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The 2014 NFC Championship: A Rant of Soul Crushing Proportions

Updated: Jun 15, 2020

I know. There is a tendency to bury this game into some deep, dark place so that you won’t be haunted by it, but I promise this is going to be cathartic.

The team that walked into CenturyLink field on January 19th, 2014 was as close to perfect as what the Murphy-Thompson-McCarthy braintrust had always strived for:

· They had the NFL’s #1 ranked offense led by the league’s MVP

· They had a good, not great defense that hovered around the middle of the pack in total defense but was in the top 10 in takeaways and was in the top 5 in turnover%

· Their special teams were also competent. They had a punt returner in Micah Hyde with only 19 yds less than Devin Hester and had returned more punt returns for TDs than Hester.

The 2010 team won a super bowl, but that was a team that had more players on IR than it did wins. That was a team that had to start an undrafted rookie from Buffalo in the Wild Card round. Things had not necessarily gone the way they planned even though it ended in a Super Bowl victory. My point it, if you had asked the Packers’ overlords what they would have wanted in a football team, they would have rather had the 2014 squad than the 2010 team that won a Lombardi.

That, in part, is what makes this easily the most heartbreaking loss for the Packers in the last decade and one that effectively shut the door on the Thompson-McCarthy championship window. There would be runs after this – even conference championship appearances, but never one with as much promise as this one.

Green Bay looked impressive early on offense when they showed an ability to move the ball on the “Legion of Boom.” However, a Richard Sherman interception in the end zone halted them in their tracks. The Packers’ defense however came to play, and setup the offense with chances all day.

What I am about to run down is still almost beyond comprehension:

1. Green Bay’s opening possession ends in a Richard Sherman INT in the endzone for a touchback. Huge bummer.

2. Green Bay’s defense responds with an interception of their own that sets up the offense on Seattle’s 18 yard line. They get down to the goalline and settle for a field goal that is (I’m not kidding) closer than an extra point at a time before the league moved the extra point back to the 15 yard line

3. On the ensuing kickoff, the Packers force a fumble that sets up the offense on Seattle’s 23 yard line. They again go 22 yards…and settle for a goaline field goal.

4. On the next two Seattle possessions the defense allows a total of 3 yards and forces Seattle to punt. The offense finally broke through for a TD pass from Rodgers to Cobb and kicked another field goal, this time from the understandable and respectable distance of 40 yards.

5. After the field goal, the defense again picks off Wilson, but this time chippy mc chip on his shoulder, my favorite childhood team didn’t draft me throws an INT and squanders the opportunity.

So, JUST TO RECAP, at this point in the game:

· the defense and special teams have forced a combined FOUR turnovers

· on the road

· in arguably the hardest place to play in the NFC

· Every offensive drive has started on no worse than their own 44 yard line, and on two occasions they started inside Seattle’s 30 and once on Seattle’s 33.

The result? What did the offense do with these golden opportunities? How did they exert their ruthlessness in the biggest game of the year, with a trip to the super bowl on the line?

They generate 16 points; 3 field goals and a touchdown.

After all that. After four turnovers and a grand total of 57 yards allowed on defense, it’s a two possession game.

By all rights, the game should be 24-0, 28-0 if they hadn’t had to settle for the 40 yarder from Crosby, but I’ll give them that one.

Hell, if Rodgers doesn’t throw two picks they would have been in a position to kick at least two more field goals. Crosby was on fire all day so you’re potentially looking at a 34-0 lead…on the road…in the conference championship.

But no, the teams walk into the locker room in a 2 possession game.

In the 3rd, Green Bay’s defense starts to bend but still doesn’t break and they have Seattle in a 2nd and 31 situation. They go into prevent and allow a 22 yard gain that puts Seattle in a 3rd and 19 situation.

Then comes the first momentum shift. Seattle converts on 3rd and 19. No big deal, but it hurts. The defense stiffens up, and forces a field goal.

As all of America mutters “watch for the fake,” under their breath, Seattle fakes the field goal and scores a TD on a 19 yard TD pass from punter Jon Ryan to an undrafted rookie offensive lineman named Garry Gilliam.

The crowd is back in the game now, but still the Seahawks are having to rely on trick plays to put up points on the defense.

For those of you who have always claimed Aaron Rodgers has never had a defense, through three quarters, the Green Bay defense has held Russell Wilson to six completions and three interceptions and under 100 yards.

Also, at one point in the second half, up 16-7, James Starks breaks off a huge run and it is clear after the play that Richard Sherman, Seattle’s best defensive player is hurt. He’s holding his arm as if he let it drop, his arm would just fall off.

All day, Sherman has been shutting down an All-Pro in Jordy Nelson and a promising young rookie name DAVANTE ADAMS.

Now that he is banged up, do the Packers take advantage?

Do they exploit the matchup with one of their talented receivers? No.

Do they even throw it in his direction? No.

Do they run the ball his direction and force him to tackle Eddie Lacy a running back who is known for his Yards after contact? No.

Do they even force Seattle to stack the box, thereby forcing Sherman to move inside and play the run at all? No

Does Green Bay take advantage of this even in the slightest way? No. Instead they settle for Yet. Another. Field Goal.

Ok fine, they are now up 19-7 with just over 5 mins left in the fourth quarter. All they need is one more stop on defense, a drive that chews up the clock and they are SUPER BOWL BOUND.

Then, it happens, Morgan Burnett picks off Russell Wilson with 5 minutes left in the fourth quarter, but instead of running for daylight (there was an acre of open field in front of him), he slides down where he picks the ball off and gives himself up. Seattle has one timeout and is down two scores. You have the number one offense in the league and the MVP at quarterback. After all of your tentative play calling and lack of a killer instinct, you have the game firmly in hand.

The Packers go three and out and punt the ball back to Seattle.

Then the dam breaks. Seattle goes 69 yards in under three minutes and scores a TD with 2:09 left to make it a 19-14 game. Then comes the onside kick, the ball bounces off Brandon Bostick’s face and into the arms of some undrafted Seattle rookie. For all the shit that he has taken in the years since, that legitimately is the smallest problem of this entire clusterfuck.

The defense finally breaks, and Marshawn Lynch runs the ball for a 24 yard touchdown. The unthinkable has happened. The defense cannot even prevent a two point conversion to make it a 22-19 Seattle lead with two minutes to go. Now Green Bay must kick a field goal to force overtime.

BUT, a touchdown will win it. They have over a minute on the clock ALL THREE TIMEOUTS, the best offense in football, and Chippy Mc Chip on his shoulder, I should’ve been drafted higher in the first round MVP at QB. These are the moments where legends are made. They have their opportunity to become legends.

Instead, the drive falls apart just inside the Seattle 40, and Mason Crosby is trotted out to save the day and nails a game tying field goal.

Then, poetically, Seattle got the ball in overtime, drove the ball right down Green Bay’s throat and punched their ticket to the Super Bowl.

Green Bay did not trail until just over 2 minutes left in the fourth quarter. They were +3 in turnovers, and held Russell Wilson to 209 yards, 1 TD, 4 INTs, and a rating of 44.3. Three of their seven first half possessions began inside Seattle’s 35 yard line. They ran the ball for 135 yards on the league’s best defense, and STILL lost the game.

Brandon Bostick received death threats for his botched onside kick, but honestly, he is not the reason they lost that game.

After that game Thompson, McCarthy, and Rodgers had three and a half more seasons together, the fourth was cut short by McCarthy getting fired. In 11 seasons, they made 8 playoff appearances, won the NFC North 5 times, won a Super Bowl, and made 3 conference championship appearances.

Now, ask 80% of the league (especially the Browns) if they would take that sort of success, and they would say yes. So, I am not sitting here trying to bitch and moan about how tough it’s been.

They were highly successful. They were world class compared to the dark ages of 1970s and 80s.

However, there will always be one day in January 2014 that will always be there, haunting them, teasing them with the promise of another Lombardi trophy.

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