SEATTLE—If anyone could think of a tougher loss that they’d ever been a part of, no one in a somber, morose locker room was saying.
The Packers will forever wonder how they let Sunday’s NFC Championship get away. They had a 16-point lead at halftime, a 12-point lead with three minutes left and numerous chances to finish off a run to Super Bowl XLIX, but somehow the Seahawks ended up escaping CenturyLink Field with a 28-22 overtime victory.
“We were where we wanted to be,” cornerback Tramon Williams said. “We just didn’t get it done. We squandered away every opportunity for us to put that game away, and there’s really no excuse for it.”
Williams, with no safety help and with decent coverage, was beaten for the game-winning 35-yard TD pass in overtime from Russell Wilson to Jermaine Kearse, but everyone knows the game shouldn’t have come down to that.
The missed chances began in the first half, with two goal-to-go possessions that ended on the 1-yard line and resulted in field goals. Those were the only six points the Packers managed off of five Seattle turnovers.
“Four points from each of those, and it’s a different game,” receiver Jordy Nelson said of the two goal-line possessions. “Defense gave us multiple chances and we didn’t capitalize.”
The offense also had the ball twice in the middle of the fourth quarter, protecting a 19-7 lead, and went three-and-out both times. The second one came after an interception by Morgan Burnett, Wilson’s career-worst fourth on the day, but Burnett inexplicably slid down at the Green Bay 43-yard line with 5:04 left when he had field in front of him for a longer return.
Three plays later, Seattle had the ball back on its own 31 and Green Bay had killed only 1:12 off the clock.
“I can’t continue to say it enough, we just didn’t do enough to win,” right tackle Bryan Bulaga said.
Then, a defense that had played lights out for more than 3½ quarters suddenly fell apart. Beginning with 3:52 left in the fourth quarter, the Seahawks had two possessions plus the overtime drive and went 69, 50 and 87 yards for three stunning touchdowns.
The Packers failed to recover a critical onside kick after the first score, and the offense managed to drive late in regulation for a field goal to tie the score at 22 and salvage overtime, but the 206 yards allowed on those final three drives accounted for more than half of Seattle’s 397 yards of total offense in the game.
“For the most part, we held them at bay today,” linebacker A.J. Hawk said. “Once they got rolling, we couldn’t slow them down enough to get the win.”
Julius Peppers was among the members of the defense at a loss for words. He said little to nothing at his locker while others who had words didn’t really have explanations.
“Not right now,” Peppers said regarding anything he could say to his teammates.
Perhaps the epitome of the turnaround on defense was best exemplified by rookie safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. He was playing his best game as a pro, with two interceptions. But then in the fourth quarter, he let a potential third pick go right through his hands. Then, on Seattle’s two-point conversion after scoring the go-ahead TD with under two minutes left, he was in perfect position next to tight end Luke Wilson on a high throwback pass but somehow never laid a hand on the ball.
Those were just a couple of examples of how suddenly everything was going wrong, and the two-point play proved big when the Packers’ late field goal only tied the game rather than potentially won it.
“We were always confident,” veteran fullback John Kuhn said. “We were confident until the signal went up that it was a touchdown in overtime.”
That touchdown was the second of back-to-back 35-yard passes that ended the game. Two plays, 70 yards, ballgame.
The first came on third-and-7 from the Green Bay 30 to Doug Baldwin, who ran past cornerback Casey Hayward from the slot.
On first down, the Packers then sold out to stop running back Marshawn Lynch with no safety deep, and Wilson’s perfect throw to Kearse was too good for Williams to get a hand on it.
“I thought I was in good position, but I couldn’t get the ball out,” Williams said. “Guy made a good catch. Russell made a good throw and a good read.”
It became good night on a game and a season that for nearly three hours on Sunday appeared to have at least four more quarters to go on football’s biggest stage.
“We played a good game. We just didn’t finish,” Kuhn said. “That was an epic battle like we thought it was going to be, all the way through 60 minutes. It just took a little bit longer and they finished a tiny bit better.” COMPLETE GAME COVERAGE