How Does This Keep Happening? 5 Toughest Packers Losses Since 2012
The Green Bay Packers have lived a charmed existence since Brett Favre’s first season as starting quarterback in 1992. With a regular season record of 244-139-1, the Packers have been stacking successes for more than two decades.
Because of their sustained success, fans expect Super Bowl championships every year. When Green Bay inevitably loses in high pressure situations, Packers fans experience sports heartbreak. But why revisit these painful memories?
It can be therapeutic to revisit these low moments, in order to find greater joy in the forthcoming success. With the perspective of time gone by, we can take a more impartial look at some of the hardest losses to deal with as a fan.
Since January 1, 2012, the Packers have faced their fair share (and then some) of crushing defeats. The contests that make up this list must meet the following criteria to be considered heartbreaking:
- The game had a lasting impact on the Packers’ season (i.e., playoff loss)
- The game’s final score was within one score
- A reasonable, unbiased football fan would agree the Packers had a realistic chance to win the game
5. September 24, 2012: Seahawks 14, Packers 12
How it ended: Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson heaved a 24-yard Hail Mary to receiver Golden Tate as time expired, pushing Seattle to a 14-12 victory on Monday Night Football. After a 10-minute review, the referees ruled in favor of Seattle. Rage engulfed the internet. Wisconsin State Senator Jon Erpenbach tweeted NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s office phone number, and offensive lineman T.J. Lang tweeted the most retweeted message at the time.
Analysis: The NFL was in the midst of a labor dispute with their officials, forcing the league to enlist the help of the now-dubious replacement referees. The replacements came from high school, lower-tier college conferences, or minor professional leagues like the Arena Football League. In front of a national television audience, the referees had to make the most controversial call in recent football history.
Why it hurts: The controversial catch by Tate, who fought for possession on the turf with safety M.D. Jennings, remains one of the most painful endings to a Packers game in the team’s history. It also marked the renewal of the Seahawks-Packers rivalry. It would take the Packers 1,091 days to avenge the “Fail Mary,” when Green Bay slipped past Seattle 27-17 at home.
4. January 5, 2014: 49ers 23, Packers 20
How it ended: Cornerback Micah Hyde watched a game-clinching interception slip through his fingertips, and quarterback Colin Kaepernick followed the near-fatal error up with an 11-yard scramble on third-and-8. That set up kicker Phil Dawson’s 33-yard game-winning field goal as time expired. A year after being convincingly defeated in Candlestick Park by the 49ers in the divisional round of the playoffs, Green Bay lost its second home game of the season at the hands of Jim Harbaugh’s 49ers.
Analysis: In the week leading up to the game, weather forecasts predicted it may reach historically low temperatures. The game was the seventh-coldest game at Lambeau Field since 1959. The Packers’ last second postseason entry, courtesy of Aaron Rodgers’ return from a broken collarbone the week prior against the Chicago Bears, sent Green Bay scrambling. Lambeau Field needed the help of corporate sponsors to buy ticket blocks to stave off a blackout.
Why it hurts: Some seasons feel charmed, and this year ranks right up there. The 2012-2013 Green Bay Packers had a rough regular season road after losing Rodgers. Matt Flynn performed admirably to keep Green Bay within striking distance. When Rodgers returned, a legacy-defining last-second win against Chicago clinched a division championship against all odds. However, the San Francisco 49ers continued to have the Packers’ number. Oh, and tackle Anthony Davis tweeted his distaste for Appleton (where visiting teams stay prior to the game) earlier in the week.
3. December 30, 2012: Vikings 37, Packers 34
How it ended: Adrian Peterson’s career-high 34th carry of the day set up a 29-yard field goal by Blair Walsh with no time on the clock to edge ahead of Green Bay 37-34. Peterson eclipsed the 2,000 rushing yard mark, finishing just nine yards short of Eric Dickerson’s all-time single-season record. Quarterback Christian Ponder entered the game completing a league-worst 31.4 percent on throws at least 15 yards downfield and completed four such passes. Two came on the Vikings’ final two drives. Ponder was 0-for-6 in the previous matchup against Green Bay on such throws.
Analysis: The Vikings’ win set up a rematch the following weekend at Lambeau Field in the NFC Wild Card round of the playoffs. With a Packers win, Green Bay would have held the second seed and received a bye week. Green Bay instead played a hobbled Vikings team led by backup quarterback Joe Webb.
Ouch. It can't get any worse than that, right?
Why it hurts: Losing to a division rival is always hard to swallow, but one could argue this game started Minnesota’s renaissance after the Brett Favre era. Green Bay’s inability to close out Minnesota most likely cost the Packers a shot at the Super Bowl. Instead of a bye week followed by a Lambeau playoff contest, the Packers had to travel to San Francisco in the divisional round. Coach Jim Harbaugh's 49ers won every contest against Mike McCarthy’s Packers. Green Bay fell, 45-31.
2. January 16, 2016: Cardinals 26, Packers 20 (OT)
How it ended: Back-to-back Hail Mary passes from Rodgers to Jeff Janis pushed the Packers towards an improbable comeback against the dominant Arizona Cardinals. Then, referee Clete Blakeman somehow flipped a coin without the coin flipping. Try and do that at home. I’ll wait. The madness would only continue after Arizona won the second coin toss. Larry Fitzgerald opened overtime with a 75-yard scamper, followed-up by a shovel-pass touchdown.
Analysis: Aaron Rodgers kept the Packers in the game with few weapons in a vintage performance. Davante Adams was out with a knee injury, and Randall Cobb suffered a bruised lung from the NFL Films’ microphone pack after diving for a pass in the first quarter. Jeff Janis hauled in seven catches – he had only two receptions in the entire regular season.
Why it hurts: The incredible high of Aaron Rodgers’ second Hail Mary touchdown pass of the season was immediately followed by the immense low when Fitzgerald single-handedly ended the game minutes later. The season came to an abrupt end. Though Arizona would go on to lose big against Carolina the following week, Packers fans will play “what if…” about this contest.
1. January 18, 2015: Seahawks 28, Packers 22 (OT)
How it ended: After winning the coin toss in overtime, Seattle ripped off back-to-back 35-yard passes including the game-winning touchdown by Jermaine Kearse. Cornerback Tramon Williams defended Kearse on the play – it would end up as Williams’ final snap in a Packers uniform.
Analysis: Five stalled drives in Seattle territory ended in Mason Crosby field goals. The Packers needed just one of those drives to end in a touchdown and they would have met the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. Special teams coach Shawn Slocum was fired after a botched onside kick recovery helped Seattle force overtime.
Why it hurts: The second appearance in Seattle, the 2015 NFC Championship marked the Packers’ third consecutive loss in 27 months at CenturyLink Field. All three of those losses – the "Fail Mary," opening night following the Seahawks' Super Bowl victory, and the NFC Championship Game – stung. Green Bay’s botched onside kick recovery opened the door a crack for Seattle, and that was all they needed. If there’s ever a replay of this game on NFL Network, I’d be hard pressed to find a Packers fan who sits through the entire broadcast.