Monday, January 19, 2015

The reckoning of the morning after

Yeah, I can't see myself forgetting that Packer meltdown yesterday. To see your team blow a chance like that....this really hurts. You never know if a chance that good will come around again.

How unlikely was this loss? I'll let ESPN's win-probability and X and O guru Bill Barnwell explain, with my added thoughts in italics.
When [Seahawk QB Russell ] Wilson had his fourth interception of the day bounce off Jermaine Kearse’s fingertips and into Morgan Burnett’s hands with 5:04 left, the Packers were up by 12 points and had the ball near midfield. ESPN Stats & Information estimates that Seattle’s chances of winning in that exact situation were a lowly 3.9 percent. Take the team with the best point differential in NFL post-merger history, the 2007 Patriots, and have it travel back in time to take on the worst team in post-merger history, the 1976 Buccaneers, in Tampa Bay. The Bucs’ chances of winning that game per the log5 method are 4.3 percent, narrowly better than where the Seahawks stood with a little more than five minutes to go.

Seattle needed just about everything to go right from that point forward, and as you already know, that’s exactly what happened. Outside of Lynch narrowly stepping out of bounds on a wheel route that otherwise would have been the first touchdown in Seattle’s comeback, the Seahawks suddenly exhibited an ability to cast miracles on demand. Of course, there was the expected onside kick, a 21.1 percent shot that went Seattle’s way in a spot where the game all but surely would have ended had the Packers recovered. More on that in a moment. There was the only 2-yard Hail Mary you’ll ever see, a two-point conversion that somehow fell into the waiting arms of Luke Willson. (that play absolutely killed me, how Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix and the rest of the Packer defense just stood around and let that crap get completed). That play ended up saving Seattle’s bacon when the Packers were able to kick a field goal on their ensuing drive. With a defense riddled by injuries, it was a blessing that the Seahawks won the overtime coin toss, never giving the ball back to Aaron Rodgers & Co.
Of course, it never should have come down to a 1 in 25 chance of losing, because this game should have been put away well before the last 5 minutes. Barnwell notes that Packer Coach Mike McCarthy deciding to kick field goals two times from the 1-yard-line in the 1st Quarter ended up costing the Packers a total of 2.6 points in win expectancy. Now maybe the play-calling menu was a little light due to Aaron Rodgers not being as mobile as normal (so rollouts and run-pass options were less likely), but if even 1 of those 2 attempts to go for it work, that's 7 points vs. 6, and even getting stuffed leaves Seattle in horrible field position, which often ends up resulting in points for the Pack within the next 2 possessions.

But the even more egregious coaching error comes from the fact that the injury-riddled and tired Seahawk defense wasn't exactly tested by the likely NFL MVP in the 4th quarter. And that's where me and Barnwell have a special issue with the way this game ended up, and why I look to the sidelines for the reason behind this collapse.
The first was the more egregious of the two. Taking over on their own 13-yard line with 6:53 to go after a 57-yard drive that led to a field goal on their last possession (a really good drive that featured a key 3rd-down conversion pass to Richard Rodgers) , the Packers took over and got ultra-conservative. They ran twice with James Starks before calling for a hitch route to an isolated Andrew Quarless versus linebacker K.J. Wright on third-and-4, which fell incomplete under some pressure from Wright. It was the same play call that won Green Bay the game against Miami late in the fourth quarter, but that was versus abysmal coverage linebacker Philip Wheeler; Wright is one of the better linebackers in football.

The second drive was mostly circumstance. After the interception, the Packers ran the ball with Lacy for a loss of 4, at which point the Seahawks called timeout. I can understand wanting to run clock on the next play, which went for a loss of 2 and another timeout. At third-and-16 and with the clock stopped, a third running play seems reasonable enough.
The results are bad enough, 6 plays, 2 yards, 2 punts, and only 2:52 taken off the clock. But let's note that the mix was 1 pass, 5 runs, when you have the best QB in football and Seawhawks star DB Richard Sherman is playing with one arm. Running the ball may take time off the clock and/or force the other team to take timeouts, but you know what's even more effective at that? GETTING FIRST DOWNS. Sure enough, on the Packers' drive to tie the game at the end of regulation, 3 straight pass plays netted the team 42 yards. Yes, Seattle wasn't playing as tight on defense given the end-of-game situation as they may have been when they were losing and pressing to make a play, but that also opens up opportunities for the Packers' 3 wideouts and Rodgers' usually-strong accuracy. It's just an idiotic, risk-averse strategy to grind the ball into the line at a time when the Seahawks are selling out for the run.

And when you're the Green Bay Packers and lucky enough to have the best QB in the game in his prime, you don't let opportunities slip away like this. The only positive for me in this disastrous Packer loss is that it has happened after I've lived to see the Pack make 3 Super Bowls and win 2. If this was the 1995 season, and 21-year-old Jake was watching this giveaway without having ever seen the Pack in the Super Bowl in his lifetime? I might not be out of bed or able to even read anything about the game, instead of continually shaking my head and seething like I am today.

Fuck it, onto college hoops season.

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