It's taken me a couple days to process the game we all saw on Sunday. One last blocking meltdown and we watched the season get high stepped into the end zone, a dark half year before we get to watch the Green and Gold play again. It's going to be a long summer, especially if the Brewers don't sign pitching.
My first reaction after the game was actually joy. I hadn't expected much from the Packers in the playoffs, and while I was rooting for them all the way, and cheering as they came back from 21 down, I still couldn't shake the feeling that it was all for naught. The pass offenses the NFC has in the playoffs this year could absolutely shred our defense, especially with Jarrett Bush on the field. I was more or less hoping for a good game to watch, and already looking forward to signing some help in the offseason.
The joy, then, came from watching one of the most memorable games of football I have ever seen. The game had everything you look for in football....intensity, leaving it out on the field, controversy, spectacular plays, loads of scoring, and great defense (okay, maybe not that last one)....but as far as the Packers season, what a way to go out! Personally, if my team can go out of the playoffs in such a memorable way, I'm all for it. Granted, I would much rather have the team I will cheer for until the day I die win the Super Bowl every year, but as far as personal expectations, I'm fairly certain no one with realistic expectations was expecting to bring home a Lombardi Trophy this year. It's great when a loss is as entertaining as this one was. As someone who watched Lawrence Tynes miss consecutive field goals in blistering cold, and froze my ass off as our second most recent playoff chance got kicked through my uprights, I can say this loss leaves me in a completely different place.
That different place, cliche as it sounds, is one with hope for the future. This entire season was a work in progress, and it's nice to see so much going right for the Packers, despite the playoff loss. We have one of the best young quarterbacks in the league, an aggressive, talented, and swarming defense, and a core group of players that will be with us for a long time. This was not the year where we were selling the farm, going for our one shot, nor was it the year where our talent was in it's prime, consistently making plays they should. This was a year of building, growing, and even watching some fantastic football.
As far as the penalties are concerned, it really is not something that bothers me. I realize that might not be the case for some reading this, but through being both a spectator and participant in sports for my entire life, I have a very hard time blaming the refs for anything. Yes, there were calls missed (big ones), and yes they would have changed the game, but the Cardinals played with the exact same refs. There was no blatant favoritism to either side, and while one big mistake might have changed the game, it's not something we can dwell on. If Rodgers doesn't bullet the throw to Jennings just a tad out of reach, it's game over. If Rackers doesn't miss an easy field goal for only the second time all year, it's game over as well. Both teams had plenty of opportunities to win, and while it's a shame the game ended the way it did, its not a hopeless downward spiral going in to next year. It's rebuilding, refocusing, and learning.
I don't post here a ton, and when I do, it's usually long winded and speculative. I don't know who I want to win the Super Bowl, and frankly it doesn't make a difference to me now that the Packers are out (outside of winning a few friendly bets with friends when the Chargers beat the Saints come February). I do know that when the Packers take the field for the first preseason game come August, I'll have even higher hopes for the team than I did this year. I challenge you to have the same sense of optimism. One fanpost here recently surveyed the past decade of Packer play, even daring to mention the hopeless time of the Rhodes, the management struggles when we finally got a Coach SLASH GM, and finally the hiring of Thompson and the Favre saga.
This team is going in the right direction, which is more than most NFL teams can say. We've been good in recent years, but finally, we're on the verge of being great.
Enjoy the offseason everyone.