It’ll live in infamy in Green Bay Packers history, much like 4th-and-26.
There will be no need for further conversation, or discussion, about what that means in franchise history. All that comes with 44 seconds now is heartache.
To start, the Packers defense had turned the Russell Wilson-led Seattle offense into a junior varsity production for the better part NFC Championship game Sunday afternoon in the Pacific Northwest.
Through the first 30 minutes of play, the Seahawks managed the following highlights:
- Zero points.
- Three first downs.
- Three interceptions.
- Eight net yards passing.
- Fifty-nine total yards.
Seattle had to resort to a trick play, a 19-yard touchdown pass from punter Jon Ryan to offensive lineman Garry Gilliam with 4 minutes, 50 seconds left in the third quarter to draw within 16-7.
The Packers sandwiched a fourth Mason Crosby field goal between two more Seahawks punts for a 19-7 lead with about seven minutes left in the game, and it looked like the Packers were headed to Super Bowl XLIX in Arizona on Feb. 1.
Then, Morgan Burnett intercepted Wilson for a fourth time with just over five minutes left. The Packers were forced to punt about a minute later, but with the flaccid Seahawks offense needing two touchdowns to go ahead, whatever happened next seemed elementary.
I mean, four Wilson interceptions? At home? He had thrown seven all year long, and had only tossed only one in 152 career playoff attempts prior to Sunday.
Even Brad Jones – Brad Jones! – made a play in the game, forcing a fumble on a kick return that set up a first half Packers score.
So, the Seahawks moved the ball in the under 4-minute drill, marching 69 yards in 1:42 to draw within 19-14. A little over two minutes remained. Handle the onside kick, get a first down, and it’s over.
And then a floating ball, which will be replayed over and over in Seattle like Miami Dolphins kicker Garo Yepremian’s ill-fated pass attempt back in Super Bowl VII is etched in the brains of fans forever:
Then, 44 seconds.
Julius Peppers bites down on a read option that the Seahawks had not done too much of, and Wilson breaks around the right side for 15 yards
Marshawn Lynch runs up the right side for three yards.
Wilson fires a pass into the gut of tight end Luke Willson, who manages to twist enough away from A.J. Hawk to pick up eight yards and a first down.
Seattle rushes to the line, sets, and Wilson hands to Lynch out of the shotgun. As the line doubles down on Mike Neal, who had his hands on the ground as a lineman. Hawk picked an inside gap, and got caught in the wash, and Lynch slid outside. Nick Perry was out there, but too wide, and his attempt at tripping up Lynch by the ankles was futile.
Micah Hyde technically had a shot at Lynch, but he only had a shot if Lynch pulled a muscle and couldn’t keep going.
Touchdown, from 24 yards out. 20-19 Seahawks.
The fact that Wilson nearly duplicated Aaron Rodgers’ improbable cross-field touchdown to tight end Richard Rodgers against the Minnesota Vikings in week 12 by throwing a cross-field rainbow to his "other Willson" in tight end Luke for the two-point conversion to make it 22-19 seemed just … appropriate in it’s surprise.
If the jaw was on the floor already, that just made the wood give out and send it to the basement.
Rookie safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who had two interceptions and played so well to that point, had a meltdown around the 1-yard line, stuttering and sputtering toward Willson and never made a play on the ball.
Yes, Aaron Rodgers led the Packers down the field, 48 yards in 1:11, for a fifth Crosby field goal to send it to overtime, but the goal that once seemed so close, the Super Bowl, now seemed so far of way.
Of course the Seahawks won the coin toss.
Of course Doug Baldwin finally gets open twice for 45 yards on that drive. And of course the safeties are pulled and the man-to-man coverage the Packers relish – the same coverage that led to two Wilson interceptions earlier – faltered in the ultimate moment, as Tramon Williams got beat to the inside by Jermaine Kearse for a 35-yard game-winning touchdown to send Seattle to its second straight Super Bowl with a 28-22 win.
In those 44 seconds that gave the Seahawks the lead, they surpassed their entire output for the first half of the game.
In 44 seconds, the Packers inability to score nothing more than field goals in a first half that saw them run 13 plays inside the Seahawks’ 25-yard line and manage just one touchdown and 16 points loomed larger.
Mike McCarthy’s decisions to take the points on chip-shot Crosby field goals seemed less educated.
Rodgers’ (McCarthy’s?) decisions to once again avoid Richard Sherman, despite more creative offensive sets – and the fact he was clearly playing on one arm in crunch time – loom larger.
It’s amazing what 44 seconds can do.
It’s a period of time that will go down in franchise history for all the wrong reasons.
Jim Owczarski is an award-winning sports journalist and comes to Milwaukee by way of the Chicago Sun-Times Media Network.
A three-year Wisconsin resident who has considered Milwaukee a second home for the better part of seven years, he brings to the market experience covering nearly all major and college sports.
To this point in his career, he has been awarded six national Associated Press Sports Editors awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, breaking news and projects. He is also a four-time nominee for the prestigious Peter J. Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism, presented by the Chicago Headline Club, and is a two-time winner for Best Sports Story. He has also won numerous other Illinois Press Association, Illinois Associated Press and Northern Illinois Newspaper Association awards.
Jim's career started in earnest as a North Central College (Naperville, Ill.) senior in 2002 when he received a Richter Fellowship to cover the Chicago White Sox in spring training. He was hired by the Naperville Sun in 2003 and moved on to the Aurora Beacon News in 2007 before joining OnMilwaukee.com.
In that time, he has covered the events, news and personalities that make up the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, NCAA football, baseball and men's and women's basketball as well as boxing, mixed martial arts and various U.S. Olympic teams.
Golf aficionados who venture into Illinois have also read Jim in GOLF Chicago Magazine as well as the Chicago District Golfer and Illinois Golfer magazines.