5 things we learned: Packers at Seahawks

The Seattle Seahawks' Chris Matthews (second from right) recovers an onside kick during the second half of the NFC championship game in Seattle.

David J. Phillip/David J. Phillip/Associated Pres

Five things we learned from the Green Bay Packers’ 28-22 loss to the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC championship game . . .

The Packers were in complete control of the game with less than four minutes to play Sunday in Seattle. That’s when, even in Aaron Rodgers’ own words, Green Bay "gave it away."

It’s highly improbable for a team winning by 12 with 3:52 remaining in a game to lose, even when the outcome isn’t decided until overtime. In fact, it’s with 99 percent probability that a team is supposed to win a game under that set of circumstances. But the Packers spent the final 232 seconds undoing everything they’d work so hard to build in the first 3,368 seconds.

Offensive play-calling became very conservative, as Eddie Lacy was given the ball three times for minus-4 yards, turning Morgan Burnett’s interception into a play that only served to take 1:12 off the clock. Green Bay’s defense went from playing its best game of the season to falling apart, giving up two touchdowns through 119 yards in 11 plays in the span of 2:27. Those two touchdowns were only separated by Brandon Bostick making the play that now defines his career when he failed to come down with the onside kick.

Though it wasn’t until overtime that the Seahawks officially won the game, the comeback they pulled off in regulation was everything that one team could do right and everything that the other team could do wrong.

After Seattle’s overtime touchdown, Green Bay found itself on the losing end of the biggest deficit ever overcome in a conference title game.

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At halftime, Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson combined for 10 carries and 39 yards. The Packers’ defense had done everything imaginable to prove that their midseason defensive turnaround in stopping the run was for real.

In the second half, however, the Seahawks showed why they were the NFL’s best rushing offense during the regular season. Green Bay, meanwhile, showed glimpses of why there were several weeks during the season in which it was ranked last in the league in run defense.

Between Lynch and Wilson, Seattle had 22 carries for 143 yards after halftime, which is an average of 6.5 yards per rushing attempt. Even with a 16-0 lead like the Packers had, it’s difficult to give up that many yards on the ground and hold on to win.

Lynch made his go-ahead touchdown, a 24-yard run to the left, look too easy. Green Bay’s defense was seemingly worn down, and that’s exactly what the Seahawks’ offensive style can do to opposing teams.

Wilson had a 0.0 passer rating at halftime. It is literally impossible for a quarterback to do worse than that. Wilson had "completed" more passes to Packers defensive players than he had to his own offensive players. NFL games obviously aren’t played in 30 minutes, but a winning quarterback usually isn’t 2 of 9 passing for 12 yards with no touchdowns and three interceptions at the midway mark. To put it frankly, Wilson looked terrible, and Green Bay did a great job in making him look terrible.

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix had two interceptions already, while Sam Shields picked off Wilson in the end zone two minutes before halftime.

In the second half and overtime, though, Wilson displayed his penchant for clutch play. He completed 12 of 20 passes for 197 yards with one touchdown and one interception, which is a passer rating of 88.9. He also threw a cross-field pass for a two-point conversation that gave Seattle what became a very important three-point lead.

In the final two plays of the game, neither Casey Hayward nor Tramon Williams could stop Wilson from finishing off the comeback. First, Wilson hit Doug Baldwin for a 35-yard pass on third-and-7. Then, Wilson found Jermaine Kearse for his first catch of the game, but it just so happened to be the one that sent the Seahawks to the Super Bowl and ended Green Bay’s season.

The Packers could have easily had a 14-0 lead less than 10 minutes into the first quarter.

Seahawks 28, Packers 22 (OT)

The first Clinton-Dix interception set up Green Bay at the 4-yard line before Mike Daniels’ taunting penalty pushed it back to the 19. Still, the Packers’ offense worked their way down to the 1-yard line and faced second down. A run to John Kuhn followed by a rush with Eddie Lacy couldn’t get the one yard needed, and Mike McCarthy opted for the field goal rather than going for it on fourth-and-1 from the 1.

After Brad Jones forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, Green Bay got back to the 1-yard line after a third-down pass from Rodgers to Randall Cobb. But McCarthy again chose to kick a 19-yard field goal rather than go for it on fourth-and-1.

So, instead of 14-0, the Packers were up just 6-0.

Defense and special teams put Green Bay in perfect position to take a controlling lead early, but the red-zone offense couldn’t come through. That was the story over the past month for the Packers, being unable to punch it in the end zone from near the goal line. Those early missed point opportunities came back to haunt Green Bay when a 16-point lead proved to not be safe.

Rodgers should be commended for what he gave the Packers since Week 16. After Rodgers first injured his left calf in Tampa Bay, he’s only hurt it worse and played through pain on the field. If Rodgers hadn’t come back in the second half against Detroit, it’s unlikely Green Bay would have won its fourth consecutive division title. If Rodgers hadn’t really pushed himself against Dallas, it likely would’ve been the Cowboys in Seattle for the NFC Championship.

Rodgers admitted after the loss Sunday that he "felt it" in his left calf throughout the entire game. He also said that he "just kind of let it go" in the fourth quarter, realizing that he "needed to push it and run a little bit."

Rodgers did everything he could do physically to get himself into a second Super Bowl in his 10th NFL season. Without the late-game defensive collapse, without Bostick’s special-teams blunder and without a multitude of other problems in the closing minutes, Rodgers had indeed done enough to get the Packers back in the Super Bowl.

But it certainly wasn’t Rodgers’ best game, and his effort and determination was far greater than his on-field production. Rodgers completed 19 of 34 passes for 178 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions (55.8 passer rating). Including the playoffs, two of Rodgers’ three lowest passer-rating games of the season were at Seattle. This game was worse for Rodgers from a passer rating perspective than Week 1 was (81.5).

Rodgers never got a chance in overtime. Perhaps had a flip of the coin gone the other way, he would have delivered the type of winning drive that Wilson did. But Rodgers’ calf never allowed him to be himself in the past four games, even though it took a great defense like the Seahawks’ to really show that.

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