By Drew Olson Special to Published Dec 21, 2009 at 5:03 AM

A forgettable summer horror flick entitled "The Final Destination" featured a predictable plot, a lackluster cast and the macabre tagline "Rest in Pieces."

In other words, it was nothing like the Packers-Steelers game Sunday afternoon at Heinz Field.

On second thought, there may have been one similarity ...

The lead character in the movie -- whose name, believe it or not, was not "Josh Bell" -- had premonitions of catastrophic events that led to his and his friends' demise and battled to divert destiny.

The Packers' epic 37-36 loss, which was sealed when Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger fired a touchdown pass to Mike Wallace, who beat Bell in the corner of the end zone as time expired, may have provided an accurate preview of Green Bay's exit from the upcoming playoffs -- provided they make it in the first place.

This loss exposed many of the Packers' flaws -- and razor-thin margin for error in December/January. Green Bay gave up 503 passing yards. The Packers continued a season-long trend by committing a handful of costly penalties. They dropped passes, made mental mistakes and watch slump-ridden kicker Mason Crosby miss another crucial field goal.

In short, they did a lot of the little things that lead to golf season.

During the inevitable autopsy that follows all Packers defeats, fans wouldn't know a soft zone from a soft-serve ice cream cone will weigh in on the Packers' defensive scheme on the final play. They'll lament Tramon Williams' missed interception, Cullen Jenkins' missed tackle, the crucial penalties on Jarret Bush and Brandon Chillar and other key moments.

Mostly, however, they'll focus on the final play.

Bell lined up in man-to-man coverage on Wallace. Bell's job was to stay between Roethlisberger and Wallace. Atari Bigby, who was about 10 yards away, was supposed to be responsible for help "over the top."

Bell made a mistake, letting Wallace beat him back toward the pylon and Roethlisberger threaded the needle with a perfect pass. Wallace caught it, dragging his toes in the end zone to seal an improbable victory that kept Pittsburgh's playoff hopes alive and absolved coach Mike Tomlin for making a head-scratching decision to order an onside kick after a go-ahead score in the fourth quarter.

Here are some observations from the sofa:

Playoff picture: The Packers (9-5) are still in great position to make the playoffs, provided they beat Seattle Sunday at Lambeau Field.

As it stands now, the Packers, Giants and Cowboys are battling for the final two playoff spots in the NFC. 

A Green Bay victory along with a loss by the New York Giants, who play tonight at Washington, or Dallas Cowboys would clinch a playoff berth for the Packers.

The Packers are currently the No. 5 seed in the NFC. Dallas (9-5) is No. 6, but the Packers hold the advantage over the Cowboys based on their victory Nov. 15.

If the playoffs started today, the Packers would face Arizona and Dallas would take on Philadelphia. New Orleans and Minnesota would get first-round byes.

The Packers could win Sunday against Seattle and still miss the playoffs. If the Cowboys finish 11-5, they'll make it. If the Packers and giants finish at 10-6, New York would win the tiebreaker based on conference record.

Reality check: Fans and media may wonder if the Packers can "bounce back" from a loss like this. The short answer is, "of course." Fans tend to take losses like this much harder than players. At this point in the season, Mike McCarthy and his staff aren't in a mode to smack players with a rolled up newspaper. They'll just move forward and try to beat Seattle at home.

Road map: Roethlisberger, looking every bit like a Super Bowl champion, set a franchise record by throwing for 503 yards. He also provided a blueprint for future opponents (Kurt Warner, Donovan McNabb, Drew Brees, Brett Favre) looking to expose the Packers' pass defense.

The Cliff's Notes version: stay away from Charles Woodson and look for Bush, Bell and others.

All you need is 'shove': Rodgers, who leads all NFL quarterbacks in rushing yards, got an assist from fullback Quinn Johnson on a three-yard sneak in the fourth quarter. Johnson gave Rodgers a shove from behind to make sure the Packers converted a third-and-one play.

Have the engraver stand by: Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews may have clinched defensive rookie of the year honors Sunday. Matthews used his quickness to embarrass Steelers tackle Max Starks and finished the day with seven tackles and two sacks. Matthews has 10 sacks this season.

First time for everything: Bless the people at the Elias Sports Bureau, but did we really need to know -- seconds after the game -- that it was the first 37-36 finish in NFL history?

Short-changed: Packers cornerback Jarrett Bush was burned for a 60-yard touchdown on Pittsburgh's first play from scrimmage, then gave up a 54-yarder to Hines Ward in the fourth quarter.

Bush almost atoned for his miscues with an interception during the Steelers' game-winning drive, but his play was wiped out by Brandon Chillar's illegal contact penalty.

Butterfingers: The Packers dropped six passes in the first half, seven in the game. That's not going to get it done.

Justice coming? It didn't look intentional and there was no flag on the play, but Pittsburgh's Lawrence Timmons may receive a fine for the helmet-to-helmet hit on Rodgers.

Borrowed time?  Crosby continues to struggle. Despite public support from teammates and coaches, look for the Packers to bring in potential replacements for tryouts this week. 


Drew Olson Special to

Host of “The Drew Olson Show,” which airs 1-3 p.m. weekdays on The Big 902. Sidekick on “The Mike Heller Show,” airing weekdays on The Big 920 and a statewide network including stations in Madison, Appleton and Wausau. Co-author of Bill Schroeder’s “If These Walls Could Talk: Milwaukee Brewers” on Triumph Books. Co-host of “Big 12 Sports Saturday,” which airs Saturdays during football season on WISN-12. Former senior editor at Former reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.