Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara, CA
No Pack this year but we can get you to this year’s big game!
» Reserve your spot!
By CHRIS HAVEL
Green Bay overcomes multiple injuries to take Cardinals to the wire, only to lose OT coin toss and the victory
The Green Bay Packers were drained, depleted and down. But they weren’t out.
After a 60-minute tug-of-war that saw them lose their top playmaker early and their slim lead late they still had a chance.
They had one final, astounding shot at victory – courtesy of yet another “Hail Mary!” that was answered – except Packers head coach Mike McCarthy elected to pass on the opportunity.
Instead of giving Aaron Rodgers the football on the Cardinals’ 2-yard-line with a shot at a game-winning 2-point conversion, McCarthy chose to kick the tying PAT and send it to overtime.
Arizona won the coin toss and took it from there. Under NFL rules, the Packers never got a chance in the OT.
On the first play in overtime the Cardinals’ Carson Palmer eluded pass rushers and threw to a wide-open Larry Fitzgerald, who tore through the Packers’ defense for a 75-yard gain.
On the next play, Palmer tossed a shovel pass to Fitzgerald, who ran it in to give the Cardinals a 26-20 overtime victory in Saturday night’s NFC Divisional Playoff game at Arizona.
“Losing in that fashion, especially with the offense pulling that out, another Hail Mary, is unbelievable,” said the Packers’ Clay Matthews.
In this writer’s opinion, to say McCarthy should’ve gone for 2 isn’t second-guessing and I was pulling for that as soon as Jeff Janis safely cradled Rodgers’ 41-yard desperation heave into the Arizona end zone.
Ask yourself two questions:
Would McCarthy have gratefully accepted the chance at a game-winning 2-point conversion as Green Bay was lining up for fourth-and-20 from its own 4-yard line in the final minute? Absolutely, he would have.
Would McCarthy have gleefully taken the same chance with only a few seconds and one final play from the Cardinals’ 41? Of course, he would have.
But when given the chance, McCarthy said, “No thanks.” McCarthy swallowed his tongue and played it safe even though his Packers (11-7) were in poor shape to play on.
Randall Cobb, their top weapon, was KO’d in the first half with a bruised lung. They were without Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams, Ty Montgomery and Cobb. That’s their top four wide receivers. It’s no wonder the Green Bay offense was left to dink and dunk while its defense was hanging by a thread.
That came to a crashing end on Fitzgerald’s big-time play in OT.
“I can’t say we played our best game,” McCarthy said. “We didn’t play well. We didn’t do enough to win. We had a lot of things we needed to overcome and they just kept battling.”
Given all those “things” to overcome, it is my opinion that McCarthy should’ve taken his gift from the Packers’ Gods and gone for the win.
Aside from that decision, McCarthy and his team proved once again that they are nobody’s underdogs. They stood helmet-to-helmet with Arizona, the favorite to win Super Bowl 50, and didn’t blink.
Statistically, this game was about as close as close can be. Both teams averaged 5.8 yards per play. Green Bay converted 7 of 15 third downs to Arizona’s 5-for-13. The Packers had one turnover. The Cardinals committed two. Green Bay notched 18 first downs to Arizona’s 20.
And the outcome of this game can be said to be serendipitous in many ways. Luck.
Official’s discretionary and dubious calls, and non-calls. The whimsy of a coin flip essentially deciding the game. Bizarre bounces….the Cardinals even unbelievably benefited from a ricochet when Damarious Randall skillfully batted away an end zone pass intended for Fitzgerald and the tipped pass floated straight into a surprised and delighted Michael Floyd’s hands for a 9-yard touchdown catch for Arizona.
Better to be lucky than good, as they say. Floyd should’ve bought a lottery ticket that same day.
That put Arizona up 17-13 with 3:44 to play. After stopping Green Bay’s offense, the Cardinals added a field goal to make it 20-13 with 1:55 to go.
That’s when Rodgers and the offense worked its magic. Janis, who had five receptions all season, finished with seven catches for 145 yards and two touchdowns. Jared Abbrederis added four catches for 55 yards.
They were the only two wide receivers to catch passes from Rodgers, who finished 24 of 44 for 261 yards and two touchdowns. Rodgers was sacked just once after being sacked eight times in the Packers’ loss Dec. 27 at Arizona.
The Packers’ offensive line played gamely, and Eddie Lacy rushed 12 times for 89 yards, including a 61-yard jaunt that set up a touchdown.
Unfortunately, close doesn’t count in the NFL. And inches and a key discretionary penalty or non-penalty decide playoff games in this NFL. It was astounding the offensive and defensive interference and holding that the Cardinals got away with, including non-calls on BOTH of their touchdowns. Oh well, maybe NEXT year the refs will get it right, or maybe the Pack will benefit from bungled calls.
“It was a rollercoaster on the sidelines,” Arizona head coach Bruce Arians said. “You’ve just got to keep all your emotions in check and go to the next play. No matter what happened on the last play, you’ve got to go good, bad or ugly on the next play, and that’s basically what our football team did.”
The Packers lost the overtime coin toss after the coin incredibly didn’t flip on the first try, and Rodgers wasn’t given a chance to re-call it “heads” or “tails” on the second toss, when the ref quickly re-flipped to hide his embarrassment. Not even grade school football officiating would this happen.
“It comes down to a coin flip sometimes after a long, hard-fought game,” Rodgers said. “Back and forth, bizarre plays made by both teams, and unfortunately it comes down to that.”
Well, that’s in the past now – just like this grinder of a season.
And the really good news to Packers fans all over the world is that they scrapped and battled and gritted through injury, adversity, with all 4 of its top wide receivers out of the game, to take the team on its own turf, to overtime. And they discovered the remarkable skills of their number six receiver, Jeff Janis, in the process.
What will this Packers team, back at full strength next year, be like? I can hardly wait until September.
Chris Havel is a national best-selling author and his latest book is Lombardi: An Illustrated Life. Havel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. CDT on WDUZ FM 107.5 The Fan, or on AM-1400, as well as Fan Internet Radio (www.thefan1075.com). Havel also hosts Event USA’s MVP Parties the evening before home games.