On January 15, 2012, the Green Bay Packers took on the suddenly-hot New York Giants at Lambeau Field in the divisional round of the playoffs. It promised to be a good match-up, with the defense of the Giants having roared to life in the previous weeks and the clear-cut Super Bowl favorite Packers being led by obvious MVP Aaron Rodgers.
What actually happened is a game that still haunts me. I wake up in a cold sweat, remembering how Green Bay receivers dropped pass after pass; how the Packers, +24 in the turnover ratio on the season, turned the ball over four times in the game; how the defense thought they were playing two-hand touch; how the Packers played the absolute worst defense I have ever seen in New York’s Hail Mary drive before the half.
As a Green Bay fan, it hurt. I went through the usual process. Denial – that didn’t just happen. Green Bay was the best team in the NFL. Anger – what the hell was that? Why didn’t they try harder? Why are they so stupid and awful? Bargaining – I’d give up all the records they set just to have that game back. Depression – I’ll never love again. Acceptance - Well … okay, so I’m still working on this one.
The worst part of the 37-20 loss was that it wasn’t even close. The Packers, who had averaged 35 points per game during the season, scored only two touchdowns, and both drives were aided by terrible calls that went in the Packers’ favor.
The defense had been terrible all year, but there was one drive that absolutely took the cake.
New York, up 13-10 in the second quarter, forced Green Bay to punt with 41 seconds left in the first half. The Giants decided to see if they could gain some yardage and maybe squeeze in a field goal before halftime. A nine-yard pass and an incompletion left the Giants facing a 3rd-and-1 from their own 40 yard line with 15 seconds left. They lined up for a play – hey, maybe they could get a quick gain to put them in field goal position.
New York running back Ahmad Bradshaw took the handoff, needing just one yard for the first down. He got it.
And then some.
Bradshaw barreled past Green Bay defenders for an easy first down, and then was allowed to cut across the entire football field for a 23-yard gain. All of a sudden, New York went from an “Eh, we’ll see if we can get into field goal range” mindset to “Hey, if they’re going to give it to us, let’s get seven!” So, on the last play of the half, the teams lined up once more.
A defense automatically has the advantage on a Hail Mary play. Everyone knows the ball is going to the endzone, and you don’t have to worry about checkdowns or underneath passes. Just get into the endzone and knock the ball down. It’s a tough challenge for an offense – unless you happen to be playing the 2011 Green Bay Packers in a playoff game.
Not a single Green Bay defensive back thought it might be a good idea to try to jam the Giants receivers at the line. Nope, instead they sat back several yards and let the Giants receivers run whatever route they so desired.
And despite the fact that, within five yards, every New York receiver was streaking to the right side of the field, towards the right corner of the endzone, when the play ended, there were still three Green Bay DBs trying to come over from the completely-wide-open-and-deserted left side of the field.
On top of that, neither of the two Green Bay defenders that were actually in the endzone thought to maybe try to get under Hakeem Nicks. Apparently they thought it’d be easier to contest the pass from two yards behind Nicks.
I don’t even remember how the rest of the game went, nor do I care to look it up. I remember enough that the Packers barely even put up a fight.
Going into Sunday’s game at the Giants, this is all I can think about. This isn’t so much about revenge, because the Giants didn’t do anything cheap, unfair, or dirty, but the Packers need to avenge themselves and their fans for the humiliation suffered ten months ago.