With just over two minutes remaining in the NFC Championship on Sunday, the Green Bay Packers led the Seattle Seahawks, 19-7. The game, for all intents and purposes, was over. Yes, the Seahawks had the ball, but their offense had mustered exactly zero points through 57+ minutes of action. There was no way they were coming back.
And then did.
The Seahawks scored 15 points in 44 seconds to force overtime, where they eventually won, 28-22, on a 35-yard touchdown pass from Russell Wilson to Jermaine Kearse.
Seattle became the first defending Super Bowl champion to get back to the big game since the New England Patriots (2004), the team it will face in Super Bowl XLIX on Feb. 1.
So, what was the turning point in the NFC Championship?
“I don’t know if there was a turning point so much as it was the Packers – for about 55 minutes – dominated the game (and then let it slip away),” USA Today NFL writer Tom Pelissero said on After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “They get the fourth interception off Russell Wilson with about five minutes to go. And Mike McCarthy is taking a lot of flak over playing things conservatively, but I don’t know what you would have seen from the Seattle offense at that point to make you believe they were even capable of scoring two touchdowns over those final five minutes.
“So they go down the field once, put the ball in the end zone and the the game ends up really turning on Brandon Bostik trying to step up – a third-string tight end – (and field) an onside kick when he’s supposed to be a blocker in front of Jordy Nelson, who’s your star receiver. He bobbles the ball away, Seahawks fall on it, and they go down (and tie the game). (It was a) remarkable finish, but really, what happened here was the Packers were the better team; they fell victim a little bit to a miracle.”
McCarthy is taking heat for playing too conservatively on offense (the Packers kicked five field goals, including two inside of 19 yards) and defense.
“Well, there was some of that in terms of sitting back in the soft coverage, but I think it was more so the fact they went 3-and-out twice in the fourth quarter, and five of the six plays were runs,” Pelissero said. “But what do you expect them to do? There’s five minutes left, you’ve go a 12-point lead, the Seahawks have yet to score a point on offense. Their only touchdown to that point was the fake punt that Jon Ryan threw into the end zone. I would trust my defense to be able to make enough plays, too. In the end, he ends up paying for it because they recover the onside kick, which is a pretty high percentage play for the receiving team. (If the Packers recover the kick), we’re not sitting here talking about this.”
It doesn’t help that the Packers scored just six points off of five Seattle turnovers.
“Really, it was just in the red zone,” Pelissero said. “The Packers were not able to execute (near the) goal line. It goes back to . . . game management. In the end, you are playing to the scoreboard to a degree. All I know is, (McCarthy) had a game plan put together that had the Packers up 19-7 on the defending champions in Seattle. They were in position. They let the game get away.”