There’s no question that the Green Bay Packers had ample opportunity to mount a comeback against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday and advance to the Super Bowl. In fact, if not for a disastrous sequence on either side of halftime, the Packers could well have been in the driver’s seat for the second half instead of facing a three-possession deficit.
But big mistakes — and whether you can capitalize on your opponents’ — are so often the story in football, and the Packers failed to do the latter in the NFC Championship Game. As a result, players are clearing out their lockers today instead of watching film on the Kansas City Chiefs.
After a mind-boggling coverage call to end the first half, the Packers’ defense helped keep the team in the game in the second half. Green Bay picked off Tom Brady on three consecutive series, with two picks from Jaire Alexander, as the team tried to mount a furious comeback. The Packers’ offense did little with those gifted drives, though, putting up just six points on the three series, with two three-and-outs.
But it was perhaps the pick that didn’t happen — a sailed Brady pass that hit Will Redmond in the hands — that was the one they needed the most. That came two plays before Brady’s touchdown to Scott Miller with a second left in the second quarter, and if Redmond hauls that ball in, the teams go into the half with the Bucs up by four instead of 11 points.
That doesn’t even address the Packers’ decision to kick a field goal on fourth-and-goal late in the game, taking the ball out of Aaron Rodgers’ hands with a chance to tie the game. With a little more time to examine the situation, it is perhaps more understandable why Matt LaFleur made that call, but it’s still a tough one to justify regardless, and looking back it clearly didn’t work out.
Ultimately, that is 300 words to say that the Packers blew it on Sunday. A home NFC title game is a rarity, one that Aaron Rodgers may never see again in his career. And squandering that chance might be what hurts the most.
Packers full of regrets as Super Bowl slips away | Packers.com
When the Packers made mistakes, the Buccaneers capitalized. The same was not true of the reverse, and that's the biggest reason why Green Bay's season ended early yesterday.
End of first half, start of second doom Packers in NFC title game | Packer Report
One of those critical sequences came on either side of halftime. The Packers were the team that was supposed to double up, getting the ball back with more than two minutes left in the half and receiving the second half kickoff. Instead, Aaron Rodgers threw an interception and Will Redmond dropped an easy pick, leading to a Bucs touchdown before halftime, and Aaron Jones' injury and fumble set up another quick score to put the Buccaneers up by 18.
Packers abandon offensive identity during key moments in loss to Bucs | Packers Wire
Green Bay had a little bit of success running the football in this game, even running to the perimeter. But once Aaron Jones got hurt, it seemed like the team largely gave up on the run, which got them out of their play-action passing game and into a drop-back style of offense.
Green Bay Packers coach Matt LaFleur said call to kick FG late 'felt like right decision' | ESPN
LaFleur admits that he regrets his decision now, having seen the outcome. But was it actually a decent decision? No matter what, the Packers needed to get a stop -- if they get the touchdown and score a two-pointer, the game is tied and they need to stop the Bucs to get to overtime.
Packers believe penalty on cornerback Kevin King was a 'bad call' | Packersnews.com
The refs swallowed their whistles all game, ignoring all contact between defensive backs and receivers (including a clear hold by Sean Murphy-Bunting on his interception of Rodgers), but the game-clinching penalty looked to be no worse than other plays that weren't flagged earlier -- and at the very least featured an arguably uncatchable pass.