PLAYS OF THE GAME
The Packers entered the game averaging just 4.38 penalties per game since Week 8, the third-fewest in the league over that span. Still, it was two penalties that killed the Packers in the waning moments against the Steelers.
First was the offside penalty on Nick Perry on the Steelers' go-ahead field-goal attempt, which gave Pittsburgh a first down. Rather than the Steelers taking a 34-31 lead, they took advantage by scoring a touchdown to lead 38-31. In the process, they took 10 more seconds off the clock and forced the Packers to use their final timeout.
"It's an undisciplined play," Perry said. "I jumped, and they capitalized on the play. You know, I've got nothing. It's a bum play."
With the Packers perched 1 yard from the tying touchdown, right tackle Don Barclay was penalized for a false start. Actually, right guard T.J. Lang was the guilty party. Center Evan Dietrich-Smith, however, took the blame.
"In my mind, I kind of put that on me because I didn't snap the ball," Dietrich-Smith said. "It was one of those deals that the crowd got loud, it was exciting, it was into the game, and we have to be 100 percent on that."
From there, it all unraveled, with the 10-second runoff and quarterback Matt Flynn directing his receivers as time ticked away. As time expired, he threw incomplete to Jarrett Boykin while Jordy Nelson appeared to break open in the middle of the end zone.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Safety Troy Polamalu is no longer an elite player but he made the play of the game. With Flynn trying to convert a third-and-8 on the first play after the two-minute warning, Polamalu stripped the ball. The Steelers recovered, took advantage of Perry's penalty and scored the go-ahead touchdown.
"I took off running and knew I had to go for the first down," Flynn said. "I couldn't slide or anything like that. My plan was to try to split those guys and dive for it as hard as I could. Troy made a good play and he got the ball. I've got to protect the ball. It's probably not my thing to go running and try to split defenders and things like that, but I've got to do a better job under the situation. But I also knew the situation was that I was trying to win the game and I was trying to get the first down and at that time wasn't really thinking about ball security. I was thinking about trying to dive for the first down."
It was Polamalu who helped thwart the Packers' last-gasp play, as well.
"You don't ever know where Troy's going to go," Nelson said. "That's the way he plays the game and … they design it that way to let him read the quarterback's eyes. Matt made a great check but we didn't complete it."
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL
With Chicago benching quarterback Jay Cutler while getting pasted 54-11 at Philadelphia, the Packers still have a shot to win the NFC North and host a first-round playoff game if they can beat the Bears at Soldier Field on Sunday afternoon. (Note: It's now a 3:25 p.m. kickoff.)
Will Aaron Rodgers play? Will Eddie Lacy be able to play? Will there be some good news on Clay Matthews' reinjured thumb? The Packers look like they're out of gas. Not to mention running out of impact players. But the Bears aren't any good, either. There's little reason to believe Green Bay could sustain any playoff success should it get into the dance, but the same could have been said about the Ravens last year. Baltimore lost four of its last five games before rolling through the postseason.
NUMBERS WORTH NOTING
2: Penalties by the Packers' special teams that helped the Steelers score touchdowns: A roughing-the-passer penalty on Jake Stoneburner on a fake punt and Nick Perry's offside on a fourth-quarter field goal. A third penalty, holding by Victor Aiyewa on a kickoff return, put the Packers in a hole and resulted in a three-and-out punt.
3: Pick-sixes thrown by Packers quarterbacks this season. The Packers hadn't had one since 2010.
3: Kickoff returns of longer than 31 yards by Micah Hyde. The Packers' last-ranked kickoff-return unit hadn't had a return of longer than 31 yards all season.
4: Point lead by Green Bay at halftime. The Packers hadn't led at halftime since the Minnesota game on Oct. 27 – the last game before Aaron Rodgers' broken collarbone.
6: Tackles by A.J. Hawk, giving him 1,016 for his career. That moved him past Nick Barnett (1,014) for second place in franchise history, with John Anderson (1,020) just four tackles ahead. Hawk's interception, meanwhile, was his first in almost three years (Giants on Dec. 26, 2010).
9: Penalties by the Packers. They had averaged 4.38 penalties since Week 8, the third-fewest in the league.
10: Interceptions thrown by Scott Tolzien (five), Matt Flynn (four) and Seneca Wallace (one) in eight games. Rodgers, the NFL's career leader in interception percentage, threw six interceptions in 2011, eight interceptions in 2012 and four in 2013. His career-high total was just 13.
11: Consecutive successful field goals by Mason Crosby until the third-quarter block. He hadn't had a field goal blocked since having two rejected in 2010.
12: Green Bay's regular-season winning streak in December/January home games ended. Plus, the Packers were a league-best 20-1 in home finales since 1992.
31: Points scored by Green Bay. The Packers are 47-5 under coach Mike McCarthy when scoring at least 30 points. The Packers scored 30 points in a loss to Cincinnati this year, too.
50: Career sacks by Clay Matthews after his second-quarter takedown of Ben Roethlisberger. Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, Reggie White, Tim Harris and Aaron Kampman are the other Packers with at least 50 sacks. (Note: The NFL didn't keep track of sacks until 1982.)
151: Rushing yards by the Packers. Surprisingly, they're just 3-3-1 this season when rushing for at least 150. This also was Green Bay's first loss when Eddie Lacy averages at least 3.3 yards per carry. He averaged 5.6 on Sunday.
151: Rushing yards by the Steelers. That's six of the last eight games in which Green Bay has allowed at least 134 rushing yards. The Packers allowed just two 100-yard rushing games in the first seven games.
1,112: Rushing yards on the season for Lacy, with his 84-yard effort pushing him past John Brockington (1,105 yards in 1971) as the top rookie rusher in franchise history.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.