Packers Xs and Os Film Session: Final Death Knell

Photo credit: Jeff Chiu/AP

The Packers lost the NFC Championship Game to the Seattle Seahawks in a total team failure that is still leaving fans lost for words.

I’m not going to rehash every step that went wrong in the dramatic loss. In fact, there were many things that all had to go wrong in a short amount of time for the Packers to lose, and they somehow all miraculously went wrong.

I’ve read many of the “anatomy of a meltdown” articles, and I’m sure you have too. There’s no need to agonize over every step. They just bring up emotions and frustrate us.

However, I would me remiss if I didn’t offer up a film session for this week. By now, we all have the players and coaches we want to blame for the loss. Some of the blame is justified, while some of it is not.

This film session will focus on the final play of the game in overtime, which sealed the win for Seattle and the loss for the Packers. It was the death knell.

If you ask me, this single play was as big of a breakdown as the others we’ve discussed, and just as severe as the botched onside kick. Maybe it’s even worse.

Let’s take a look at this meltdown, and you’ll see why it was egregious. I’m surprise it’s not being talked about more because it was severe.

The final play of the game was 1st and 10 from the plus 35 yard line on the opening possession of overtime. The Seahawks were in field goal range, which would not have automatically ended the game. At this point, it was essential to keep the ball in front of the defenders and keep the Seahawks out of the end zone, which would have ended the game.

Pressure had been working all game, so Capers dialed up a another blitz. Russell Wilson completed a touchdown to receiver Jermaine Kearse in the end zone to end the game.

Take a look at the GIF below, and we’ll look at how things went horribly wrong.

Credit: NFL Game Rewind
Credit: NFL Game Rewind

In the play above, the Packers sent five rushers, which means they are playing man-to-man coverage with no safety help. The Seahawks countered the blitz by keeping in the running back and a tight end in max protect. It’s now seven blockers on five rushers. Only three receivers are out in patterns.

The blitz got picked up effectively, giving Russel Wilson plenty of time to find the open receiver.

However that play, and the game, were not lost on the blitz pickup. It was lost on the cornerback technique of Tramon Williams.

He was responsible for Kearse in man-to-man coverage with no safety help. Therefore, he had to redirect Kearse to the outside and not give an inside release. Since there was no safety, the only help Williams had was the sideline, so he had to do everything in his power to not give an inside release.

In the picture below, you’ll see that Williams gave Kearse an inside release. At less than a second after the snap of the ball, Kearse was already inside. That was the moment the game was lost.

Capture1

That’s it. The play wasn’t lost on the blitz pickup. It was lost on Williams’ total lack of getting his hands on the receiver and forcing him to the outside. I don’t know if he saw something on film or got baited, but that was horrible technique and sealed the loss. It’s almost as if he gave Kearse the inside.

Coaches teach outside release when there’s no safety at the pee-wee level. I have no idea what Williams was thinking at that moment. It’s inexcusable.

I know you all want to blame a player, a set of players, and/or coaches for the loss, but this simple breakdown was more severe than the ones being most commonly discussed in the sports circles. This was much worse than the onside kick.

On to next year.

I believe the GIFs embedded above to be fair use under the premise of being short clips of the original broadcast that are transformative for news reporting, commentary, critique, illustration, and teaching purposes.

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Jay Hodgson is an independent sports blogger writing for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WISports.com.

Follow Jay on twitter at @jys_h.

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  • David

    Good article and great point but the game was lost in the first half. Green Bay totally dominated the Seahawks for 54 min and 56 seconds. Then began packing their bags for Arizona. By the time they woke up it was too late.

  • croatpackfan

    Thank you, again, Jay. I would like to kindly ask you, when you find convenient for you to go and analyse Packers possession before Morgans interception (you know, that Eddie -4, Eddie -2, Eddie 3 yards, punt!). I would really like to know if that was bad play calling or just bad execution. For this play I was stunned when I saw Tramon outside and Kearse inside running deep to the end zone… I knew game was over. It was so quick that I did not find time to ask God for bad throw from Russell. But throw was perfect!

    • Since ’61

      Croat – remember that possession you are asking Jay about began on the Packers 13 yard line. You don’t want to turn the ball over in your own red zone at that point in the game. The play calls were sound. The problem was Quarless did not make the catch on 3rd and 4. But we punted back to Seattle and Morgan came up with the pick so were fine at that point. It’s the possession after Morgan’s interception that the play calls became a problem for me. Seattle was selling out to the run and we should have checked out to a play action pass on both the 1st and 2nd down. Thanks, Since ’61

      • David

        Right on Since ’61 that was the possession that could have ended it!

        • Since ’61

          David – Compounding the failure on that possession was Masthay’s punt on 4th down. His punt should have gone to the end zone at worst, at best it should have pinned down Seattle to about their 10-15 yard line. Instead, Seattle started out from about their own 30. Masthay’s punting, especially that one, is another ST failure that has been largely over looked in the post game discussions. And 10-15 yards to Seattle’s drive and you take another 15 -20 seconds off the clock at least. Maybe they make another mistake due to the longer field. I can’t remember a game where so much went so wrong so fast. IMO as leader of the team MM needs to get out there and take the responsibility, if for nothing else than to support his players. In 1962 after the Packers lost to the Lions on Thanksgiving and ending their undefeated season Lombardi came out after the game and said, ” I take all the blame for that one, it was coaching stupidity.” That team went on to win their 2nd consecutive title that season. I think that MM needs to take a similar stand to take some of the heat off of his players. Thanks, Since ’61

          • David

            Totally agree Masthay’s punting was horrible the last half of the season and in the playoffs. Also, as you said, everything that had to go wrong for the Packer’s to lose did. I mean everything. Might never happen again during any NFL game again. Very strange indeed.

  • Thegreatreynoldo

    You focus on Williams’ poor technique in allowing an inside release, and of course that is worth citing. I focused on calling Cover 0 in overtime where giving up a TD ends the game and allowing a FG (Seattle already is in long FG range) allows the packer offense a chance to tie or win the game with a TD. Not much disguise on it either. I thought Williams’ coverage isn’t bad in that a pretty good pass is required.

    I note that Seattle saw the one on one coverage and called a pass even though Lynch had been gaining positive yardage, indeed, chunks of it. With 5 minutes to go, GB saw a 9 man box and still called a run, and then on 2nd & 14, got a 7 man box with a single high safety, thus having at least one of Adams, Cobb and Nelson with single coverage, and ran again anyway.

    • Jay

      Packers sent 5 on rush and left a spy for Russell. That means only 5 defenders left to cover 5 eligible receivers. No choice but 0 man in that alignment. They had to spy Wilson because he started to get rolling in the 4th quarter with his legs. I don’t disagree with Capers bringing pressure here. If Tramon didn’t give inside release, it would have been a more difficult throw. With the inside release, it didn’t require a perfect throw. Any throw inside the numbers would have been fine as the receiver could simply run underneath it.

      • Thegreatreynoldo

        Thanks, one can learn on this site. So, a big issue is Tramon’s bad technique. Without meaning to 2nd guess (is that what I am doing now?), others might be to spy or not to spy, and whether to send 4 or 5. I am okay with rushing 5. I will think about the spy. W/O a spy, I note that a 15 yard scramble by Wilson doesn’t end the game, maybe the 5 rushers keep contain, etc, or maybe the scramble is for 35 yards and a TD, leading to the same result. Hmmm.

    • Since ’61

      Reynoldo – I still don’t why Rodgers didn’t check out to a pass on either of those plays. It doesn’t make sense. Thanks, Since ’61

  • Razer

    Just awful. While I think that Dom Capers has been dealt a weak hand, it doesn’t seem that our players know the defense very well. After all these years, there are still too many fundamental mistakes. I think we have better than average DBs but they are repeatedly confused and losing leverage. Are our guys just stupid, positional coaching weak or is the scheme to complex? With player attrition (Guion, Peppers, Williams, House, 2 new ILB’ers, Raji) we start over on defense again. On to next year indeed. Might as well call it Ground Hog Day

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  • Mark Ingram

    You have a valid point but Williams had good coverage. Wilson threw a perfect pass. Even if Kearse had been forced to the sideline a perfectly thrown ball is in defensible.