By Jeffrey Newholm
Of all the tough playoff defeats of Packer lore, two stand out in particular: the infamous “4th and 26” 2004 defeat in Philadelphia, and the 2014 team’s epic and humiliating collapse against Seattle two years ago.
While the Eagle’s famous first down in the former game gets most of the fame, the Pack actually still had a chance to win the game in overtime. But Brett Favre, being Brett Favre, threw would could best be called a “hail Mary to nobody”-a bomb that was easily picked off to set up the walk-off field goal.
But surely the more conservative and conscientious Aaron Rodgers would never stoop to a level so low. The blame for the Seattle loss could more fairly be placed on the shoulders on any number of other culprits. But Rodgers hasn’t been quite the same since.
Three Hail Marys excited the fans from Titletown in 2015, but they masked a peculiar underlying problem. Rodgers too often looked frustrated and whiny when a pass wasn’t caught or a teammate let him down. But the 2016 team was sitting at 4-3 going into a game with the underwhelming Colts.
Surely the team could use an easy win to get off the shined. But it always seems in life that when it rains, it pours. Jordan Todman took the Pack’s Mason Crosby’s routine opening kickoff back 99 yards to the house. Pretty soon Green Bay was in another hole, this one a 14 point deficit. The team had an opportunity to halve that deficit, facing a third and 11 from the Indy 33.
And then the unthinkable happened.
The supposedly cool, unflappable A-Rod pulled a Favre in a way that would have seemed unthinkable two years earlier. Flushed out of the pocket, he threw a prayer into the end zone that was easily intercepted. The Pack had yet another lucky break when the play was wiped out due to roughing the passer, but-cheater’s proof, one could say-Rodger’s very next pass was also picked off.
Even if it hadn’t been, no team can count on an uninterrupted string of lucky breaks to get all the way to the Super Bowl. Were it not for a lucky facemask penalty in last year’s Detroit game, the 2015 Packers probably wouldn’t have made the playoffs at all. With nothing but empty promises about turnarounds coming from Rodgers and coach Mike McCarthy, the Packer’s luck may finally run out this year.
The Seattle loss, true, was a devastating setback for the whole franchise. But two years should be enough for a talented quarterback like Rodgers to muster up the courage to overcome this adversity. Goodness knows the Packers have the fourth quarter miracle comeback down to a science now, and almost did it again against the Colts.
Pulling off such a miracle again could salvage the season with no one in the division playing particularly well right now. But if the team ran out of luck over the next eight games, it would have to face the music. McCarthy’s job status could legitimately be called into question considering the team’s Super Bowl glory is now six years in the rear-view mirror. Rodgers needs to be held accountable for his lethargic work ethic, because his passion for the game seems to have turned into complete indifference. As memory of Green Bay’s 2010 Super Bowl triumph continues to fade, one bold proclamation of success in particular rings hallow now.
One Packer reporter assured his friend of modest means not to worry about Super Bowl tickets, because surely Rodgers and company would make the Super Bowl old hat by the time they were done. Sadly, at this point, the only thing that’s old hat is listless Packer defeats, and exhortations for improvement that seem to be falling on deaf ears, if anyone on the team is listening at all.