The Green Bay Packers were absolutely throttled by the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship game on Sunday. The final score (44-21) does not properly express how much of bummer this game was from start to finish. Even so, if you are going to lose a playoff game you may as well go down in flames.
The Packers have lost five playoff games on the final play during the Mike McCarthy era. The Packers also had some notable end-of-game playoff defeats during the pre-McCarthy-Brett Favre era. These losses often turned on a single play, the memory of which will always haunt Packers fans. As we know from experience, it’s nearly impossible to let go of the thought that “if only that play went the other way…” For that reason you’re better off never having that thought to begin with.
The silver lining to Sunday’s drubbing in Atlanta is that there are no “what ifs.” The Falcons won because they are a better team. Sure, Mason Crosby’s missed field goal and Aaron Ripkowski’s fumble spelled early doom for the Packers, but the Packers defense was helpless to provide even token resistance to Matt Ryan & Co. To paraphrase Sammy Baugh, if Crosby makes that kick and Ripkowski does not fumble, the Packers probably lose 44-31.
An added bonus of being without a “what if” is that Packers fans can focus on what turned out to be a remarkable season. Simply making the playoffs after a 4-6 start is a miracle in itself. Yet the Packers – led by the wizardry of Aaron Rodgers – did more than make the playoffs; they also won the NFC North, exorcised the playoff demon that is Eli Manning, and beat the #1 seed Dallas Cowboys in one of the greatest divisional round games in NFL history. While this thrilling run ended with a thud, we should be happy that it was not tainted by some fluke play that made you want to throw a brick through your television.
The ultimate goal of an NFL team is to win the Super Bowl. The Packers will not accomplish that goal this year. Even though the road to Houston stopped in Atlanta, the 2016 season was still an amazing ride for the Packers. It was a memorable season with an ending that will be easy to forget.