clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The recap that wasn't: The Packers' stunning upset over the Seahawks in the NFC Championship

New, comments

An alternate universe where Seattle doesn't lose the Super Bowl on the final play. Instead, they don't advance to the Super Bowl at all!

Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Let me give you a peek behind the curtain of sports journalism. Specifically, the kind of sports journalism that needs to be produced almost instantaneously rather than the kind that is created over six hours of research and three hours of drinking. This is a part of what it was like to cover the 2014 NFC Championship game in Seattle.

Let me start a couple days before.

After the Seahawks beat the Carolina Panthers 31-17 on January 10, I immediately sent an e-mail to someone in the organization asking if it was possible to get credentialed for the conference championship next Sunday. I was lucky enough to literally be the last person allowed in the press box.

As some of you may know, I live in Los Angeles, California, so I would need to get to Seattle to even be able to cover it, but this was not an opportunity I was going to pass up. As a freelance journalist, I am often obligated to fund myself and then hope to make back that and more in articles I sell, so I decided to make the drive up to Washington rather than fly. It's not even so much that it would save me any money (maybe a little) but at least I wouldn't be at the behest of Southwest Airlines. I could move at my own free will after the game was over, and since I'm from Washington, it wouldn't hurt to stick around for awhile after.

Just ask my mom.

I drove, stayed one night with a friend in Portland to break up the monotony of it all, and arrived in Bothell on Saturday. Feeling ill from the long drive, I stayed all day in bed and woke up refreshed and ready to attend pretty much the coolest fucking football experience of my life up to that point.

Being in the press box at an NFC Championship game in Seattle doesn't suck.

I met Walter Jones. Saw John Clayton working the phones for 30 minutes. (An actual land line phone in the press box. The only thing he was missing was a brimmed hat that had a note card tucked in the band that said 'PRESS'.) And no matter what you want to say about Joe Buck and Troy Aikman as announcers, I think you'd be lying if you said that after all these years of watching football it wouldn't be pretty fucking cool to have them walk by you in the flesh on their way to call the game.

At this point though, all my allegiances to the Seahawks subsides in favor of writing unbiased articles previewing and recapping the game that was. While some readers out there will use this fandom against you, the fact of the matter is that those same readers basically won't be able to read or listen to anybody in sports if that's how they feel. If you got into sports, you probably have a favorite team. I wanted Seattle to win for personal reasons, and for professional reasons it would certainly be good for this very blog to get the traffic of a win and a Super Bowl appearance, but for the purposes of why I was in that press box, I was just an observer of a football game without bias, writing articles for other publications that aren't this Seahawks blog.

(Bias that only showed itself when before the game, when I asked for a picture with Big Walt.)

So the game started and 56 minutes clicked off the game clock and it was pretty damn ugly. It got to the point where Seattle was less-than-one-percent to win and as I said, this is the world of instantaneous sports journalism. You need to have a recap up before "the other guy." You have to be factual, accurate, and detailed, but you also have to be fast. This is something I've learned through getting a broadcast journalism degree, spending a winter as an intern at the Seattle Times in the sports department, and eventually working on the newsdesk at SB Nation.

"Don't write it when you know it. Publish it when you know it." - Kenneth Arthur

Most journalists compile facts and sentences as the game goes on, preparing a recap with things that they know to be true. You can always remove any untrue bits later, and use placeholders (I use X's) for the stats that aren't official yet. When the game is officially over, you can fill in the parts that need filling in, and file the piece.

Midway through the fourth quarter, I was pretty close to finishing my recap of the Green Bay Packers' stunning upset over the Seattle Seahawks. There was little reason to think that the Seahawks would be coming back to win, but even if they did, and you had to write something completely new at the last second, at least everyone else would be doing the same thing.

Because nobody expected that Seattle would make good on that one-percent.

What I'm showing you below is how far I got in writing the recap of the Packers XX-XX win over the Seahawks. I'm not doing it to rub in the face of Green Bay, or Aaron Rodgers (who seemed to be a little on edge this weekend with a certain writer at CBS Sports), but just to give you an idea of what goes on behind-the-scenes. It's also pretty interesting to see just how much this game turned around in the final four minutes, when Seattle scored 15 points and recovered an onside kick to take a lead that eventually became overtime that eventually became a game-winning touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse.

That last fact is especially fascinating when you see where my partial recap of the game ended before I had to scrap the whole thing and start over.

Here is a recap of a lot of things that really did happen in the 2014 NFC Championship, with one very important difference ... it had the wrong winner.

While the focus in Seattle on Sunday would be squarely on the calf of Aaron Rodgers, it was the Green Bay Packers defense that proved the difference in a stunning upset over the Seahawks in the NFC Championship. The Packers intercepted Russell Wilson four times, three in the first half, and ended up holding Seattle to just XXX yards in the XX-XX win.

Now Rodgers and Green Bay will head to the Super Bowl for the second time in five years and the sixth time in franchise history, while the Seahawks hopes for defending their title are officially over.

While it was easy to focus on how Rodgers would fare against the league's best defense, the more important matchup would be how well the Packers defense could hold the league's number one rushing attack, as well as not letting Wilson get one over on them. Led by HaHa Clinton-Dix, Clay Matthews, and Morgan Burnett, Green Bay played perhaps the most suffocating game against the Seattle offense since Wilson was drafted in 2012.

Definitely better than any defense has played them in the last two years.

The Seahawks announced before the game that right tackle Justin Britt, who started all 17 games this year, was inactive for the first time all season and it showed. Wilson finished the game XX-of-XX for XXX yards, with no touchdowns and those four picks; the first time in his career that he's been intercepted four times. After rushing for 849 yards in the regular season, Wilson was held to X yards on the ground on X carries, and was sacked X times; two by Burnett, one by Matthews, and one by Julius Peppers.

While Rodgers once again struggled to do "Rodgers' Things" on the road against a top defense, finishing XX-of-XX for XXX yards, X touchdowns and X interceptions, he relied on his defense and ground game to carry him through. As a team, Green Bay rushed for XXX yards on XX carries against the league's number three rushing defense. It's just the third time that the Seahawks have lost at home since drafting Wilson in 2012, and the first time they've lost a postseason game at home since 2004.

It was the first time this season that that Packers won a game in which Rodgers threw an interception, and the first postseason game of his career where he threw multiple picks. But all that matters for Green Bay now is that they are headed to Glendale with a chance to win their fifth Super Bowl championship.

What Seattle will likely take with them into the offseason as an improvement opportunity, is finding at least one more reliable receiver to stretch the field. The loss of rookie Paul Richardson to a torn ACL, months after trading Percy Harvin to the New York Jets, left the Seahawks without many players that are able to stretch the field and impact the game when long gains are necessary. That left a player like Jermaine Kearse to take on an expanded role in Sunday's NFC Championship, and all four of Wilson's picks were on passes intended for Kearse.

Two of those bounced off of Kearse's hands. He finished with zero catches.

Of course, Kearse did not finish with zero catches after all. Instead, he finished with the very last catch of the game.

I still had to make that long drive home, though.