clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Packers collapse a reminder of what might have been had Vanderjagt made that kick in 2006

The Green Bay Packers find themselves the unfortunate victims of one of the hardest playoff losses ever. The Steelers weren't far from that nine years and three days ago at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It's hard to imagine a bigger meltdown.

Buckner in '86? The Red Sox had Game 7. So did the Cubs in '03. The Yankees had four games left in '04. Moon and the Oilers had an entire half.

With the ball, a 12-point lead, and less than five minutes on the clock, the Packers had a 98.4 percent chance of winning the NFC Championship game. They had Russell Wilson on the run, forcing him to heave the ball 50 feet in the air and pray that the one Seahawk in the middle of three Packers would somehow come down with it. He did. But even after surrendering two touchdowns and a two-point conversion in less than two and half minutes, they had the ball, down just three with 1:25 and three timeouts, and a future Hall of Fame quarterback under center. They managed to tie the game in regulation, only to lose in overtime.

I mean ... wow. We'll never see that again. Never. And how do the Packers recover from that?

The Steelers faced a similar situation in January '06. They led the powerful Colts 21-3 in the second half, a lead that would eventually shrink to 21-10. After an incorrect overruling of a Troy Polamalu interception (the league would confirm as much after the game), Peyton Manning marched down the field, leading to an Edgerrin James touchdown run. 

Up 21-18 after the two-point conversion, the Steelers punted back to the Colts, needing a stop to advance to the AFC Championship game. Two Joey Porter sacks later, the Steelers would take over on downs at the Colts' 2-yard line.

Then it happened: Jerome Bettis's heart attack-inducing fumble.

A great hit by Colts linebacker Gary Brackett jarred the ball loose and it was recovered by Nick Harper, who only had Ben Roethlisberger to beat. Big Ben sealed an early-career legacy with the greatest tackle in franchise history, and the Steelers' defense would be forced to defend Manning in a short field with the game on the line.

Sunday, it was an onside kick that went through the hands of back-up tight end Brandon Bostick after a Seahawks touchdown made the game 19-14. The Seahawks, working on a short field and a shorter clock, would get a 24-yard touchdown run from Marshawn Lynch, and would kick off to Green Bay's powerful offense after the worst-looking Russell Wilson pass in the history of the league. Somehow, like Roethlisberger's tackle, the play was made. Seattle went up 22-19, and even after Mason Crosby's 48-yard field goal - two yards farther than Mike Vanderjagt's missed attempt at the end of the game against Pittsburgh - the Seahawks would get the ball in overtime.

Two Wilson gems down the field, one to Doug Baldwin (who fumbled earlier in the game) and the last to Jermaine Kearse (who was the intended receiver on each of Wilson's four previous interceptions in the game), for the game-winner.

The Steelers may have won as a result of a missed kick, fending off a shocking loss, but the Packers found themselves on the losing end of a game which, with less than five minutes to play, they had less than a two-percent chance of losing. 

Packers fans today are experiencing what Steelers fans almost felt nine years and three days ago. And it's safe to say it's a bitter feeling.