Recapping the ridiculous NFC Championship game
The Seattle Seahawks booked their return ticket to the Super Bowl on Sunday with an overtime victory over the Green Bay Packers in, arguably, the most ridiculous and thrilling match in recent history. And I still feel sick.
A mixture of coaching cowardice, woeful inadequacies on special teams and the inability to execute when the chips were down meant that the Packers somehow contrived to throw the NFC Championship away in a manner that will haunt the franchise for years to come. Astonishingly, they almost escaped CenturyLink with the win despite leaving a plethora of points on the field, and incredibly, without their stars really showing up, but ultimately, the Packers challenge of the Seahawks NFC crown was crushed beneath the sheer weight of their own errors.
Aaron Rodgers, clearly performing less than 100% healthy, was far from blameless, with 1 of his 2 interceptions particularly damaging, coming as it did about half way through the 2nd quarter with the Packers up by 16 and poised to extend their lead from the Seahawks 33 yard line. Had that drive not stalled and instead resulted in a touchdown, as it looked likely to do, surely there would have been no way back for the home team. The fact that the game was even within dreaming distance for the 12’s in the crowd as the teams re-emerged from the locker rooms was a near miracle.
It defied belief how bad Russell Wilson played in the first half, and he had his defence to thank for saving his blushes. It is an embarrassment that a championship game can be won by a signal caller with a quarterback rating of 13.6 overall, 0 at half time, but credit where it’s due, the young man didn’t let the huge weight of doubt that must have seemed overwhelming after his 4 interceptions cloud his judgement, and his arm was steady and his deep ball true when it mattered most, in overtime, to seal a memorable victory.
Looking back at the match, I am still unsure how exactly Seattle won. I know, obviously, they scored more points, but in absolutely no phase, for the vast majority of the game, were they the better team. Yes, there’s bitterness there and I fully accept that, but in all seriousness, and looking at it as objectively as I can, my conclusion is quite simple. Marshawn Lynch, like a modern-day shape-shifting comic book hero, transformed into ‘Beast Mode’ when it mattered, and most importantly, Green Bay shot themselves in the foot until the chamber was empty.
Twice in the 1st quarter, on back to back drives no less, the Packers had the ball inside the Seahawks 1 yard line, and twice only came away with a measly field goal to show for their efforts. plus, as I previously mentioned, looked for all the world like they were driving to end the half with a score before a lack of communication and perhaps a slippery ball cause an uncharacteristically awful interception by Rodgers.
Midway through the 3rd quarter, the Green Bay defence looked to have Seattle dead to rights, and were in a superb position to turn the ball over and give the league MVP the ball back with a chance to extend the 16 point lead to a seemingly unassailable one. Instead, on a 3rd and 19, the pathetic decision to only rush 3 and allow Russell Wilson close to 10 seconds in the pocket immediately backfired in spectacular fashion when he found a ridiculously wide open Doug Baldwin for a 30 yard gain. A few plays later, a foolishly overcommitted field goal rush allowed Seattle’s ex-Packer Jon Ryan to become the first punter to throw a touchdown pass in a playoff game on a simple but well executed trick play.
Seattle were now in the game, ridiculously, but once again they offered an open invitation for Green Bay to put them out of their misery. Rookie Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix already had 2 interceptions when Russell Wilson did everything he could to give him the hat-trick with only 7 minutes to go in the 4th quarter and the away side leading 19-7. With a wide open field ahead of him, and the chance to run back a game-sealing score, Clinton-Dix allowed the ball to dissect his gloves and hit him square in the helmet before falling incomplete. Astonishingly, only 2 minutes later, Wilson again had a pass tipped, and Morgan Burnett gratefully took control at the Green Bay 40 yard line. However, instead of doing the obvious thing, running the ball back over midfield and into Seattle territory to not only give his offence a better chance to kill the game off, but also take a few more precious ticks off the clock, he inexplicably decided to slide down under absolutely no pressure and stop the clock while still on the Green Bay half of the field. A swift 3-and-out meant that the interception, Wilson’s 4th of the game, cost his side just 1 minute of time.
After these two insane plays had allowed the home team a sliver of a chance to remain alive via a 1 yard touchdown run from Russell Wilson, Green Bay were once again odds on to end the farce and escape with just red faces and frayed nerves. Instead, the unthinkable happened, and they managed to screw up yet again, more magnificently than ever. With Jordy Nelson, the team’s best pass catcher in perfect position to recover the onside kick and allow Aaron Rodgers to trot onto the field and kneel his way to Arizona, backup tight end Brandon Bostick inexplicably decided to ignore his blocking assignment and instead throw himself in front of the pro-bowl wide receiver and into Seahawks folklore with a cataclysmically horrific effort that sent the ball ricocheting off his facemask and into the arms of the disbelieving Seahawks.
I wish I could say that was it. But no, incredibly, the misery goes on.
After Seattle had inevitably capitalised and Marshawn Lynch thundered his way into the endzone to take the lead, there was still another chance for the Green Bay defence to step up and give their battered, bruised and probably shell-shocked maestro the ball back one last time with the chance to move the ball back up field and give Mason Crosby, perfect on the day, the opportunity to kick the Packers to the Super Bowl.
Instead, Russell Wilson, flushed backwards out of the pocket and in complete disarray, lofted the ball in the direction of Clinton-Dix, who may never be able to explain why he stood watching and allowed tight end Luke Wilson to make the catch for 2 points.
Aaron Rodgers and Mason Crosby then did their job, but there was clearly no true belief left in the Green Bay nation, and even the Seattle fans who had unforgivably turned their back on their team and left the stadium early couldn’t fail to see what was about to happen. With the momentum of the last few minutes coursing through his veins, Russell Wilson, abysmal, embarrassing and insanely fortuitous in equal measure finally showed his class, and with 2 beautifully thrown 35 yard passes, the carnival left town.
Agree? Disagree? Seahawk or Packer fan and want to vent? Tweet me – @DylanBaker1986