Breaking Down My Feelings During The Big & Small Moments Of The NFC Championship Game

I’m sitting here in the hours following the most exciting finish to a game I’ve ever seen and probably ever will see, and my overwhelming feeling right now is Survivor’s Remorse.

I know Packers fans don’t want to hear this from someone like me – mostly because I was happily a collosal dickweed during the week leading up to this game – but I truly mean this from the bottom of my heart:  no fanbase (except, maybe the 49ers) deserves to lose a game like that in that fashion.  And that’s saying nothing of the players – especially poor Brandon Bostick, who’s sure to be a Scott Norwoodian goat (or maybe a Steve Bartmanian goat) in the eyes of Packers fans for the rest of his life – who also don’t deserve to lose like that.  To comfortably dominate for 56 minutes, have a 12-point lead with the other team back on its own 31 yard line, then give up a quick score in under two minutes, followed by a successful onside kick, followed by another score, followed by the most impossible 2-point conversion, followed by your team driving to tie the game, followed by losing the coin toss in overtime, followed by your team not getting the ball back again as the opponent drives down and nails a touchdown … that’s the sickest way you could possibly lose.  I don’t think there’s a way to craft it that would be any worse.

I have nothing to say.  I can’t even say I’ve been there, because I haven’t.  I don’t think anyone has.  That’s just Brutal with a capital B and that’s all there is to it.

I’m not going to sit here and say I wish the Seahawks would have lost, because that’s crazy and a total lie.  I just wish maybe the game could’ve been different.  I wish it could’ve been more along the lines of the game we all expected to get:  a thorough thrashing of the Packers by the Seattle Seahawks in all three phases of the game.

But, that’s just me right now.  This Survivor’s Guilt or whatever will fade away and I’m sure I’ll look back on it for the truly amazing miracle it was.

I’m kind of a zombie at the moment.  I was also a zombie for most of the game, but for very different reasons.  There’s a sense of delirium to my current emotional state, whereas throughout most of the game it was nothing but bitter, intense hatred.  I’m going to pick out some moments and just talk about the ramifications and my feelings at the time.

To start, let’s go with the third play from scrimmage.  The Seahawks won the toss and deferred.  The Packers had the ball and it was 3rd & 6.  Michael Bennett jumped offsides and it turned into a 3rd & 1.  What happens there if he DOESN’T jump offsides?  Or, either way, if we hold them to a Three & Out to start the game?  Does that change everything?  I know we would go on to have Richard Sherman intercept the ball in the endzone at the end of that drive, but the Packers still ripped off four minutes of clock and proved – in the stormy, gloomy confines of CenturyLink Field – that they could move the ball on us and that our crowd & our weather wouldn’t be the deciding factor in this game.

I’m a firm believer that for teams to survive on the road – especially in an environment like ours – they need to get that first sustained drive out of the way before getting down by too many points.  If we’re able to chop their legs off early and hold them to a bunch of 3 & Outs, while at the same time moving the ball on the other end, then our crowd is able to become much more of a factor.  But, with the confidence of moving the ball against our defense & our crowd, that early in the ballgame, you had to know we were in for a long day.  My feeling after this drive was one of relief, but it could’ve been so much more.

The Seahawks subsequently turned the ball over on their first drive of the game, with the ball hitting Kearse in the hands and bouncing out, so maybe my theory is total bunk.  Even though the Packers were immediately in the Red Zone, I wasn’t totally upset.  That pick wasn’t totally on Wilson, so it was impossible to see what this day would turn into for our superstar quarterback.

The Packers had 2nd & Goal from the 1 and appeared to punch it in, but it was overturned.  If I’m coaching the Packers, I’m handing it off two more times, going for the touchdown.  When they opted to go for the field goal on 4th & goal from inside the one yard line, I was ecstatic.

Subsequent kickoff, Doug Baldwin fumbled.  REALLY fucking irritated.  In this new NFL where they kick off so deep now, I’m almost always disappointed when one of our guys brings it out of the endzone.  Frankly, if you’re not Percy Harvin – or someone as fast as him – you really have no business running kicks out of the endzone.  Seems like more bad happens than good (either a turnover, or getting stopped well inside the 20 yard line).

Once again, the Packers were back in the Red Zone.  Once again, they got the ball down to the one yard line, and once again they kicked the field goal.  In a tie game, MAYBE I could see going for the sure three points; but when you’re up 3-0, with the ball on the one, why aren’t you going for it?  Seems like the perfect time to put the nail in the coffin at best, or at worst pin us deep and possibly get a safety out of it with the way Seattle’s offensive line played.  Once again:  pure relief.

The Seahawks went 3 & Out and the Packers closed off this miserable first quarter with 56-yard touchdown drive to go up 13-0.  I was pretty down at this point – as this was OBVIOUSLY not the way I envisioned this game would start – but all wasn’t lost.  We touched the ball three times in that quarter.  First drive ended on a tipped interception, second drive ended before it even began with a kickoff fumble, and the third drive ended in a 3 & Out.  No way I expected the misery to continue.  Eventually, we WOULD find a way to move the football.  I just hoped we weren’t too far out of it before it happened (visions of the playoff game against the Falcons danced in my head).

We kicked off the second quarter with another 3 & Out.  This was followed by another Packers drive that led to a field goal.  Key play on this drive was giving up a first down on 3rd & 13 thanks to a Hands To The Face penalty.  Such bullshit.  Not the penalty, that was legit; but there’s no way a 5-yard penalty should be an Automatic First Down.  The NFL needs to get its shit together and stop making ALL THE RULES benefit offenses.

The Seahawks got the ball back, now down 16-0, and on the first play of the next drive, Wilson threw into double-coverage and got picked off a second time.  This one was ENTIRELY on Wilson and smacked of desperation.  Yes, we’re down by two touchdowns and two 2-point conversions, but there was still over nine minutes left in the first half!  There was SO MUCH time left in this game; that throw was not warranted whatsoever.

At this point in the game, I was pretty surly.  I started fiddling around on the Internet and totally missed the Byron Maxwell interception on the very next drive.  Seemed like more luck than anything, as apparently a Packers receiver ran the wrong way, but I’ll take it.

FINALLY, the Seahawks were able to move the football.  They got their first first down of the game, as the running backs decided to take over.  Russell Wilson even completed his first pass of the game on 3rd & 7 with just under 4 minutes to go in the half to put the ball in the Red Zone for the first time in the game.  We HAD to score on this drive; even a field goal wouldn’t have been all bad.  It came down to 3rd & 8 just after the 2-minute warning, and Wilson threw his second ill-advised pass:  a fade to Kearse down the sideline in the endzone, totally underthrown for his THIRD pick of the game.  Un-fucking-believable.

We were able to force a Packers punt and went into halftime down 16-0, but by this point I could hardly contain my rage and disappointment with what I was forced to endure.  I was probably 90% sure we were going to lose this game, and probably 75% sure this game was going to end in a Green Bay rout.  More than anything, I think my feelings at this point were pure bewilderment.  This is NOTHING like we’ve seen from this team since the start of 2012.  Were we REALLY going to get blown out on our home field in the NFC Championship Game to a finesse passing offense?

Of course, the Seahawks had the ball coming out of halftime, and with that, another “We MUST Score Here” drive.  And, of course, the Seahawks went 3 & Out, punting on 4th & 1.  At this point, I was legitimately hoping we’d just say Fuck It and go for it, even though the ball was on our own 29 yard line.

Fortunately, it appeared at this point that the Packers opted to slow the game down in the second half.  Their first drive of the half was a 3 & Out with two Lacy runs for minimal gain, followed by a safe pass that ended up a yard short of the first down.

This led to a sustained drive by the Seahawks that chewed up over six minutes of clock.  We got the ball down in the Red Zone again, but were again unsuccessful in completing the third down.  As the field goal unit trotted onto the field, I saw there was less than five minutes left in the quarter.  We’d surely kick to pull to within 16-3, but two things were certain:  we could NOT let Green Bay score another point, and we’d have to put up two consecutive touchdown drives to pull out this victory.  I saw the game unfolding before my eyes, with a glimmer of hope for the first time all day.  17-16, THAT’S how the game would end.

And then we pulled off the fake field goal for a touchdown?  Ex-squeeze me?  Baking powder?  UhhWhatTheFuck?  Is this the St. Louis Rams going up against the Seattle Seahawks?  Pete Carroll doesn’t do this sort of shit!  These shenanigans are beneath him!  We’re all about beating you with our best available players, mano a mano.  And here we are, resorting to this bushleague bullshit I’ve been endlessly bitching about ever since the Rams used it against us to beat us for the second time in three years?  I’m not gonna lie to you, I was PRETTY fucking happy about it succeeding, but I still felt pretty dirty about it.

So, now it’s 16-7 and I’ve still got visions of 17-16 as the game hits all zeroes.  We forced them to punt on the next drive and there we were, back in business.  But, no dice.  Another 3 & Out.  So much for momentum, I guess.  Still, gotta hold Green Bay scoreless the rest of the way if we want to win this.

And then they got their running game going.  We were hemorrhaging yards at a frantic rate, but even worse, we were also hemorrhaging clock.  The defense stiffened up to hold them to a field goal that barely squeaked inside the upright, but the damage was damn near done.  19-7, with just under 11 minutes to go in the game.

I was pretty dour about this, suffice it to say.  We hadn’t moved the ball all that well, even though we had a couple trips inside the Red Zone to that point.  Somehow, we’d have to pull off TWO touchdowns in 11 minutes, without letting them score?  Highly unlikely.

But, we converted 3 first downs to get to midfield.  Things were looking somewhat promising.  And then we just totally fucked up on two straight passes to get to 4th & 15 with 7 minutes to go in the game.

THAT CAN’T BE THE PUNTING UNIT!  THERE’S ONLY 7 MINUTES LEFT TO GO!  WE’RE GIVING THEM THE GAME RIGHT HERE!

Sure enough, we punted.  At this point, I was pretty much at 99.9% certainty that we were losing.  As I’d spent the night at my dad’s house in Tacoma, I went into my room to pack my bag to get ready for the long, angry drive back up to Seattle to get ready for work the next day.  The Seahawks held on a 3 & Out, and with a little over 5 minutes left in the game, we had one last dying gasp.

Which ended up being a first-play pass to Kearse that again bounced off of his hands for an interception.  I went back into my bedroom, started putting on my shoes, and grabbed my bags.  I had everything ready to go.  As soon as the game was officially over, I’d be out of there.  I was in the living room, holding two small bags of my crap, silently stewing.  The Seahawks forced another 3 & Out – burning two time outs in the process – but who gives a shit?  It was all academic.  Isn’t that what they say?

The Seahawks were able to get some chunk yards on the next drive – with Clay Matthews out of the game, which I didn’t understand at the time.  Did he get hurt or something?  Because he was back out there for overtime.  Anyway, we scored on a pass to Lynch with 2:52 left in the game and one time out.  At that point, down 19-14, we could theoretically kick it deep and get the ball back with 1:20 (or so) left in the game.  Doing the math in my head was more or less just a way to push out all the negative thoughts about losing this game.  In the end, it didn’t even matter, because Lynch had stepped out of bounds anyway.  We would go on to score that touchdown, but with only 2:09 left in the game.  At this point, you pretty much HAVE to go for the onside kick.  And, how often does that ever work out?  Less than 10%, when they’re expecting it?

Nevertheless, my heart rate kicked back into gear again.  How could you not at least hold out some small sliver of hope?  It’s what being a fan is all about!

Then, the impossible.  HOLY CATFISH!  The ball bounced off of Bostick and into the sure hands of Chris Matthews.

I was elated, but tense, obviously.  With a little over two minutes to go in the game, almost anything could happen.  Wilson could throw his fifth pick, going Full Eli.  We could drive down and fail at the goalline.  We could drive down and score with no time left.  And yes, we could score too quickly and leave them too much time left on the clock (with all three of their time outs to drive it back on us and score).

Sure enough, Beastmode went Beastmode for 24 yards to go up by one with 1:25 left in the game.  For some reason, up until that moment, I’d completely forgotten that we’d need to go for two if we did score there.  I just figured – great – we’d be up 21-19 and have to sweat out a game-winning field goal.  Then, when I realized what the Seahawks were doing, it was back to being super-tense again.

We HAD to score that 2-pointer!  If we didn’t hit it, we WOULD lose.  That’s all there is to it.  Aaron Rodgers isn’t Colin Kaepernick; he’s not just going to hand you the game.

I saw the play unfold:  a roll out to Russell’s right.  The Packers’ line blew it up a little bit, forcing Wilson to improvise.  I saw the heave to the opposite side of the endzone.  I saw Luke Willson in the area, but I saw two defenders.  I saw the high arc to the throw:  SURELY someone would knock it down and/or pick it off!  Nope!  Conversion!  22-19!  Not so much happy, but again, pure relief.

At this point, with the Packers taking over on their own 22 yard line, I was praying to any god that would have me.  Asshole hypocrite?  Yah you-betcha, but what else are you going to do?  My hands were clenched in tight fists, clutched close to my chest, unwilling to move an inch, STILL with my two bags resting on my lap, ready to leave at the drop of a hat.

No surprise whatsoever that the Packers scored to tie it up there.  A little surprised they didn’t make more of an effort to play for the game-winning touchdown with all three time outs in play, but I wasn’t going to complain.  Overtime.

When we won the toss, I was pretty thrilled, but again, I wasn’t in any position to expect victory.  I just knew one thing:  if we gave the ball back to Aaron Rodgers, we’d lose that game.  Richard Sherman was playing with one arm.  Earl Thomas had to have his shoulder popped back into place during the game.  Everyone was exhausted, on their very last legs.  The offense would have to take care of business, or this would be it.  Yet another overtime playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers.  Fox even showed a replay of Matt Hasselbeck’s infamous coin toss comments to the refs in that prior game for good measure.

Baldwin was pretty much forced to run the kick out, as it wasn’t deep enough to simply take a knee in the endzone, and we were rewarded with shitty field position once again.  The Seahawks would have to go 87 yards if we had any hopes of ending this right there.  Lynch ran for a modest gain.  Wilson completed a short pass to Baldwin off of a run fake that was good for a first down.  Lynch ran for another modest gain, then Wilson was stuffed for a 1-yard loss.  Third down, 7 yards to go, on our own 30 yard line.  This is it; this is the ballgame right here.  To have watched this game up to this point, you’d know that the Seahawks struggled with the pass all day, and especially on third down.

With man coverage, Baldwin got behind the defender and pulled in a perfectly-thrown ball for a 35-yard gain, to get us to the Green Bay 35 yard line.  Earlier in the day, Baldwin had flat-out dropped a perfectly-thrown pass that would’ve resulted in a first down when we really needed it.  I had that play all lined up in my mind if the Seahawks would’ve lost.

Make no mistake, this article was going to be A LOT different.  I won’t get into too many specifics, but just know that the words “mediocre” and “pedestrian” were going to be thrown around with the regularity of someone with tourettes.  Baldwin and Kearse were going to be high on my scorn list, with Russell Wilson catching a lot of flak for being the negative-usage of the phrase “Game Manager” and proving all the national doubters right.

I mean, can you imagine what we’d all be saying and thinking if Jermaine Kearse – on the very next play – didn’t catch that 35-yard touchdown to end it and send us to the Super Bowl?  We’d be FREAKING THE FUCK OUT!  As this post is already running a little long, I’ll save it for another day, but suffice it to say, the more I think about it, the more glad I am with the way things turned out.

I still feel bad for Packers fans.  Nothing’s going to change that except time.  For now, I’m just going to try to make it through these next two weeks as best as I can.  I mean, it’s damn near impossible to be productive at work when you’ve got your team in the Super Bowl.

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