This meltdown leaves 4th-and-26 in the dust

Eric Goska
For Press-Gazette Media
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Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy yells at an official during Sunday's NFC Championship game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Wash.

Anybody up for revisiting fourth-and-26?

The Green Bay Packers blew their biggest lead in postseason history. All the sweat and hard work expended in putting together a first half to remember was for naught as they fell 28-22 to the Seahawks in overtime in the NFC championship game.

You can comb the record books until your arm aches as much as Richard Sherman's. You won't find a more egregious case of wasted opportunity in Green Bay's 95-plus years of history.

One wonders if anyone wearing Green and Gold understands that no lead should be considered safe until the final second is relegated to history.

Only once before has Green Bay squandered a double-digit lead in the playoffs. That occurred 11 years ago in a divisional playoff game in Philadelphia.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves.

Prior to Sunday, the Packers had played 28 playoff games on the road or at neutral sites. In all but three, the team that led at halftime wound up winning.

The three exceptions are worth noting. Each provides a vivid example of how elusive victory in the postseason can be.

Green Bay trailed in 13 of those games. They came back to win just once.

That happened in Detroit on Jan. 8, 1994. The Packers trailed 10-7 at halftime and remained three down with 1 minute, 5 seconds left. That's when Brett Favre unleashed a 40-yard bomb to Sterling Sharpe to deliver a 28-24 victory.

Judging by the Lions' lack of success in the playoffs since, they may still be reeling.

Green Bay led in 15 of those 28 road or neutral games. They lost twice, both in stunning fashion thanks to huge fourth-quarter pass plays.

On Jan. 3, 1999, the 49ers overcame a 17-10 halftime deficit in San Francisco to stun Green Bay 30-27. Steve Young delivered the dagger with a 25-yard shot to Terrell Owens with 3 seconds remaining.

Then, five years later, the Packers frittered away a 14-7 lead after two quarters in Philadelphia. The Packers actually led 14-0 in that contest.

Green Bay clung to a three-point lead with less than 2 minutes to play. But Donovan McNabb found Freddie Mitchell for 28 yards on fourth-and-26, and the Eagles prevailed 20-17 in overtime.

Raise your hand if you believed Green Bay could sink lower?

Seattle didn't use just one huge pass play to upend the Packers. They uncorked at least five depending on how you choose to categorize them.

The first was a 29-yard throw to receiver Doug Baldwin in the third quarter to overcome third-and-19. It wasn't quite fourth-and-26, but it did set up a 19-yard TD toss from punter Jon Ryan to tackle Garry Gilliam that cut Green Bay's lead to 16-7.

Seattle then remained relatively quiet until late in the fourth quarter. That's when running back Marshawn Lynch turned a floater from Russell Wilson into a 26-yard gain to the Packers' 9-yard line. Wilson counted on a 1-yard run two plays later and Seattle was down 19-14 with 2:09 to play.

In overtime, Baldwin hauled in a 35-yarder on third-and-7. Jermaine Kearse followed with his own 35-yarder to win the game as the Seahawks needed just 3:19 of overtime to complete a miraculous comeback.

All these fireworks came on the heels of a well-played first half and especially dominant opening 15 minutes by Green Bay in which Seattle was rendered null and void. The Packers set first-quarter playoff records by running 24 plays (20 on three occasions), holding the ball for 12:38 (10:44 vs. Rams; Dec. 23, 1967), and gaining 134 more yards than their opponents (plus-107 vs. Seattle; Jan. 12, 2008).

The team also set defensive records for that quarter as Seattle ran just six plays (7, Lions; Dec. 31, 1994) and was held to 3 yards (11, 49ers; Jan. 6, 1996).

Those records will be forgotten long before this epic meltdown fades from memory.

Extra point

Mason Crosby has scored more points on the road than any Packer in team history. In the first quarter, Crosby booted an extra point and field goals of 18 and 19 yards to boost his career point total on the road to 48 tying Antonio Freeman for the franchise record. He broke the record with a 40-yarder in the second quarter and increased his total to 57 points with two 48-yarders in the fourth quarter.

— aegoska@sbcglobal.net

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