Just days removed from the Packers stunning loss to the Giants in the NFC Championship at frigid Lambeau Field, Green Bay is still thawing out from the toughest home loss in post-season history while trying to figure out how it happened.
The Packers had everything right there for the taking. That included a supposed home-field advantage, an inferior opponent on paper, and a sure ticket to the Super Bowl.
So much was on the line, which makes the opportunity lost so much bigger than the other head-scratchers and heart-breakers in recent postseasons. Just as the Packers missed out on several opportunities given to them by the Giants last Sunday night, they may have lost their best chance at getting to the Super Bowl for quite some time. That is the cold, frozen truth that even the most optimistic fans must face.
The Packers certainly represent a team on the rise with a young, talented roster and an improving head coach, but so much can change in just a year – including the possibility of Brett Favre retiring.
Seasons like the one the Packers just had are rare. For most, such seasons maybe come around once every decade. So the odds are definitely against the Packers being in a more favorable position over the next couple of years.
Consider that Lambeau Field has hosted just six championship games in its 50-year existence, and of all of Mike Holmgren's great Packers teams, only one hosted an NFC Championship game.
It is just so difficult to get there and even more difficult to get back.
The Packers should and will have a better team in the coming years, but that does not necessarily mean it will translate in the standings or in the playoffs. The schedule should be tougher and the mental mountain to climb will be a little bigger.
Remember, the 2007 Packers posted a 14-4 overall record in truly one of the great seasons, if not teams, in franchise history. They had a 38-year old quarterback that defied the odds for most of the season. They had young, talented players probably playing over their heads. And perhaps most importantly, they were remarkably injury-free, giving them a relatively strong roster each week.
To get the health, the good breaks, and the magical moments that the Packers got this year is something that cannot be expected each year. Football has a way of evening those things out, even with the ghost of Vince Lombardi on your side.
The progress that the Packers made this season was evident and will provide the silver lining for sports talk shows in the weeks and months to come, but it cannot replace missing what might be the one chance, the one moment to make it all come together. Head coach Mike McCarthy will do well just to be in the same position again. After all, the majority of NFL coaches can only dream of reaching a conference title game, let alone get there twice.
The Packers failed Sunday night in a setting that seemed tailor-made for them. They blew a great chance in a big-time way, and even with hard work, they can only hope they will have this chance again.
Matt Tevsh is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.