Monday, January 19, 2015

Packers Lose In Seattle: Heartbreaking 28-22 in OT

I was OK during the game, maybe it was too much like a bad dream while I was watching it live, but after the game I was a wreck. I went for a drive, I had to choose between binge eating or drinking (I chose eating, since I was driving), and then I couldn't go to sleep until 3 a.m. because I couldn't turn off my brain from thinking about it. I'm surprisingly alert after getting little sleep which probably goes to show how wired I still am.

Below is the worst of the worst moments that went wrong down the stretch. There's no dancing around it, if you're a fan of Bill Simmons then I'd put it at Level 3 (the Guillotine) because there wasn't one unbelievable play that lost it for them (see below about Brandon Bostick, the thought that he would blow a key play is completely believable), so I've posted below the worst video moment I could find.
Mike McCarthy. I understand his coaching decisions down the stretch, even if they look terrible in hindsight. Maybe he would have more aggressive if he knew Aaron Rodgers wasn't limited with his calf injury but his passive run out the clock, punt the ball strategy kept giving the Seahawks one more chance. The key coaching moment was at the 6:51 mark in the 3rd quarter when the Seahawks converted on 3rd and 19. It was the first drive of the game when the Seahawks' showed any signs of life, and with them backed up (and they should have been backed up even further except a poor call by the refs forced the Packers to decline a 15 yard penalty) the Packers played coverage (which was OK considering the down and distance) but then three pass rushers didn't make much of an effort to get after Russell Wilson. With plenty of time to throw, the eight defenders in coverage completely forget about the Seahawks' leading receiver, Doug Baldwin, and that's when I knew the defense was gassed.

To the defense's credit, they still stopped them on that drive, forced them to punt two more times before Morgan Burnett grabbed an INT (I haven't seen the reason why he slid instead running for more yards). But then Clay Matthews sat out with what appeared to be a leg injury, before returning for the final drive in OT (no idea about that one either) and the defense appeared lifeless. When they lost the coin flip to start OT, I knew they'd never get the ball because Seattle would score a touchdown. McCarthy seemed to believe in his defense, which gave him good reason for 3+ quarters, but he should have seen they were against the ropes. On their 4th quarter possessions, he should have told his MVP quarterback to make some passes, convert some 1st downs, and put the game away.

A.J. Hawk and Sean Richardson. While it looked like Richardson deserved blame for getting back into coverage late on the fake field goal, he did have to run from the other side of the formation. On the other hand, Hawk put himself into no man's land and decided too late to run at punter Jon Ryan. With 10 other teammates on the field and absolutely none of those teammates behind him, he should have been thinking coverage first and defended the goal line. Also, despite forcing a fumble in the first half, it gives another reason in a series of reasons why the Packers will release LB Brad Jones as soon as possible.

Offensive drive at the 6:53 mark in the 4th quarter. Run, run, pass incomplete, punt. They just had success on the previous drive with a big run from James Starks, so this doesn't look like a bad decision. TE Andrew Quarless could have caught that pass on 3rd down too. Getting a 1st down should have been a priority, but the play calling wasn't terrible (yet).

Burnett takes a knee with 5:13 to go. See above. Maybe it's OK if there's under a minute to go but this was bad coaching/decision/something.

Eddie Lacy carries the ball (three times) with 5:04 to go. There were too many timeouts left, the field position was too good, and Seattle's was doubling-down on playing the run. How much damage could Rodgers's have done with a play action pass? Instead they gave Seattle that another chance to turn the tide. Plus the drive ended with an awful punt from Tim Masthay as the special teams continued to unravel down the stretch.

Brandon Bostick. I didn't consider this an unbelievable play because it was a bad decision by a player who's been a disappointment for the past couple seasons. It was bad play from a guy who was in over his head. This will always stand out as the one moment when they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, but it wasn't on the coaches (other than for putting Bostick out on the field in the first place). I would have loved to have seen Justin [Settlers of Catan] Perillo out on the field instead. It's clear that Bostick was one of the guys asked to block while WR Jordy Nelson stood behind them to grab the onside kick and he would have caught it if Bostick hadn't gotten in his way. He let his instincts get the better of what his coaches were telling him. I'm surprised they didn't release him immediately after the play. I'm never happy to see this happen to any player, but his NFL career was on thin ice before and now it's officially over.

Aaron Rodgers. He needed to make some plays for them to win and he instead delivered one of his worst games in years. Though they won in Chicago four years ago, Mike McCarthy has led his quarterbacks into three NFC championship games they've played poorly each time. Rodgers's calf injury was a major reason for it, along with the great Seattle defense, but they should have challenged Seattle's CBs more. Especially after Richard Sherman's shoulder injury left him with only one arm. CB Byron Maxwell is a good corner too, but he's also been known to draw a pass interference flag (he had one during the 1st half).

When they did finally attack for the game tying field goal, Rodgers looked sharp. Seattle had been focused on stopping the run on their previous two possession so this drive made me think back on how deadly a play action with a few minutes left in the game could have been.

Find the ball Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. He had an amazing game, that 2nd INT of his was a thing of beauty, but he dropped a 3rd INT (maybe it would have been a pick-six) and then he couldn't find the ball on their desperation two point conversion. It's not all on him, the two previous possessions had been a disasters for the defense, but this was just the final of many blown plays at the end of regulation.

Bottom line, this was their first trip to the NFC championship game in four years and a great season. For the first 3+ quarters they outplayed and were more physical than the best team in the NFC. This was a terrible, heart breaking loss, but this is not a bad team or a terrible season. I haven't been this down since either of the home playoff losses to the Giants, but I will bounce back as a strong Packer fan as I imagine everyone else will too.

1 comment:

Brian Boville said...

I feel your pain, Brandon. Good to see you posting again about the Pack!