Will The Green Bay NFC Championship Loss Ruin The Franchise?
I normally give winning teams credit for winning as opposed to blaming the losing the team for losing.
Then there are those rare occasions when a team gives a game away. Give it away in such devastating fashion fans cannot watch sports highlights. It will be at least a few days before I can watch Sportscenter again.
I would really, I mean really like to give the Seattle Seahawks all the credit for their 28-22 overtime NFC Championship game win over the Green Bay Packers, but there were to many failures to ignore from the Packers.
It is the kind of loss that can haunt a franchise for a long time. Or it is the kind of loss that will inspire greatness.
I am reminded of the San Antonio Spurs loss to the Miami Heat in the 2013 NBA finals. They came back stronger, more resolute, to beat the same team a year later for the title. Recovery is possible for the Packers.
We must first understand what went wrong Sunday before looking forward. How does a team lose a game in which they accumulate five turnovers?
It starts on the first drive of the game. Green Bay drives 51-yards to the Seahawk 29. From their All-World quarterback Aaron Rodgers throws an interception to All-World cornerback Richard Sherman. A misplaced throw to wide receiver Davante Adams that should have gone outside instead of inside.
Green Bay doesn't throw another pass all game long at Sherman, despite the fact he was holding his arm in an invisible sling for most of the second half. Nor did they run the ball at his side.
They were so scared of him, they didn't challenge him again, despite the fact it looked like he was playing with one arm in the second half.
It continues on the next drive when you manage to get to the Seattle 1-yard line following a Clinton Dix interception.
Dix returned the ball to the Seattle 4-yard line. Packer defensive tackle Mike Daniels felt it a good idea to run 20-yards to get in the face of a Seattle offensive lineman drawing a 15-yard penalty. Green Bay was able to overcome that and get to the Seattle 1-yard line in two plays. On second and third downs they cannot run the ball into the end zone. From the one foot line on 4th down they choose to kick a field goal instead of go for it.
How many times can a team get to the 1-foot-line against the best defense in the league? The answer is just that one time. You had one shot from there, and didn't go for it.
In the third quarter, leading 16-0, Seattle faces 3rd-and-19. Green Bay rushes only two players and Seahawk quarterback Russel Wilson has all day to find an open receiver for the first down.
This is not a new game, the game of football. It has been played for decades. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. It is, without a doubt, a losing strategy to give an NFL quarterback all day to throw and expect to stop him. He could have stood back there for five minutes waiting for someone to get open with only two rushing players.
In that situation you send rushers, don't give him time to throw the ball 19 yards.
Following that completion Seattle doesn't gain another yard.
Seattle lines up for a 19-yard field goal. A field goal that doesn't hurt the Packers if they make it. It would still be a two touchdown lead at 16-3.
Seattle runs a fake field goal that Green Bay was completely unprepared for. Holder and punter Jon Ryan is able to hit a wide open eligible offensive lineman, Garry Gilliam for a touchdown.
Not only were they not prepared for a fake, linebacker A. J. Hawk could have covered the wide open receiver, instead rushing at the punter throwing the ball when the thrower had no chance of running for the first down with the pursuit behind him.
Should I reiterate the Packers didn't bother to throw at the guy holding his arm in an invisible sling?
I digress, safety Morgan Burnett grabs an interception with about five minutes left in the game at the Green Bay 39-yard line. Despite what looks like an open 20 yards in front of him, he slides to the ground as if the game is over. Burnett has proven to be a very capable return man on past interceptions in his career.
Those extra 20 yards or more put Green Bay on the cusp, or even in field goal range. A field goal seals the win.
After three straight runs, which I happen to agree with doing Green Bay punts to Seattle.
Up by two touchdowns with 5:00 to play is solid coaching to run the ball three straight plays forcing Seattle to burn timeouts. If Green Bay recovers the on-side kick and is stopped in three plays, Seattle gets the ball with less than a minute to play, with 80+ yards to go, and no timeouts.
Speaking of the on-side kick blocking tight end Brandon Bostick tries to catch the kick instead of doing his job, block.
With one of the best players in the league behind him ready to grab the kick in Jordy Nelson, Bostick jumps to catch the on-side kick which goes right through his hands and hits him in the face mask.
That was not his job. His job was to block for Nelson to grab the ball. The ball was heading right for Nelson.
Seattle takes the onside kick right down the field to score the go ahead touchdown. Leading by one, 20-19, they line up for a 2-point conversion.
Wilson scrambles right, under heavy pressure with no one open he heaves a rainbow back to the left. Somehow Dix just a foot or two away from tight end Luke Wilson is unable to make a play on the ball that floats in the air for nearly three seconds.
Even if Dix was so slow to run a 5.0 second 40-yard dash he should be able to cover a couple feet in three seconds. But he doesn't and Seattle stakes a 3-point lead.
So instead of the Mason Crosby field goal winning the game a minute later it can only tie it and force overtime. The rest is history.
I'd like to give Seattle credit but there you have it. This is the kind of loss that can ruin a player, a team, a franchise. If this team doesn't come out killing teams next year this loss may well ruin them.
Green Bay is at a fork in the road following such a disastrous defeat, five minutes away from playing in the Super Bowl.
They can whine and cry, feel sorry for themselves and drown in sorrow and become a mediocre team or worse.
Or they can come together, work even harder. Do an extra set when lifting weights while seething with rage at just how close they were. Take a few extra snaps at practice vowing to never let it happen again.
The first few games of 2015 will tell us which road they have chosen. The road of a loss that haunts them in defeat. Or the road that doesn't haunt them, but spurs them on to victory. Not just victory, but victories in overwhelming fashion. Announcing to the rest of the league through resounding victories, we learned and we are going to crush you for our past failure.
It will be a long nine months for the organization and fans waiting for 2015. In time, the hurt dissipates for player and fan alike. Even I will be able to watch Sportscenter again.