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The roller-coaster ride comes to an end (01/14/2004)
By Dave DeLano

The Packers had many chances to win Sunday and take their roller-coaster season into the NFC championship game, but it was not to happen. The 20 - 17 overtime loss to the Philadelphia Eagles was a bitter one as the Packers had the personnel to win this game and yet they let it slip away.

The Packers jumped out to a 14 - 0 lead in the first quarter on two TD passes from Brett Favre to Robert Ferguson. In spite of Ahman Green being able to run for over 150 yards and with only a single turnover on the day, the Packer offense only was able to score three more points in the final three quarters and into the overtime period. Green ran the ball at over 6 yards per carry and the Packer offensive line was seemingly able to dominate the Eagles' defense. Yet the drives seemed to bog down without points going up on the board.

So how did the Pack let this game get away? There are lots of fingers to point beginning with the offensive play selections, a very questionable coaching decision to punt at the Philly forty yard line on a 4th and less than 1 yard to go late in the 4th quarter, and the defense's inability to stop the Eagles on a critical 4th and 26 play late in the game. Philly QB Donovan McNabb ran wild and seemingly did not have a "spy" assigned to keep him in check. Brett Favre's only pass in overtime was a horribly thrown duck, easily intercepted and run back to set up the winning field goal. Lots of things went wrong.

The turning point seemed to be the coaching decision made with 2 _ minutes left to play in the fourth quarter and the Pack leading by three points. The Packers had driven the ball to Philly's 40 yard line. With fourth and less that a yard to go, Mike Sherman chose to punt the ball rather than put the game in the hands of Ahman Green to pick up a yard and cement the game. Josh Bidwell's poor punt then allowed Philly the opportunity to come back and score to tie the game and eventually win it in overtime. It is strange because Sherman was quoted prior to the game saying that conservative coaching would not advance the Packers into the championship NFC game. It turned out he was right about that.

Cheeseheads will have many conversations about this game. In perspective, during Mike Sherman's three seasons as Packer coach the Pack have progressed from not making the playoffs the first year, to getting blown out by Atlanta in the first playoff game last year, to advancing to the second playoff game this year ending with this loss to Philly" a game that should have been won. The challenge now is where the team goes from here. What coaching changes will be in store, which players will be sent packing and where does the Pack find players who will strengthen the team next year and beyond? Cheeseheads now have the time to think about these things. Too bad" because it sure would be more pleasant thinking about playing the Carolina Panthers for the NFC championship.

D H D 


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