The Packers were riding high heading to CenturyLink Field in Seattle for a week three Monday night showdown. This was not the Seattle team we have seen for the past couple of years.This was before star cornerback Richard Sherman became the outspoken “best corner in the league” that he is today. This was before Russell Wilson was taken seriously, or the “Legion of Boom” became a household name. Seattle was on the “up and up,” their defense was beginning to come into form, and the offense was finally on track after years of mediocrity. It was this game, now infamous for the botched call at the end of the game, that would show the world that the Seattle Seahawks were back.
Before we get into the details of the game, keep in mind that the 2012 NFL season started with a referee lockout, similar to the player’s lockout a year prior. This Monday night football game between the Seahawks and Packers would be the last game officiated by the “replacement refs” as the events that transpired on this night would end the lockout a few days later.
What people don’t remember about this game was Seattle’s ability to completely shut down a Packers offense coming off the best season statistically in league history. Green Bay was held to a laughable 12 points and 268 yards of total offense. 12 points seemed enough for a win, but it was the controversy at the end of the game, and with just eight seconds left, Seattle was able to score on a 24-yard pass from Wilson to wide receiver Golden Tate. Here is where the controversy begins. It looked as if former Packers safety M.D Jennings came down with a what would have been a game-winning interception. One referee signaled an interception while the other signaled for a touchdown. The confusion led to an obvious booth review. After many minutes went by, many people on the ESPN telecast of the game stated it was an interception based on the NFL rulebook, but the referees called it a touchdown and a victory for Seattle.
Now, what if those referees actually had a clue on what was going on and called the final play correctly, a game-winning interception for Green Bay?
Assuming the win-loss record stays the same, the Packers would finish with a 12-4 record, and Seattle finishing with a 10-6 record. Even though it is a slight shift in records, the Packers would finish as a two seed in the playoffs instead of a three seed with the blown call early in the season. Originally, the San Francisco 49ers finished a half game above the Packers with an 11-4-1 record. With an extra win for Green Bay, they move a half-game above San Fran. Even though Seattle gets an extra loss, they have a head-to-head tiebreaker over Minnesota and Chicago, securing the five seed. Minnesota and Chicago still end with corresponding 10-6 records, but Minnesota slides into the playoffs with a better record within the NFC North, winning four games compared to Chicago’s three. Atlanta and Washington aren’t affected by the “Fail Mary: whatsoever so their seedings remain the same. The NFC playoff seedings before and after calling the “Fail Mary” correctly are as follows: Getting that two seed is huge for Green Bay. Instead of playing arch-rival Minnesota in the first round, Aaron Rodgers and co. would get a week off, watching wild-card weekend from home, getting one final look at who they would play in the Divisional round. Initially, Green Bay defeated Minnesota in the wild-card round and flew out to San Francisco for a divisional round matchup. Instead, Minnesota and San Francisco square off. I believe San Francisco and their tremendous defense would beat Minnesota as the Vikings would still have to start inexperienced quarterback Joe Webb in place of an injured Christian Ponder.
The stage is set for an NFC Divisional showdown. This time Green Bay vs San Francisco would be played at historic Lambeau Field, instead of Candlestick Park. This was the game where Colin Kaepernick dismantled the Green Bay defense. Setting an NFL record for most rushing yards in a playoff game by a quarterback with 181. He added two touchdowns on the ground, including the infamous 56 yarder in which he made the Packers Defense look absolutely silly. Kap also had 263 yards in the air and two passing touchdowns. All that changes when San Francisco heads to Lambeau Field for the playoff game. From the sunny skies of California to the bitter cold of Wisconsin, Kap and co. struggle at the MECCA of football. Instead of an improbable run to the Super Bowl, the 49ers exit the playoffs early and Green Bay moves on. Now you can argue this still being a win for San Francisco, as they would come to Lambeau the following season and win, but the inexperience in the playoffs have to be a factor for the 49ers. When they would come to Lambeau the next season, they had four playoff games under their belt together. Hence why I am giving the Packers the win in the Divisional round.
Assuming Atlanta narrowly beats Seattle in the other Divisional round game, the NFC Championship game would come down to the one and two seeds, Atlanta and Green Bay. Unlike the NFC title game we saw last season, Green Bay’s secondary would not get torched like it did. Green Bay still had the likes of Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, and Charles Woodson leading a strong group of cornerbacks. In their Divisional round game, Atlanta allowed Seattle to come back after being up 20-0 (they were blowing leads back then too!) A Matt Ryan comeback drive in the final minute set up a game-winning field goal and the Falcons advanced. If it took a final minute drive to beat a Seattle team who was not at their prime yet, I have no doubt in my mind that Green Bay could have beaten this Atlanta team. The Packers defense was much better than this Atlanta offense. Its offense did feature Julio Jones, Michael Turner, and Tony Gonzalez, but Turner and Gonzalez were at the end of their careers, and Julio Jones hadn’t broken out yet, it was still Roddy White’s offense. Anyways, Green Bay beats Atlanta and advances to Super Bowl XLVII, where they would face the Baltimore Ravens, (sorry if anyone was still hoping for the Harbaugh Bowl.)
Baltimore would eventually beat San Francisco in the Super Bowl, 34-31. One last goal-line stand for Ray Lewis would give him a much deserving second ring. But could an Aaron Rodgers led offense execute a game-winning drive like we have seen so many times? That conclusion is up to you.
So, if the “Fail Mary” was called correctly, Aaron Rodgers could be looking at two rings instead of one. It’s astonishing how an ordinary week three matchup could shift an entire NFL season. On paper, there wasn’t much change, but when you could ultimately change who wins the Super Bowl, that one game seems much more important.