INSIDE SLANT: NFL team report on the Packers
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers said his piece shortly after the cruel turn of events: "This one's going to hurt for a while because of the close proximity of feeling that feeling when the clock hits zero and you're ahead. We gave it away."
Fast forward about 2,000 miles, two time zones and about 18 hours, left guard Josh Sitton was no less stinging with his reaction to the Green Bay Packers' season-ending 28-22 loss in overtime at the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday.
"Anytime you feel like you should have won, it's tough to get over. And, when it's the last one, it's very difficult to get over," Sitton said Monday morning. "You feel like it's a waste of seven, eight months. What's the point of getting this far? I'd have rather not even made the playoffs."
To the utter dismay of the players, they were left to clean out their lockers at Lambeau Field, go through exit physicals and talks with their coaches and sit through one final team meeting led by head coach Mike McCarthy.
Instead of enjoying another "Victory Monday" and looking forward to packing their bags to fly to Arizona this weekend as participants in Super Bowl XLIX, the Packers were stewing as they started the offseason.
"I think it's still shock," receiver Randall Cobb said glumly Monday. "I just can't wrap my mind around it. It's going to take some time. This is a rough one to get over."
The 2014 Packers put themselves in the NFL record book for the wrong reason. Up 16-0 at halftime, they coughed up the biggest second-half lead in a conference title game.
Worse yet, Green Bay couldn't preserve a 19-7 advantage with a little more than two minutes left in the fourth quarter. The top-seeded Seahawks sprung to life after a horrendous performance in front of the raucous home fans at CenturyLink Field by scoring two touchdowns to briefly take the lead at 22-19 before the Packers forced overtime with the fifth field goal of the game from Mason Crosby with 14 seconds left.
Seattle never allowed the Rodgers-led Packers offense back on the field, going 87 yards in just six plays in the first possession of the extra period and ending the game on Russell Wilson's 35-yard downfield touchdown throw to Jermaine Kearse.
"We just fell apart," Cobb said. "You look up with five minutes left, you say, 'There's no way you can lose this game.' And, it just seems like we did everything to lose that game in that last little bit."
Besides a faltering defense that had four interceptions of a previously inept Wilson, Green Bay's offense failed to get a first down in two straight series preceding the Seahawks' flurry of scoring. What's more, an error in judgment by Brandon Bostick resulted in a muffed onside kick that Seattle recovered to set up a go-ahead touchdown run by Marshawn Lynch with less than 90 seconds to play.
Green Bay's monumental collapse left it ending the season in the same venue where it started the league schedule with a 36-16 loss to the Seahawks on Sept. 4.
There was no consolation for the second-seeded Packers, who were underdogs by a touchdown, pulling off the near-upset in the rematch with the defending league champions.
"I tried to watch the film last night, but I didn't," Sitton said of what was an eerily quiet flight from Seattle to Green Bay late Sunday night. "I couldn't watch it. I knew what happened. We kicked their ass up front. We handled them all day. We should've won the game."
Visibly dejected in his postgame news conference, Rodgers concurred as the Packers still haven't returned to the Super Bowl since winning it in the 2010 season.
"It's going to be a missed opportunity that we'll probably think about for the rest of my career," the 10th-year pro said. "We were the better team (Sunday), and we played well enough to win, and we can't blame anybody but ourselves.
"Losses are bad either way, but the way we lost it - we were sitting there up two scores late in the game with the ball," Rodgers added. "You expect to put that thing away."