I often like to take complicated issues or scenarios and break them down into their simplest form. It helps me see things clearly, especially when it comes to bad news.
I usually start by ranking funneling facts into a top five.
Coincidently there are five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
With all of that, I’ve already accepted the outcome of yesterday’s Packer NFC Championship Game.
After all, we’ve had plenty of practice with accepting heartbreaking losses, coping with five straight years of Wisconsin sports disappointment and just missing the big stage. Green Bay versus Atlanta in 2017. The Brewers losing to the Dodgers in the 2018 NLCS. The Bucks' 2019 Eastern Conference Finals against Toronto. Last year's NFC Championship game against the San Francisco 49ers. And now this season against Tampa Bay.
Thanks to all of that sadness, I can skip directly to the acceptance phase of Sunday's Packers game – and I can, with clear eyes, condense my top five gut-punch moments into the following list.
1. The end of the first half
14-10, Tampa Bay in the lead and on the 39 with no timeouts and eight seconds until the half. Man coverage on the play – after a time out! And did I mention Tampa Bay had no timeouts left? All the Packers had to do was not give up a touchdown. They did.
“That may be the worst defensive design I’ve ever seen. I’m not sure how you play inside technique man to man and not just play zone and protect the sideline and the end zone. Amazing,” posted former head coach Tony Dungy on Twitter.
2. First and goal twice ... but only two field goals.
Forget the drop or lack of runs. Stuff happens. But thanks to missed connections between Rodgers and Adams as well as the decision-making on the final fourth quarter series, the Packers only snagged six points on these two key redzone visits instead of 14 – an eight-point swing in just a five-point loss.
3. The pass interference call
A couple times during the game, I was tempted to tweet my admiration of the ref crew for "letting ‘em play." Even after the obvious hold on Allen Lazard that turned into an Aaron Rodgers interception. Or, in all fairness, the number of times the Packers committed penalties, turning a typical game into a yellow flag rain storm. You know the old adage, “You can call something on every play”? Well, you can. So it was refreshing to have the game move along the way it was ... UNTIL under two minutes left, two seconds after the Bucs' now-infamous third-down play ended, and pass interference was called on Kevin King,
Did he grab the jersey? Yes.
Was it a penalty? Probably, but …
Did it suck? You tell me.
4. Un-special teams
There is a reason many observers of the game cite three components: offense, defense and special teams.
It is important. And whatever the reasons – and injury may play into it – this unit did the Packers no favors. Instead, that group actually did the Buccaneers a favor with mostly short kickoffs that were hard to cover, resulting in solid field position throughout the game.
While time of possession and number of plays didn’t yield any lopsided problems, 121 yards on kickoff returns for Tampa Bay compared to 30 and a goose egg on the two that weren’t touchbacks for GB is, in fact, lopsided.
5. Slightly subpar supporting cast
I’m really not that interested in criticizing individual players – even Brandon Bostick, who retains a exceptional sense of humor and tweeted, that despite the fact that it is no longer 2015, the events of yesterday may still be his fault.
So my number five is not directed at individuals. It was just a shame that two of the exceptional attributes that got the Packers to this point were not as phenomenal as they had been. Aaron Jones got clobbered, got hurt, fumbled at a key moment and, in general, his explosiveness was curtailed. Then there's the offensive line, which had overcome so much to be so spectacular but had its hands full Sunday.
Again, I’m not faulting them, but they were dominant strengths in the previous games gone missing on Sunday.
You may be wondering if I should have expanded this to include a sixth item: the decision, down eight with 2:22 to go, to kick a field goal on fourth down.
Personally I was surprised – and if entrusted with a team nobody in their right mind would entrust me with, I would have probably gone for it.
How many times this season, in numerous different situations, did the powerful offense aggressively consider anywhere between one-to-nine yards to be four-down territory?
Had the touchdown been scored, it would have been 31-29. Yes, 31-31 if the two-point conversion had worked (33 percent success ratio, by the way for GB in 2020) but also 31-30 with an extra point – still requiring another score.
Instead, it was 31-26 ... with a chance to win the game with a Packers touchdown if the ball goes back into Aaron Rodgers hands with, say, a minute and a bunch of timeouts!
And the defense did save the Packers a timeout.
And until the defensive pass interference call on third down, it looked like that chance would be there. Could you imagine how cool that would have been to watch Aaron Rodgers lead the team down the field with a chance to ...
“PASS INTERFENCE. DEFENSE, NUMBER 20. AUTOMATIC FIRST DOWN.”
But I accept it.
Two responses came back, including one janitor position. Steve took the other: the opportunity to hang out at WUWM.
After that, he worked at WAUK, then WQFM, then WZUU, then back to WQFM ... and finally worked afternoons at WKLH for a little while.
"I gave up Eddie Money to earn money in 1986," says Steve, who eventually entered the world of commercial real estate.
"But 23 years ago WKLH offered me the chance to wake up early every Sunday morning," he says. "I mean every Sunday morning. I mean like 5:30 am. I mean no matter what I did on Saturday night. Live every Sunday morning. I love it."