Burnett, Bostick reflect on critical plays in Packers’ NFC championship game loss
GREEN BAY, Wis. — There were more than two plays in Sunday’s NFC championship game that led to the Green Bay Packers’ historic collapse. Two of the more memorable plays, though, had Brandon Bostick and Morgan Burnett as the central figures involved.
To their credit, both Bostick and Burnett made themselves available to reporters early this week to speak about the critical moment that each of them were a part of.
Bostick’s decision to abandon his blocking responsibilities and instead make a play on the ball during the onside kick was costly for the Packers. When Bostick was unable to come down with it, the Seahawks recovered. Four plays later, Seattle scored a go-ahead touchdown.
"I just keep replaying that play in my mind over and over," Bostick said.
The replay is going to be on a loop everywhere, not just in Bostick’s own mind. Getting over a play like that won’t be easy for the third-year undrafted tight end out of Newberry College (South Carolina).
"I definitely don’t want to watch it on TV for a while, or even watch the Super Bowl," Bostick said. "I wouldn’t put a timeline on (how long it will take to move on from the play)."
Bostick’s assignment was to block so that hands-team specialist Jordy Nelson could try for the ball.
"I guess I just reacted to it," Bostick said. "I just saw the ball and went to get the ball, which wasn’t my job. That’s all I can say about that."
Bostick was in competition during training camp to be Green Bay’s starting tight end. However, he only ended up playing a total of 34 offensive snaps in the regular season, catching two passes for three yards and one touchdown.
It will certainly be the failed onside kick recovery that defines Bostick’s 2014 season.
"I’m human; I made a mistake," Bostick said. "If I would’ve made the block, we wouldn’t be talking about this. But it’s over now, so I’ll just try my best to get over it."
Many of Bostick’s teammates have approached him in the aftermath of the play with the hope that he doesn’t dwell on it too much.
"I’m at a low point right now," Bostick said. "The whole world is on my back about this thing, but my teammates are here to pick me up. They know it’s just a mistake, and they’ve been my side. They’ve definitely helped me out a lot."
In Burnett’s case, he made a great play to intercept Russell Wilson in the fourth quarter to seemingly put an end to any Seahawks comeback attempt. But with open field in front of him, Burnett opted to go down rather than try for a long return.
Burnett, a defensive captain for the Packers in the postseason, had Julius Peppers (the other team captain on defense) about 10 yards in front of him when he made the decision to slide.
"I saw Julius Peppers look at me and give me the ‘no mas’ signal," Burnett said. "That means get down. We were just more so concerned about securing the possession of the ball, getting our offense back on the field for another possession."
With the benefit of knowing that Burnett’s interception didn’t effectively end the game like it seemed it had, of course many have wondered if Green Bay would be preparing for the Super Bowl right now had he kept running.
"I don’t take nothing back that I did," Burnett said. "It’s easy to sit here after it happens to sit here and say you should’ve done this or should’ve done that. If the outcome was different, we wouldn’t even be talking about it."
In the moment, it could easily have been argued that Burnett did the smart thing. Go back and look at the NFC wild-card round game between Dallas and Detroit, when Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence recovered a Matthew Stafford fumble. With two minutes left in that game and Dallas winning by four, Lawrence tried to advance the ball rather than going down. It could have cost the Cowboys the game, because Lawrence was then stripped and the Lions retook possession with another chance at a game-winning touchdown drive.
Unlike Lawrence, Burnett made the safe play.
"I was just trying to secure the catch and, when I got the ball in my hand, the main thing was just gaining possession of the ball," Burnett said. "I got the ‘no mas’ signal, that means ‘no more, don’t return it.’ Just go and get down and secure the possession of the ball and give our offense the ball."
The Packers had a 99 percent probability to win the game after Burnett’s interception. It took more than just his decision to slide for Green Bay to lose. It also took more than Bostick’s mishandling of the onside kick to lose. Even after that, the Packers defense just had to prevent Seattle from going 50 yards for a touchdown.
As left guard Josh Sitton put it, "literally one of 10 plays you can pick that if we get it, we win the game." The Seahawks made each of those plays, though, which had the plays by Bostick and Burnett loom large once Green Bay’s season had come to an abrupt end.
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