Missed opportunities lead to loss

Packers, fans left to play long off-season game of "what if?"

Brett Favre's interception on the Packers' first and only play of overtime paved the way to Green Bay's 20-17 overtime loss to Philadelphia in the NFC divisional playoffs Sunday. Critics will say the pass should have never been thrown, and that's correct. It should have never been thrown because the Packers should have had this game locked up before the overtime coin was flipped.

Three frustrating fourth down plays will be replayed ad naseum until the first real snap next September.

What if even one of those crucial downs had gone the other way?

The first came with about 2:00 remaining in the first half, when the Packers faced a fourth-and-goal from about half a yard out. Favre pitched to Ahman Green, who was stopped short of the goal line.

  • What if Green didn't run into center Mike Wahle's legs?

  • What if coach Mike Sherman opts for the sure three points, giving Green Bay a 17-7 halftime lead?

  • What if the Packers do what the Eagles did on one of their fourth down conversions, and surge forward with a good, old-fashioned quarterback sneak? With his awesome offensive line, could Favre not fall forward a foot and a half?

The second decisive fourth-down play came when things were definitely looking up for the Packers. They had ground out a long drive from their 16 down to the Eagles' 40. Favre's run on third and four came up about two feet short.

  • What if the Packers go for it on fourth-and-two feet with just over 2:00 remaining? A first down would have sealed the game. A stop would have cost the Packers only 20 yards, as the odds on punter Josh Bidwell pinning the Eagles were a lot lower than the odds of making the first down.

  • What if Sherman wouldn't have tried the draw the Eagles offsides instead.  Is a 12-4 team likely to be drawn offsides on fourth down in a playoff game at home?

  • What if Favre had gained those crucial two feet?

  • What if he had been given a more accurate spot?

  • What if Sherman had asked for a replay of the spot, which he has the ability to do when a first-down is in question.

The third crucial fourth-down play wasn't so much as questionable call as it was questionable execution. Donovan McNabb completed a 26-yard pass to Fred Mitchell on fourth-and-24 to keep Philly alive and lead them to their game-tying field goal.

  • What if Bhawoh Jue gets about six inches closer and tips the ball?

  • What if no receiver is left open past the first-down marker?

  • What if the defense atones for this heinous gaffe by shutting the Eagles down and keeping them out of field goal range.

And finally…

What if a team which has played with the oft-invoked "heart of a champion" can make one – just one of these these fourth-down plays go its way?

That one is easy to answer.


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