Green Bay Packers: Devastation in the Desert
The sting of the Arizona Cardinals’ improbable 26-20 victory over the Green Bay Packers Saturday night only overshadows slightly the crushing defeat the Packers suffered at Seattle 12 months ago.
What we are experiencing and trying to understand are the two playoff overtime losses in consecutive years when Aaron Rodgers didn’t even touch the ball.
How can that be possible?
How can the Packers come back in improbable fashion last night – seemingly one more Aaron Rodgers-led drive away from advancing to the Championship Game – and then to fall in the most unpredictable way?
How could Larry Fitzgerald get so open?
Last night I sat for three hours contemplating answers and found none.
It is what it is.
I guess it could be worse – we could be Minnesota Vikings fans. That team’s fans have their own demons to exorcise.
But for the Green Bay Packers and us fans – the mountainous peak we felt we climbed in the final minute of last night’s game came crashing down as Fitzgerald ran unfettered down to the four yard line and then into the end zone for the overtime win.
And while there was so much wrong with the ending of that game, there was also so much from which to build.
On offense, we finally saw the emergence of Jared Abbrederis and Jeff Janis – two enigmatic wide receivers who saw their stars rise significantly when the injury to Randall Cobb most likely changed everything for Green Bay.
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We saw the Packers control the clock, and move the sticks against a top 10 defense – one that had sacked Aaron Rodgers nine times just three weeks ago.
We saw the running game come alive late – a credit to the play-calling of head coach Mike McCarthy, who stayed with the running game despite lack of success through the first three quarters.
We saw a defense play at an elite level with rookie defensive backs continuing to show that they were selected high in last year’s draft for a reason.
That same defense held the Cardinals offense to fewer than 80 first half yards – an offense that was the number one unit in the entire league.
And how can we possibly not call out Jeff Janis on the Packers final drive of regulation.
The “People’s Champ” caught a 61-yard bomb on fourth and 20 – a play that started with Aaron Rodgers running for his life in the end zone and ended in Cardinals territory with Janis’s catch.
But that was not to be all we heard from that guy.
On the last play of regulation, Rodgers again rolled to his left under heavy pressure and launched a ceiling-scraping heave that somehow landed in the hands and then the lap of Janis for an incredible touchdown.
It wasn’t possible … a Hail Mary that for the second time this season brought the Packers back from the dead.
It seemed the Packers were destined to win this game and advance once more to the Championship Game.
Then came the “flip” of the coin toss, the Cardinals getting the ball first and then the “Hail Larry” play that will be forever the top play in Cardinals’ history and the most reviled in Packers history – at least for now.
How can any player get that wide open and then how can so many defenders whiff on tackles before finally bringing him down four yards from paydirt.
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The morning after for us Packers fans is a tough one, but one that we must face and one from which we must move on.
Question upon question will be asked and answered in the next six months for the Green Bay Packers.
Many of us couldn’t wait for this frustrating 2015 season to end … but when it finally did end last night in the desert, we couldn’t believe what we saw.
The Packers ended playing their best football of the season on a defensive series that seemed to be a microcosm of the entire season.
Exhilaration followed by an excruciating defeat … Devastation in the Desert.
Next: Very few gave the Packers a chance against the Cardinals