First, let me congratulate Charles Woodson on a well-deserved selection for defensive player of the year. The reason he deserved and won this over Darrelle Revis (54 tackles, six picks, one score, no sacks or fumbles forced, but a whopping 31 passes defensed) is he was more than a shutdown corner.
He was the unquestioned leader of the league's second-ranked defense. He also finished with more well-rounded stats: nine picks, three defensive touchdowns (both unsurpassed in the league), 74 tackles, 18 passes defensed, four fumbles forced, and two sacks.
Now to Sunday's game, in which the Green Bay Packers lost to the Arizona Cardinals, 51-45 in overtime. It was easily the most exciting playoff game of the weekend, and may be of not just this season but the rest of the decade.
Let me get this out of the way: It was marred by bad calls. But that is not how it will be remembered in years to come. There were just too many plays to cover with eight bad calls...
- Green Bay benefited from a bogus horse-collar call (the first
one--the second was legitimate) that helped them on a touchdown drive.
- Greg Jennings was touched on the way down on his 35-yard catch that set up another touchdown--it should have been approximately half that.
- Larry Fitzgerald plowed over Charles Woodson on one of his touchdown receptions.
- Aaron Rodgers took a shot to the head on a play early in the game that was not called, and Green Bay actually failed to score on that possession!
- Arizona got away with a pick play that enabled Early Doucet to get one of his receptions.
- The Cardinals got away with a hold of Cullen Jenkins on a play...
- ...in which that hold pushed him into Kurt Warner, and despite being sent into him, he was called for roughing the passer.
- Finally, on the last play, Aaron Rodgers was facemasked before the ball was in the hands of the Cardinals. That would be first and ten Green Bay.
Okay, let's give the refs a D- for their performance (at least half of them were understandable oversight). But now let me tell you why it is nothing to belly-ache about:
- Green Bay put itself in this place. Without digging ourselves a
17-0 deficit, these calls would not have mattered, and that deficit
came without one bad call.
- I contend that without the deficit, those calls would not have even happened . Refs are human, and human perception tends toward the favourite--if there is any doubt, the underdog failed to make the play fair and square or made the play with the help of an infraction. There is no clearer way to present yourself as an underdog than to dig a hole by having two turnovers in three offensive plays.
- If Green Bay could not beat the weakest NFC playoff team (they would have been seeded sixth were it based on record alone, without a benefit to the winner of the weakest division in football) when they were without their second best receiver, we were not going to beat the Saints in New Orleans anyway. New Orleans generated 8.7 percent more passing yards against better competition even though they attempted 9.9 percent fewer passes. In other words, if we gave up almost 400 yards and five scores to the Cardinals, we were going to give up over 400 and six to the Saints.
- Even though this will fuel all the Rodgers-haters and the
Brat-apologists (who after seeing everything Brat has done in three
years with three teams have to be in as much denial as Mark McGwire
thinking steroids did not give him at least one more home run), we
still win if Rodgers hits Jennings on the first play of overtime.
Trust me: This will be good for the Packers in the long run...
- Ted Thompson has to realize from this that Nick Collins must be
re-signed, and that the Packers have to have better depth on the
- Mike McCarthy learned that being aggressive got his team back in the game, and that he has to prepare them better for the intensity at the outset.
- The players will be upset about the mistakes made at the beginning cost them too much to allow it to happen again, unlike in the 2007 playoffs when we overcame the first quarter hole against the Seahawks.
- Everyone can have the confidence to know they should have won the first game and the chip on their shoulder for having been unable to overcome bad officiating.
Chin up, Cheeseheads--there is no team that would be better to be a fan of right now outside of New Orleans, Indianapolis and San Diego (the only three teams I think have any shot to win the Super Bowl). We have a bright future and should be more proud of our Packers for going 11-5 than we are disappointed in a playoff loss.