Under the Space Needle, No One Can Hear You Scream
The game had ended but I remained in my seat. I really could not believe the Packers just lost a game everyone expected them to win. The home team had a few players on the field doing post game interviews with their local news and I could vaguely hear the self-righteous heckling of the home team fans reveling in a game that they had no business winning. But I was focused on the Green Bay Packers bench. The equipment guys (eternally nameless) were packing up the Packers’ bags and placing them in boxes presumably for the long flight home. It was almost comical, they were packing the bags so fast it was like THEY were embarrassed to stay for long on a field where the overwhelming favorite team were manhandled and outboxed. I had to leave. I struggled to put my Packers hoodie over my head. I too had a long trip back home soon and it would be filled with “what if” moments. “What if that one play had gone our way?” If it did, I could’ve been the one strutting around the stadium instead of being the lonely fan sitting in his seat wondering when it got so cold all of a sudden…
That was not a personal recollection from last night, it was in fact, a remembrance of my time in Kansas City on December 18th, 2011 when the undefeated Green Bay Packers were upset by the upstart Kansas City Chiefs. That game did not feature a play nearly as egregious as last night’s Seattle Seahawks game, but I would submit that there are underlying trends between the two games that are more important than an official’s blown call. This will not be a popular post, but I believe it needs to be written. Additionally, I do not write this with the sole aim of being a contrarian. But folks, facts are facts. FACT: The officials designated for the game ruled the final play a touchdown. FACT: The officials assigned to replay also judged the play to be a touchdown. FACT: The NFL released a statement affirming both decisions. Some may want to argue the legitimacy of these events or the subtext supporting these facts, but the facts at face value still remain. All of these facts may sting the Green Bay Packer consciousness but one fact should hurt the most and it should be where the players and the fans direct their anger.
The most damning fact of all is the fact that the Packers lost the game. None of the facts listed above can be changed and the Green Bay Packers are only responsible for one of these facts. The Green Bay Packers lost the game and the last play of the game was NOT the only reason why they lost. On all three phases of play, the Green Bay Packers showed numerous instances of sloppy, undisciplined play. Additionally, (and this hurts to say), but the Green Bay Packers were manhandled by the Seattle Seahawks many times. On some plays, it didn’t even look fair. Seattle played the role of the physical squad and the Packers played finesse. Brute force more often than not, beats finesse.
The defense was by far the best performing unit in my opinion. Despite the physicalness of the Seahawks offensive line and Marshawn Lynch, the Packers defense played pretty well. A few plays don’t make a complete game but AJ Hawk played one of the best games I’ve seen him play in recent memory. Considering how stagnant the offense was, I thought that the defense played a stellar first half and a pretty good second half (even including the final play). One of the things that I really enjoyed seeing was how the linebackers, cornerbacks and safeties all contested underneath routes and broke up a few too! To the defense’s demerit and my personal consternation, they provided Seattle with extra yards via bonehead personal foul penalties. Even worse, I did not personally witness any coach admonishing the offending player of the sideline which leads me to believe that the Packers are fine with these penalties. These plays extended drives which allowed Seattle to be in the position to have possession for the final drive of the game. The Packers also lost their composure after a pretty egregious pass interference call was levied against Sam Shields on the final drive. Is that why the Packers secondary forgot about the events of the Giants Hail Mary playoff pass and again attempted to pick off the ball instead of swatting it down? On replay, it does not appear to me that a single Packers defender attempts to knock the ball away. Ultimately, the defense did all it was supposed to do for 95% of the game, but the last time it was called on to finish out the game, the game was figuratively and literally wrestled from their hands. If that is not motivation for the rest of the season and post-season, the Packers might as well wrap it up now!
There’s not much to say about the special teams, which is pretty much how I like it. Tim Masthay is continuing a remarkable season as far as I am concerned and the Packers even got a punt downed inside the three yard line and a kickoff return inside the 20. As a whole, they were pretty effective considering they played away in one of the loudest stadiums I ever experienced.
(Side note: I am not sure if the fans on television heard us, but for a stadium that is fabled for its 12th man, we Packers fans DOMINATED that game with our ‘GO PACK GO’ chants! I don’t care what Pete Carroll says, the Packers fans showed up better than the home team Seattle Seahawks fans!)
But special teams also were responsible for personal fouls that gave Seattle free yards to move down the field without bleeding the clock and those penalties add up. Randall Cobb also muffed a punt that presumably would’ve provided the Packers with good field position in the first half.
I really am not sure where to begin with discussing the offense I saw sitting in the stands of Century Link Field. If there was one unit that had to take the majority of the responsibility for the loss, it would have to be the offense. First, the play calling in the first half was atrocious. I’d also hate to neglect the fact that the Green Bay Packers had more than ten days to prepare for this game! Eight sacks in one half is not acceptable by any means. If McCarthy is in fact calling runs that Aaron Rodgers is audibling out of to try a bootleg pass, then Coach McCarthy needs to take that right away from Rodgers. I am not implying that Aaron Rodgers can’t manage calling the right play/audible, I am simply stating that opposing defenses would rather give up four yards on a running play to the Packers (DE away from the fake run, spies on Rodgers) than be caught flat-footed on a play action pass deep to Nelson or Jones. The Packers showed no patience with the running game in the first half and when they did run the ball, they looked like a little boy who suffers through eating his vegetables because he really wants desert ["OK, I ran the ball a few plays, can I go back to throwing deep on third and short please!?"]
I mentioned above and it’s been mentioned numerous times in other places, but the offense sometimes plays this finesse football that becomes susceptible to intimidation by physical defenses. I hesitate to call the Packers offense “soft” because I know our players are tough, hard workers who can pound with the best of the league, but there’s no mistaking, in the first half of the Seattle game, our offense was pushed around. Yes, the Packers have a big play offense, but the Seattle defense was not intimidated by it. Neither were the 49ers in Week 1. The Giants in the Divisional Playoff round of last year. Or the Kansas City Chiefs on that cold December day in 2011. I mention these games because the thing that ties them together are losses where the Packers were completely manhandled. This is why we as fans cannot worry about a blown officiating call or the state of negotiations between a league and a union. The Packers have been getting punched in a mouth for close to a year and they’ve done very little to punch back. If the Packers truly intend to win the Super Bowl, they’re going to have to beat physical defenses like the Chiefs, Seahawks, 49ers and Giants. Cedric Benson (or whomever is the running back) will need to be used as more than just a meandering ploy. The debate is over: Yes, the Packers can win without the running game, but they won’t win many physical/playoff type games without it. And for the majority of playoff runs, you’ll need to win physical cage matches in the playoffs to emerge victorious. [For those who counter with the 2010 championship run, I would suggest you talk with my friend Richard Chang].
I cannot in good consciousness place this loss at the feet of the NFL or the officials. This sport was never designed to be officiated flawlessly. Those who pine for the return of the unionized officials or believe that their return will be a panacea for all of the blown calls are delusional. The blame for this loss belongs in one place and that is with the Green Bay Packers. Many articles written today postulate that if the Packers miss out on the playoffs, heads will roll because of the officiating error from last night. NOTHING could be more laughable! If the Green Bay Packers miss the playoffs, it’s because the Green Bay Packers did not play well enough to make the playoffs. Playoff spots are reserved for no teams, no matter your history, your past championships, your prestige or the fact that the championship trophy is named after one of your most legendary coaches. Playoff spots aren’t reserved for teams that should’ve won the game. There is no entitlement in football. If the Green Bay Packers want wins and success, GRAB IT and beat any team that would deny you that opportunity.
I read that the New Orleans Saints interim coach installed mirrors in every Saints player’s locker to inform them of who is responsible for their current station. I hear that the Saints will have something to prove on Sunday because there is no way that their talent accurately reflects their current record. It was fun to watch the Green Bay Packers vent for one day, but maybe Coach Mike McCarthy may want to install mirrors in the locker room of 1265 Lombardi Avenue so that it is distinctly clear who was responsible for the loss on Monday and who are the only individuals who can remedy the situation on Sunday. Finally, there is no reason to hit the panic button, fellow fans/owners. The Green Bay Packers will be just fine. I believe that they will take care of business whether the game is being officiated by replacement referees or not. Some of the players took to Twitter, television and the radio to vent, I wrote too long of a post (again!!!). What’s done is done and I am glad to see that everyone (fans included) are moving on. I’ll look forward to revisiting this past week in our America’s Game recap of this season (in 2013). Enjoy your week, all! I’m going to go out and enjoy a brew on the streets of Vancouver! Many Packers fans (myself included) are coming together this weekend in Green Bay to celebrate all things Green Bay Packers at #ThrowbackWeekend2. I’m looking forward to seeing old friends and making new ones! #GOPACKGO
Featured Image Credit: Steven Bisig/US Presswire