Monday, January 19, 2015

Packers Postmortem

To be frank, I expected to be writing my annual Packers Postmortem piece today, and half-considered writing a big chunk in advance.  After all, surely Green Bay had no chance of beating the mighty Seahawks in the visitors' nightmare known as CenturyLink Field, especially not with Aaron Rodgers nursing an injured calf muscle.  I honestly expected the Packers to lose that game by about 20 points…

….and wow, I really wish they had, since that would've been so less agonizing than Sunday's collapse.  A 16-0 halftime lead and a 19-7 lead with two minutes and 15 seconds remaining and it was all for naught.  In short, ten reasons why the Packers lost this game:

* For the THIRD CONSECUTIVE YEAR, I watched the Packers get eliminated from the playoffs during my annual visit to Whitby to see my friends Kyle and Carrie.  This has become a full-blown jinx now.  First it was a loss to the 49ers in the second round, then another loss to the Niners in the first round and now finally a loss to Seattle in the conference finals.  If the Packers ever reach the Super Bowl, I would rather watch the game from the mouth of an active volcano than watch it in Whitby.

We usually plan these visits around the NFL playoffs since it's a natural time-filler, and yet this year, it just naturally worked out that I'd be there in time for another crushing Packers loss.  During the wild card weekend, when Green Bay was thankfully on a bye?  Kyle, Carrie and their daughter were just getting back from a vacation.  During the second round, when Green Bay had a hilarious win over the Cowboys?  Kyle had to work.  But oh no, the conference finals and the Packers going into the snake pit that is CenturyLink, oh sure, their schedule for the weekend was free and clear!  Dammit.

* We watched "Twelve Monkeys" on Saturday night, kind of a random choice of a film I'd somehow never seen.  That movie's director, of course, was the one and only Terry Gilliam.  The player who scored Seattle's first touchdown on a fake field goal trick play?  An offensive lineman named Garry Gilliam.  You can't make this stuff up.

* I've written before about how my entire family is seemingly cursed every time we purchase a new piece of NFL apparel, dating back to the time teenage Mark spilled milk over his Brett Favre jersey just prior to Super Bowl 32 (when the Packers lost to the Broncos).  For instance, my mom got a Tom Brady jersey for Christmas 2007, and she only wore it twice --- during Super Bowl 42 and during that game when Brady blew out his knee --- before relegating it to the closet, and to hell, forever.  So of course, like an idiot, the toque I brought up to Whitby was the new Green Bay toque that my folks got me for Christmas.

* The only piece of NFL apparel exempt from the curse is my beloved cheesehead…which sadly, I left back in London.  :(

* Since my mom adores Tom Brady, it occurred to me early in the fourth quarter that a New England/Green Bay Super Bowl would lead to some awfully interesting familial trash talk.  I said "Boy, if the Packers face the Patriots…" before clamping my mouth shut and instantly realizing what a massive jinx that would be.  Even that partial sentence was too much of a taunt for the football gods, apparently.

* A few too many dropped passes at key points in the game for Packers receivers.  If you're counting, yes, it took me until the sixth entry to give a reason from the actual game.

* Richard Sherman injured his elbow partway through the fourth quarter and he was clearly in a lot of pain, holding his arm limply across his body during stoppages in play.  Green Bay obviously tried to avoid Sherman as much as possible for most of the game, but with the guy hurting so badly, why not toss a pass in his direction to see just how much Sherman's play has been affected?  Some poor play-calling adjustment there from the Packers, which I'll address again in a minute.

* The muffed onside kick.  Oh, my lord, what a disaster.  Brandon Bostick, a little-used tight end in his third year with the team, isn't supposed to be one of the "hands guys" on the onside kick unit.  His job is to block.  With the ball coming at him, he decided to make a play for it, jumping right in front of Jordy Nelson (as you might guess, one of the hands guys) and having the ball bounce off his helmet and right to a Seahawks player.  Needless to say, veteran character actor Barry Bostwick would've done a better job on this play than Bostick did.

* So after the Seahawks scored late to go ahead by a point, they went for two, and Russell Wilson was chased out of the pocket.  He threw up essentially a 10-yard hail mary rainbow of a pass, and Haha Clinton-Dix was apparently all "double rainbows man, what does this mean?" and made no move on the ball, allowing a Seahawks player to snatch the ball for the extra two points.  If that play fails, as I presume it did in 99% of the other multiple universes, then the Packers' game-tying field goal ends up being the game-winner.  :(

* And finally, it's an annual tradition in these parts: Mark's rant about Mike McCarthy's mediocre coaching.  Green Bay capital-d Dominated the first half, shocking me and everyone who thought this was going to be a Seahawks rollover.  Seattle came out not only flat, but outright lousy with turnover after turnover.  What does McCarthy do with all of these gifts?  Gets six points out of a possible 14 by choosing to make field goals rather than try for touchdowns on short fourth-and-goal situations.  This game wasn't the Packers coming out with an innovative game plan or overwhelming Seattle on sheer talent; it was the Packers being virtually handed the NFC title by a Seahawks team having the worst day of its season, and McCarthy politely refusing.

Whereas the Packer teams of the last few years have had some notable flaws, the 2014 Pack were one of the better-rounded rosters in recent memory.  If any team was going to make a run at a Super Bowl, it would be this one, even despite Rodgers' troubling late-season injury.  With every possible break going the Packers' way, however, they still couldn't take full advantage thanks to a coach who was too conservative with both his scoring plays, and later in the game when the Seahawks were pulling every crazy thing they could out of their hat and McCarthy couldn't adjust.  He just kept running the ball and running the ball, trying to chew up clock despite his team's tenuous lead.  It was one of these games that, despite the tying field goal, you knew the Packers were losing in overtime.  It was just meant to be.

The only downside of the Packers' Super Bowl 45 win was that it gave McCarthy seemingly limitless job security.  On the one hand, Green Bay has reached the playoffs in each of the last six seasons.  On the other, they've now been outcoached and outclassed in each of the last four years; could the team added another championship or two with even a B- coach instead of a C-?  It's beyond frustrating that Rodgers' prime years are being wasted due to a lack of competence on the sidelines.  It may sound like the height of whininess to complain about a Super Bowl-winning coach, yet still, I don't think it's too much to ask to not fall for, say, fake field goals in NFC title games.    


No comments: