Dropped INT Sours Hyde's Rookie Season

Micah Hyde had a chance to be a hero in Sunday night's playoff game and end Colin Kaepernick's reign of destruction over the Green Bay Packers. But it just slipped through his fingers. Read what he said about his missed opportunity.

Micah Hyde had the game right in his hands. It was a playoff game, no less, and a chance to continue the Green Bay Packers' season and be a hero.

Unlike a previous big play in the game, he played this route right, stuck to his technique, and saw the quarterback's eyes focused right where he was going. Perhaps it was just too good to be true.

As the ball slipped through Hyde's hands in an attempt at a game-changing interception, the San Francisco 49ers and quarterback Colin Kaepernick dodged a major bullet. And on the game's deciding drive, they took advantage.

Eleven plays after Hyde's missed opportunity, 49ers kicker Phil Dawson kicked a 33-yard game-winning field goal as time expired to send the 49ers to the divisional round of the NFC playoffs and a date at Carolina.

Fourteen plays, 65 yards, and the final 5:06 of game clock. Game over. Season over for the Packers.

"It was just one of those drives you've got to make a play," said Hyde, a rookie defensive back. "I had a chance to and I didn't."

Hyde's big opportunity came with 4:14 remaining and the game tied at 20. Lining up on Anquan Boldin in the slot on a second-and-10, Hyde sat on an out pattern by Boldin and undercut a Kaepernick pass to the sideline. Hyde was in perfect position. The ball sailed high, and Hyde stretched out for it with two hands but dropped it at the 49ers' 33-yard line.

"It's a catch I should've made," said Hyde. "I make those catches all the time in practice. You know, it's just a catch I should've made.

"The receiver went into the flat. I saw the quarterback looking at him. I tried to move that way and make a play and the ball was too high and I tried to go up and get it and I just dropped it. … Obviously, that would've put us in very good field position, so it's just one of those plays you've got to make."

Hyde was at the center of two other key plays in the game where the Packers' defense failed to capitalize. On the 49ers' opening drive, he forced a fumble that rolled out of bounds on a third-and-9 completion for 12 yards to Michael Crabtree. Later in the drive with the 49ers' facing a fourth-and-6 from the 35, Hyde let Crabtree run by him on a combination route for a 31-yard gain that led to an opening field goal from Dawson.

"I was just trying to sit on the slant," said Hyde. "Crabtree gave me a little head fake like he was going to run the slant and he just went up the field. It was a good play by him."

Hyde posted five tackles and the aforementioned forced fumble and a pass breakup on a day when the Packers defense fought valiantly through injuries to three starters (not to mention Clay Matthews being inactive with a broken thumb). Top cornerback Sam Shields was knocked out of the game on the 49ers' second offensive play with a knee injury, so the Packers had to adjust in the secondary.

While Davon House replaced Shields and was targeted often by the 49ers, Hyde played his familiar slot role matching Boldin (just three catches in six targets) most of the time.

The last pass he defended on Boldin, however, will stick with him the most.

"It's always going to be in the back of your mind. Someone that says they'll let it go is lying," said Hyde. "It's going to be in the back of my mind, and I'm not going to say it's going to make me work harder because it's in the past. Plays like that, balls slip through your hands. You drop passes. But at the same time, I was in position to make that play and I didn't."

Had he made the late interception, the Packers would have taken over with a little over 4 minutes remaining and close to Mason Crosby's field goal range. The 49ers had just one timeout remaining, having to burn their first two early in the third quarter.

"We probably could've won the game right there," said cornerback Tramon Williams. "They probably still would've had a little time to come out for another drive. But there was definitely an opportunity there. Micah's been a playmaker for us all year long. He's played well in the slot for us. He's done a lot for us. He has a bright future."

"We were probably one play away," said head coach Mike McCarthy of his team's defensive effort, which allowed Kaepernick to run for 98 yards but amass a passer rating of just 75.3. "We were one play not good enough."

A 2013 fifth-round draft pick that quickly impressed to earn slot defensive back duties when injuries limited to Casey Hayward to just three games this season, Hyde was one of the last players to leave the Packers' locker room Sunday night. Over and over, he answered the same questions about his dropped interception and handled them all like a seasoned pro.

"(He needs to) look back on what he did well (this season)," said defensive back Jarrett Bush. "Coming in as a rookie and knowing your assignments. Because this is a complicated defense that we're in. A lot of moving parts. He has tremendous upside. Just keep making plays and getting better in the offseason. He has a bright future ahead of him. He's a tough player and plays hard, plays with a chip on his shoulder. He has a lot to be pleased about. He can't let this get him discouraged."

Defensive backs are taught to have short memories. Hyde's missed opportunity will test him like no other.

"It's definitely going to hurt for a little bit knowing I could've made that play," said Hyde. "But bad things happen to football players. You've just got to move on and it's about how you come back."

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Matt Tevsh has covered the Packers since 1996. E-mail him at matttevsh@hotmail.com

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