunately for the Seahawks, the foul was ruled to have occurred during the play, so the Packers had to decline the penalty and just take the play. Think about that for a moment and be dismayed.
If the hit happened during the play, then why was it a foul? Since the Packers would be forced to decline it anyway, what is the value of calling the penalty in the first place?
Regardless, it was still 2nd and 30. After a Lynch draw gained 11, it was 3rd and 19. Dom Capers decided to rush three and drop eight and yes, I feel your pain in regards to this strategy. In my memory it has never worked. However, everyone who complains about this play forgets that Clay Matthews was called for illegal hands to the face, which would have given Seattle a first down no matter what. It also appears that it may have been Matthews who left Baldwin wide open by not dropping far enough. Either way, it was a 29-yard play, down to the Packers’ 19.
The Seahawks got no further. At least their offense didn’t. That was almost entirely thanks to Nick Perry and Sam Barrington. On first down, Perry defeated the block at the edge and tackled Lynch for a 1-yard gain. On second down, Perry beat the fullback and tripped up Lynch in the backfield. Barrington finished him off for a 1-yard loss. On 3rd and 10, Seattle tried one of their money plays, which is the wheel route to Lynch with tight end Luke Wilson picking the middle linebacker. Barrington ran over the top of the pick, angled Lynch off and then fought the ball away from him as he was trying to secure the catch.
Sickeningly, all that effort from Perry and Barrington to stop the Seahawks went for naught. It was 4th and 10, which normally isn’t the kind of down and distance that you’d run a fake. However, this Seattle drive also ran over six minutes off the clock. There was less than five minutes left in the third quarter and a field goal while down 16-0 is essentially a win for the defense. Plus, this is Pete Carroll we are talking about.
I think at least half of Packer Nation was saying “watch for the fake” on this play. However, word never got to Davon House. House didn’t aggressively go for the block. He just held up and was caught flat-footed when Jon Ryan sprinted out with the football. That put A.J. Hawk in a bind. He had an eligible lineman going to the end zone and Ryan running free towards the first down. Hawk chose incorrectly by deciding not to concede the first down. In doing so, he conceded the touchdown. House was in pursuit of Ryan and it is possible that House might have tripped Ryan up before the first down. Regardless, the Seahawks definitely do not score on this play if Hawk had stayed with Garry Gilliam. Also, if House had maintained outside containment, the play never gets to that point.
In the end, it is just another special teams debacle for the Packers.
The Packers dropped back for four straight passes on their next drive before punting the ball away. On 2nd and 8, the Packers ran their only screen of the game to Lacy. Seattle was caught blitzing on the side of the screen and the play was going to go for good yards. However, Aaron Rodgers managed to roll his right ankle as he was dropping back and misfired on the throw to Lacy. Wow. On 3rd and 10, the Seahawks played cover 2 with a man underneath, big surprise. It worked and everyone was covered. Eddie Lacy released and finally broke away from Bobby Wagner right in front of Rodgers, but Cliff Avril came through the middle on a stunt and sacked Rodgers just as Lacy was coming open. Punt.
Russell Wilson fumbled the shotgun snap on first down, and the Seahawks ended up going three and out again.
10:45, 4th Quarter – The Packers scored their first points of the second half with a drive for a field goal that was almost entirely on the ground.
On the first two plays of the drive, Lacy ran twice and got 12 yards. That ran out the third quarter. On the first play of the fourth quarter, James Starks was in the game. He took a carry over left tackle, cut back to the middle and then cut all the way to the right sideline. Sherman and Chancellor finally knocked him out of bounds after a 32-yard gain. Sherman took the worst of Chancellor’s hit and would be seen protecting his left arm for the rest of the game.
The Packers picked up one more first down on a circle route to Richard Rodgers on 3rd and 7. On 2nd and 7 from the Seattle 30, Rodgers rolled out of the pocket to the right and then fired down the sideline for Starks. This play worked once all year and this is not a repeat. Starks only got one hand on the ball and couldn’t pull it in. Rodgers was not pleased, but if he expected Starks to make a miraculous catch here, then he’s thinking of the wrong guy.
On third down, Rodgers stood in the pocket, but didn’t find anyone open. Neither do I. Rodgers wisely threw the ball out of bounds in Starks’ direction since a sack would have knocked the Packers out of field goal range. Crosby strolled in and made a 48-yard kick to make the score 19-7.
The Seahawks then ran another four minutes off the clock in driving to midfield before punting. On 2nd and 15 from midfield, Wilson took a shot over the middle only to have Clinton-Dix jump the route. If Clinton-Dix comes down with the football, he has a full head of steam going the opposite direction and likely scores. The ball was thrown high and hard, however, and went right through his hands. Punt.
The Packers got the ball back at their own 13-yard line with seven minutes left to play. They started the drive off the same as last drive, except the two runs are to Starks. He gained 5 yards, setting up 3rd and 5.
The Seahawks faked the blitz with Earl Thomas lining up near the line of scrimmage. Thomas, however, dropped back and spied Rodgers instead, which was essentially a waste of one of the best pass defenders on the field. The four guys that rushed Rodgers got nowhere close. Cobb, Nelson and Adams all lined up to the left with Quarless out wide to the right. Cobb and Nelson ran straight upfield while Adams did a quick slant right underneath them. He was open for the first down and one would think was the primary on this play. However, perhaps fooled into thinking the Seahawks were going to blitz, Rodgers looked for Quarless all the way and tried the stop to him right at the first down marker. The match-up was favorable for the Packers, with Quarless being covered by K.J. Wright, who is not their better cover linebacker. However, Wright covered Quarless tightly and actually interfered with him before the ball arrived. No flag, of course and the Packers would have to punt.
Facing no pressure, Rodgers did not have to try to force that ball in to Quarless. He can spend his offseason contemplating that.
The entire game could be said to have turned on the next play. After another 30-some yard kick by the punter-of-diminishing returns, Tim Masthay, the Seahawks took over at their own 44. On the first play, Wilson tried Kearse over the middle once again, this time working against Hyde. The ball, for the second time, deflected off the arms of Kearse and straight into the hands of Morgan Burnett. Burnett briefly took off upfield before inexplicably sliding to the ground.
Out of the 20 or more plays that most caused the Packers to lose this game, it is probably this one that will stick with me the most. The replay shows defensive captain Julius Peppers ran out in front of Burnett and motioned for him to get down. That mostly absolves Burnett of any guilt on this play, though I still imagine he’ll never forget about it and the Super Bowl that likely would have been if he would have ignored Peppers. The replay also shows Burnett likely scores a touchdown on this play.
The Seahawks were stunned by it. None of their receivers took a single step in Burnett’s direction. Even Wilson was standing in the exact same spot he released the ball from when Burnett slid down. It was like, for a brief second, the Seahawks themselves considered the game over, or they did until Burnett slid down and gave them a second chance.
Peppers should have been looking for someone to block on the play instead of telling Burnett to get down. The fact that one of the stars of the game for the Packers — Peppers played a great game otherwise — also made one of the biggest mistakes down the stretch is emblematic of the epic failure that occurred. Peppers would not be the only one. He can only hope now that he didn’t cost himself his last chance at a Super Bowl. He certainly is not likely to get a better chance.
I have read and heard elsewhere that Burnett made the right call by sliding down. He is a defensive player, unfamiliar, allegedly, with handling the football and he was right to leave it to the offense to finish the game. To that I say — HORSESHIT!
The entire scenario reminds me of what Elliot Ness said to Al Capone at the end of “The Untouchables” — “Never quit the fight until the fight is won.” In football terms, that means that every offensive, defensive and special teams player competes to win the game until the game is won. By sliding down, Burnett passed on trying to win the game and passed the buck to the offense to do so. By then going three runs and out, the offense passed the buck to the defense to win the game. By giving up an easy and quick score, the defense passed the buck to the special teams to win the game and so on and so forth, until suddenly the game is lost.
The one glaring difference between the Seahawks and the Packers in this game was that the Seahawks NEVER stop playing to win the game. Whether it is offense or defense or special teams, they are looking to make a play every time they have the opportunity.
Regardless, we all know what happened. Peppers motioned for it. Burnett slid down and the rest is history. By the way, Clay Matthews was not on the field for this play, nor would he be for the remainder of regulation. The Packers played their nickel with Nick Perry on the outside and Hawk and Barrington at inside linebacker.
The Packers took over at their own 43 with 5:04 remaining. They were in the double tight end set, Nelson and Cobb out wide to each side, and Lacy and Kuhn in the pro-set. The play appears to be heading to the right, which would be wise because not only is that Cliff Avril’s side and he’s not as good against the run as Bennett, but that is also the side that Sherman is on. If you aren’t going to throw on Sherman while he is one-armed, you could at least run the ball at him.
However, right before the snap, Rodgers switches the play to the other side, moving Kuhn over to the left. Running left means right at defensive end Michael Bennett. Unwise. David Bakhtiari begins the play by sliding to his left. Bennett said good for you and headed straight upfield, running right by Bakhtiari and then Kuhn. Lacy pulled the spin move out on Bennett and broke free of his tackle. Unfortunately, Kevin Williams, of course, bulled his way by Corey Linsley and into the backfield behind Bennett. Lacy ran right into Williams off the spin move and lost 4 yards.
We will never know if Pete Carroll would have started taking his timeouts this early if not for the fact that Lacy lost 4 yards, which made taking a timeout a no-brainer. Having done so and now facing 2nd and 14, THIS was the play that Rodgers probably should have thrown the football on. It was very unlikely that the Packers were going to pick up a first down with two runs at this point and since Carroll had already declared that he was going to take his timeouts to stop the clock, running the football really accomplishes nothing other than using up Seattle’s timeouts.
But again, nothing to worry about because the defense will win the game. Right?
The Packers lined up the same way, as did the Seahawks, with Chancellor near the line of scrimmage to play the run and only Thomas back deep. That meant Nelson was one-on-one with Sherman. With the linebackers aggressively playing the run, there was going to be a lot of space in the middle of the field to work with.
Never mind. Rodgers won’t throw at Sherman, but he will run at Michael Bennett. The second down run was nearly the same as the first, except this time Richard Rodgers was supposed to block Bennett. Yeah, right. Bennett shoved Rodgers into the backfield and blew up the play. Lacy lost 2 more.
At 3rd and 16, it was highly unlikely the Packers were going to be able to pick up a first. Therefore, you run the football and either use up Seattle’s last timeout or 45 more seconds of clock. It ended up being the latter.
Even though the Packers punted from their 40, Seattle would take over at their 31 because Tim Masthay completely sucks. Yes, he was instructed to kick the ball out of bounds here, but 29 goddamn yards was the best you could do? Since every second was at issue here, this could have been a huge factor in the game.
The Seahawks started at their 31 with 3:52 left in the game. The Packers would play their dime defense almost exclusively until OT. The middle linebacker in the dime was Sam Barrington. It should have been Matthews, who is the best cover linebacker the Packers have, but Matthews was on the sideline in a stocking cap. Game’s over, bro! The fact that Barrington was thrust into a dime role that he normally did not play would be a HUGE factor in this short drive.
The Seahawks wisely handed it to Lynch on first down, which the Packers will let them do, except that Lynch is tough to bring down once he gets going and he gained 14. On the next play, Wilson threw a 10-yard curl to Baldwin, but Casey Hayward is making Super Bowl plans and whiffed on the tackle. Baldwin went for 20 and just like that the Seahawks are at the Packers’ 35. On the next play, Wilson took a shot for Kearse down the sideline that Tramon Williams has well-covered and only some interference from Kearse stopped Williams from having a shot at a game-ending INT.
On 2nd and 10, the Seahawks went with the wheel route to Lynch once again. This time Barrington had to cover it from a different position, being in the middle of the field instead of lining up on Lynch’s side. He took too shallow an angle, when he should have been playing it safe, and got picked by Luke Wilson, as it is designed. Amazingly, Micah Hyde was covering Wilson, and dropped coverage to run at Lynch when he saw Barrington get picked. Russell Wilson threw it anyway, even with Hyde running towards Lynch. If Hyde kept going, he likely had a game-ending pick. Fortunately for Wilson and Seattle, Hyde stopped to see where Wilson and the ball were at, leaving Lynch open. Lynch would have scored had he not stepped out of bounds at the 9.
A Lynch run and then a Wilson scramble got to the 1-yard line. Seattle remained in hurry up, and 3rd and goal from there was a huge play. Not only was it third down, but it was also likely the last play before the two-minute warning. If the Seahawks did not score before the two-minute warning, then they would have to recover an onside kick or the game would be over. They ran the read option. The Packers had it played as well as you could hope for. Clinton-Dix lined up on the line and charged into the backfield, joining an unblocked Mike Neal. That gave the Packers two defenders, one each for Wilson and Lynch. Unfortunately, both went for Lynch and Wilson walked into the end zone.
The way Neal acted and reacted suggested that he had Lynch and Clinton-Dix was supposed to take Wilson, which would be inline with how teams normally like to play the read option. Regardless of their assignments, if Neal had just felt Clinton-Dix on his inside and taken the outside, he would have tackled Wilson back at the 5-yard line. It would have been fourth down and the clock would have rolled to the two-minute warning. Instead, not only did Seattle score, but they did so before the two-minute warning, which was crucial.
Because Seattle scored before the two-minute warning, they did not have to do an onside kick. One of the biggest myths regarding this game, which I even saw repeated in the media, was that the Packers would have won if they recovered the onside kick. That is not necessarily the case. Seattle did not even have to try one. They could have kicked it deep and then played defense. They still had the two-minute warning and one timeout to stop the clock. On third down, the Packers would have faced the conundrum of going for the first down to win the game or running the clock.
The reason why most would elect the onside kick is because it gives you two chances at the ball instead of one.
Regardless, it would not matter since the Seahawks recovered the onside kick. Had Brandon Bostick blocked Chris Matthews instead of going for the football, then the ball would have hit Nelson in the gut with no Seahawk around. Oh well… the defense could still win the game, right??
On the Seahawks’ first play after the onside kick, Wilson ran the read option at Peppers and it was just as successful as it was in week 1. Wilson went easily for 15 yards. After Burnett and Barrington played defense for one down and stopped Lynch for just a 3-yard gain, Wilson threw his one pass on this short drive on a simple curl route to Luke Wilson for the first down. On the next play, a draw to Lynch went the distance to put the Seahawks ahead for the first time in the game. Nick Perry got around tackle Russell Okung and had a chance to stop the play at the line of scrimmage, but Okung simply blocked Perry in the back and Lynch ran by him. After that, no other Packer really had a great shot, except for Sam Shields and let’s get real here.
A crucial two-point conversion attempt would follow. The play was supposed to be a quick out to Baldwin, except that the Packers actually played zone for once, which killed that play. Wilson then had to scramble, except Peppers didn’t take his first move and stayed with him. Forced to the sideline and facing a big hit from Barrington, Wilson threw a desperate heave towards the other side of the field. Clinton-Dix seemed mesmerized by the lob, misplayed it and Luke Wilson caught it, bobbled it and then strolled into the end zone.
And thus Clinton-Dix joins Peppers as Packers who had a fantastic game only to make a costly gaffe within the final minutes. The play certainly was flukish, with the lob ball coming down in the near perfect spot. However, Clinton-Dix just needed to be more aggressive there, and if he couldn’t judge the ball, all he needed to do was get into Wilson’s hip pocket and bat the ball away once Wilson got his hands on it. As it was, the ball bounced off Wilson’s hands, his head, and then was caught.
The two pointer put the Seahawks ahead 22-19.
Even after everything else had happened, all the disasters to get to this point, the Packers still had their MVP quarterback on the field with 1:20 to go, three timeouts and a touchdown to win.
On the first play of their last drive of the season, Rodgers found Nelson on a skinny post against Maxwell for a 15-yard gain. On the next play, Randall Cobb made a spinning catch on a pass that was behind him and got 15 more right down the middle of the field. This moved the ball to the Seattle 48. I initially wanted a timeout here, stopping the clock with 55 seconds left, but Troy Aikman claimed the Seahawks were on their heels and the Packers should keep going. Perhaps, though idiotically, the Packers never would use ANY of their timeouts.
On the next play, Rodgers scrambled right for 12 yards and went out of bounds, stopping the clock with 35 seconds left. The Packers were at the Seattle 36. Their fate would be decided in the next three plays.
On first down, Rodgers didn’t like what he saw, escaped to his right and then attempted a dump to Lacy that likely would have gotten around 10, except as luck would have it, Lacy turned to run upfield right when Rodgers dumped it and it went incomplete.
The 2nd and 10 play was Rodgers’ worst of the game. The Seahawks blitzed both middle linebackers, leaving the middle of the field wide open. With Cobb running deep to draw the attention of the safeties, Adams cut underneath him and was open short. Better yet, Nelson had turned in against Sherman and was open farther up the middle of the field, possibly a big play. The offensive line and Eddie Lacy picked up the blitz beautifully and no one got anywhere near Rodgers. But, Rodgers panicked and for whatever reason on a throw similar to the one he forced to Quarless, he tried the back-shoulder to Richard Rodgers, which wasn’t even close.
Someone tell Rodgers that the Packers have three timeouts and therefore, he doesn’t need to be throwing the ball to the sideline. UGH… Rodgers knew he had six guys to block and should have trusted Lacy and his offensive line to get it done here instead of rushing his throw.
On third down, the Seahawks brought the exact same defense. Once again, Lacy and the line picked it up and Rodgers had time. I don’t blame Rodgers a lot for throwing the shorter pass to Nelson here, getting some more yards was absolutely vital on this play. Nelson got the ball to the 31-yard line, giving Crosby a 48-yard kick to tie.
It was too bad that the Packers didn’t run a screen or simply dump the ball to Lacy rather than having him block the blitz. With both linebackers blitzing, he would have had a ton of room to get up to full speed, which would have been a load for the Seattle defensive backs to tackle. Certainly a properly executed screen here probably would have won the game. Maybe neither McCarthy nor Rodgers thought the Seahawks would send the same blitz at them again.
Crosby made the best kick of his career to send the game into overtime. Unfortunately, the Packers offense would not see the field again. They had their chance to get to the Super Bowl and they didn’t get it done.
In OT, the Packers called the toss, called tails, which never fails and it failed. That’s 0-2 on calling the coin toss for the Packers in this one. Clay Matthews was back on the field in the nickel and at least the Packers were good enough on defense to force the Seahawks into one third down — a 3rd and 7 from the Seattle 30. On that fateful play, Wilson had his one read and that was all he needed. Baldwin ran a fade route out of the slot on Hayward. Hayward was clearly expecting Baldwin to run an out or curl at the first down and he was caught flat-footed when Baldwin ran by him instead. At that point it was an easy pitch and catch for a 35-yard gain.
On the final play of the game, the Packers responded to the Seahawks going with two tight ends and a fullback by going with the zero safety look. Idiotic. The touch pass deep with no safety back is the best ball Wilson throws. Even if the Packers had kept Clinton-Dix back, they still would have had nine guys in the box against eight potential blockers. Apparently, that wasn’t good enough.
Wilson immediately saw the no safety look and switched to the deep post to Kearse. Tramon Williams had good coverage on the play, but the ball was properly thrown to Kearse’s inside, away from Williams. It was a good catch. Touchdown. Game over.
So, there you have it. Virtually everything that needs to be said, in regards to the magnitude of the loss, has already been said. I would add that for one huge game for four minutes, the Packers actually looked like the Lions or Vikings. Both of those fanbases must have been laughing their asses off.
Reviewing the film was almost cathartic for me, as it reminded me that this game did not come down to just a couple plays and that A LOT went into this loss, with nearly every part of the team sharing the blame at some point.
The offensive line and the improved speed and athleticism on the Packers defense dominated the first half. However, in the second half, the Packers offense sputtered badly, which was nearly lost in the shuffle of the insane ending. Other than sending a couple blitzes, I didn’t see the Seahawks doing anything different on defense.
Aaron Rodgers did not play as bad as his stats suggest. Neither Nelson nor Cobb made any plays to help their quarterback out. Both dropped passes that were slightly off and would have been tough catches, but in a game like this, you’d hope they could have come up with one. That being said, Rodgers certainly did not have a good game by his standards and once again, a sub-standard performance by Rodgers led to a loss in the playoffs.
For both Rodgers and Mike McCarthy, they need to think on this and be dismayed. They have played two NFC Championship games together. The total offensive points scored in the second half of those games — six points, two field goals. The Packers were lucky to have won either.
The Packers defense shocked most people with its performance for 56 minutes in this game. It was ready to go into the history books as one of the great playoff defensive performances of all time until the final minutes. And in fact, if Burnett doesn’t slide down during that interception, I believe it would have. Instead, the performance goes into the history books anyway, for an altogether different reason.
There are basically two different ways of looking at this game and which option the Packers choose to embrace could well determine where they go from here. The first way of looking at it is that the Packers went into the most difficult place to play in the NFL against the defending champs, likely current champs and they dominated for most the game, looking like the better team. This would suggest that if the Packers could get out of their own way, they would be the best team in football. The second way of looking at it is that the game ultimately was too big for them and they choked it away. That would suggest that the same could happen again when a similar big game and big moment rolls around.
One way of looking at it suggests that the future is bright and the other way of looking at it suggests that the end of an era is near. Next season will tell us which one it is going to be.