When Is A Loss Not Really A Loss?Posted:Dec 23rd, 2013 3:45 am
As it turns out, week 16 had virtually zero impact on crowning an NFC North champ. The Pack's penalty-prone final moments could have cost them their season, but the Eagles' demolition of the Bears on Sunday night sets up the showdown at Soldier Field next Sunday for the division title.
It was a wacky game from the start. The Pack's coverage units cost them early, giving Big Ben short fields to get in scoring position. The 14-10 halftime lead felt precarious, with the knowledge that Clay Matthews has re-injured his thumb and was likely done for the day.
The strangest play of the day, and the season was the blocked field goal which saw the ball awarded to the Pack because the Steelers were flagged for batting the ball forward. I have to believe the league will say the officials blew this one. Pittsburgh clearly had possession--there's no way they should turn it back over to the Pack on that penalty. But the Pack were given the early Christmas present and Eddie Lacy punched it in for a 21-17 lead.
But Roethlisberger marched right down the field to retake the lead and then Flynn's pick six upped their lead to 10. The Pack rallied for the next 10 but the Steelers got the last laugh, scoring the go ahead touchdown with a minute and change left. Why Mike Tomlin didn't instruct his guys to take a knee and run the clock down to a few seconds--and prevent the Pack from getting ball back--I have no idea. Of course if Nick Perry hadn't inexplicably jumped offsides on the field goal try everything would have been different. An absolutely inexcusable gaffe.
Micah Hyde has his best day as a returner (and played terrific at corner as well) and saved his best for lest, busting a 70 yard return that should have put the Pack in position to force overtime. But penalties once again reared their ugly head and the Pack ran out of time and it looked like the season was lost.
But a funny thing happened on Sunday night. The Eagles had nothing to play for, while the Bears could wrap of the North with a win. But credit Philly with looking to erase their memories of their Mall of America Field massacre and they jumped on the Bears early and lever let up.
It sets up a playoff game at Soldier field at 3:25 next Sunday. We'll see how the injured Packers respond this week, but it appears likely the team will be without Matthews, Lacy and Neal, all of whom aggravated injuries in this game.
And then there's Rodgers. Right now my gut tells me he doesn't play, that the "organization" has decided to shut him down for the season. I hope I'm wrong. What a storyline: Rodgers returns against the team that knocked him out two months ago. I don't see Green Bay winning this one without him, unless the Bears stick with Cutler. If that happens, anything is possible.
Week 17. Packers vs. Bears for the NFC North title. What more could we ask for?
Besides Rodgers, Matthews, Lacy and Cobb in uniform, that is.