Sunday, January 18, 2015

Onside kick sparks Seattle comeback in NFC Championship


The Green Bay Packers were up 19-7 and had just intercepted Russell Wilson for the fourth time in the game. With 5:04 the game was all but over, the Packers were heading to the Super Bowl with an improbable upset. Oh, how cruel the sport of football can be.

The Packers did nothing with the interception, going three and out and punting it back to the Seahawks, and giving them the hope they were searching for. That was the theme of the day for Green Bay. They had numerous opportunities to finish off the Seahawks, but never did.

The Packers could have put the dagger in the Seahawks in the first quarter, but never did. Their first three possessions were in Seattle territory, two of them because of Seahawks turnovers, and all the Packers could muster were two field goals to take a 6-0 lead.

Later on with the Packers up 16-0, Green Bay had another chance to shut the door on the Seahawks, but never did. After Wilson's third interception, Aaron Rodgers returned the favor with his second interception of the day, killing a great opportunity for Green Bay to expand that lead even further before the half.

If you have noticed, I haven't even mentioned the name Brandon Bostick. There is a reason for that. While the Green Bay Packers made plenty of mistakes in this game as a team, it will sadly be Bostick who will forever be remembered for Green Bay's heartbreaking 28-22 loss to the Seahawks in the NFC title game.

Nobody will talk about those blown red zone opportunities. No one will talk about how the Packers defense suddenly became a sieve down the stretch, allowing Wilson and Marshawn Lynch to do as they pleased.

Instead all anyone will talk about is the onside kick.

The Seahawks had just scored a touchdown on a Russell Wilson scramble to get back into the game at 19-14. It was easy to think no harm, no foul, with 2:09 the Packers would recover the onside kick and all will be swell in the land of cheese. Wrong.

The kick by Stephen Hauschka popped up into the air, and it was Bostick, the back-up tight end, who lept into the air to make a play on it. He tried to catch the football, but the ball bounced in and out of his hands, and it fell into the mittens of Chris Matthews. Packers special teams coach Shawn Slocum had a few words of frustration for Bostick and the tight end went sulking to the sideline. You can't blame Bostick for trying, he wanted to win that game as much as anyone, and was just trying to make a play to help his team.

The Seahawks were recharged, all of a sudden Russell Wilson rediscovered the magic. He sprinted down the sideline for 15 yards to the Packers 35 yard line. The 12th Man was going totally insane at this point. Two plays later, Marshawn Lynch, and his golden feet, went trampling on the Green Bay Packers defense for a 24-yard sprint to the end zone. Like a flash of lightening it was 20-19, Seahawks. Seattle then converted the two-point conversion on a ridiculous play in which Wilson hit Luke Wilson while back-peddling away from a sack. It was Seattle's night after all, 22-19.

The Packers did manage to the tie the game when Rodgers moved the Packers into field goal range in the waning seconds, but the flow of this game was totally broken. Green Bay's mojo was gone and everyone knew it.  In a lot of ways it was easy to root for Green Bay to find a way to defy the odds at this point just to take poor Brandon Bastick off the hook. They couldn't do that either.

In overtime, it didn't take Wilson long. After an afternoon where he couldn't hit the side of a barn, Russell Wilson found something a little extra in that right arm of his. He connected with Doug Baldwin for 35 yards to move into Packers' territory. Then he won the game in walk-off fashion with the home run ball into the end zone to Jermaine Kearse to win in 28-22.

For Wilson, the tears of joy that poured from his soul after the game was a testament to his dedication to the Seahawks. He has never found himself in a situation where the game was on his shoulders like it was on Sunday, and on his worst day, he still found a way to pull a rabbit out of his hat. Kudos to him.

Meanwhile the tears of sorrow and "what could have been" are all Green Bay's to own. They had the game won at 19-7. They even had the game won at 19-14. While it is easy to pin all of the blame on Bostick for the loss, he doesn't deserve it. Already social media has been comparing him to Bill Buckner or Steve Bartman. Both Buckner and Bartman endured incredible abuse, most of which was undeserved from Boston and Chicago fans. Buckner wasn't forgiven until the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, and even then it was hard for him to forgive the fans. Bartman, a fan himself has been in seculusion ever since the foul ball at Wrigley Field.

For Bostick's sake, and for the sake of humanity, let's hope that Green Bay fans are a little bit smarter than Cubs and Red Sox fans, and do not make Bostick the scapegoat of the championship that got away.

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