With a chance to advance to their second Super Bowl in five years, the Green Bay Packers gave up 15 points in 44 seconds to the Seattle Seahawks and lost the NFC Championship in overtime, 28-22.
It was one of the most stunning and crushing losses in championship game history.
And a lot of people are blaming Packers head coach Mike McCarthy.
“Well, there are questions about Mike McCarthy on game day,” CBS Sports senior NFL columnist Pete Prisco said on Tiki and Tierney. “I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. I mean, when you look at it, he made some mistakes yesterday. I don’t think there’s any question about it. But somebody asked me yesterday, ‘Should Mike McCarthy be fired?’ Are you kidding me? That’s just ridiculous.”
Brandon Tierney doesn’t think so. In fact, Tierney thinks it’s a very worthwhile debate.
“The guy won a Super Bowl,” Prisco exclaimed. “He gets to the championship games. He’s a good football coach. If the hands team catches the ball on the special teams, are you still saying that?”
Indeed, back-up tight end Brandon Bostick had a chance to seal the victory for Green Bay. Instead, he completely bobbled an onside kick, allowing the Seahawks to recover and take over at midfield.
They scored four plays later.
While it’s easy to put the loss on Bostick, you have to remember that the Packers settled for five field goals, including two from inside the 2-yard-line, including one on the one-foot line.
If the Packers had scored seven instead of three on either of those drives, the onside kick is irrelevant. Why wasn’t McCarthy more aggressive early in the game?
“I agreed with going for three,” Prisco said to Tierney’s dismay. “The game flow matters. You’re on the road against Seattle. You’re playing a Seattle team that’s very tough, very physical. They feed on their momentum. If they stop you there, there’s all the momentum in the world. You got your field goal. You know what? Then the game flow changed. Now you have the advantage. Here’s a team that rarely gets behind at home, and all of a sudden they’re looking around going, ‘Hey, we’re behind. What’s happening?’ It played out perfectly. The game played out perfectly the way you want it play. The guy botched the special teams play.”
And the Seahawks were quick to capitalize. They scored touchdowns on their final three drives, including a six-play, 87-yard march to begin – and end – overtime.
Seattle, as you might expect, was extremely fired up after the win. It’s rare to see a team play with this much vitriol – seemingly toward everyone.
“That’s a chip on their shoulder they’re playing with,” Prisco said. “That’s a part of who they are. They’re tough. It’s a tough, physical, nasty football team. Look, what happened at the end of that game was an aberration. Sometime the horseshoe’s going to come out. They got all the breaks in the world; everything went their way at the end, but you make your breaks. You got to give them credit for that.”
Yes, Russell Wilson looked “absolutely horrible” for the first, oh, 55 minutes of the game, throwing four interceptions. But he rushed for a touchdown toward the end of regulation and found Jermaine Kearse for the game-winning 35-yard touchdown pass in overtime.
“He made plays when he had to,” Prisco said.
With the win, the Seahawks advance to their second straight Super Bowl, where they will face the New England Patriots, who embarrassed the Indianapolis Colts, 45-7, in the AFC Championship. New England’s win came with a little bit of controversy, sort of, as the Patriots have been accused of using intentionally deflated footballs during the game.
“It just sounds like a big bunch of nothing, but it is a big bunch of something when it’s the Patriots because of what happened in the past,” Prisco said, referring to Spygate. “If this is any other team, (we probably wouldn’t give it any credence). But it’s the Patriots, so everybody goes, ‘Oh, they’re cheating again.’”
If true, the Patriots would likely be fined and potentially have to pay a draft-pick penalty. Either way, they’re playing Seattle in Super Bowl XLIX on Feb. 1. Kickoff is at 6:30 p.m. ET.