In the absence of watching their own team have success, nothing delights Chicago Bears fans more than seeing the Green Bay Packers continue to find ways to squander championship opportunities. Their latest masterpiece took place back in January. After going 13-3 and locking up homefield advantage, everything was going their way. Then in the NFC championship, a myriad of mistakes saw them behind by five with under a minute to play. They needed a stop on defense to given Aaron Rodgers one more shot. Then Chris Godwin happened.
It wasn’t the most memorable play of the game. That was reserved for Tom Brady’s TD heave as the first half ended and Green Bay’s decision to settle for a field goal rather than go for their own TD just moments earlier despite trailing by eight. Head coach Matt Lafleur had gambled his defense could get a quick stop so Rodgers could work his magic. Instead, three penalties led to two quick first downs for Tampa Bay. With 48 seconds left, all they needed was one more to seal the game.
This is where Godwin came in.
During a guest column for NBC Sports, he went into detail about the play that was the final nail in the coffin. Facing 3rd and 5, the Buccaneers were lining up as if they were going to pass. A dangerous proposition. If it fell incomplete, it would give the Packers around 35-40 seconds left to make something happen. That is when the coaching staff hatched a little surprise. Something even the wide receiver didn’t expect.
“So the play-call came in, and it was a play we hadn’t run in a game . . . a two-point conversion play. I would never have thought they’d try it with five yards to get, at a crucial point of the championship game. But the call was a toss-pitch to me. So let’s go.
I went in motion. Everything felt normal. But when Tom tossed me the ball, everything was in slow motion. Once I caught it, I looked and . . . you know how the first-down marker’s a yellow line on TV? I was seeing the yellow line on the field of where I needed to get to. It was like this weird phenomenon of being in slow motion, seeing the graphic on TV, like the yellow line, and then moving in slow motion. Then I took a couple steps and I finally reached the first down. We needed five yards. I got six.”
It was a terrific call. Just based on personnel and alignment alone, everybody assumed Brady was going to throw the ball. It’s Tom Brady after all. The Bucs had ridden his right arm all year. So when Godwin got the pitch, Green Bay wasn’t ready for it. They failed to shift in time to prevent blockers from paving the way for him. He could’ve gotten considerably more than the six yards needed. That is how good the call and execution were.
Chris Godwin play was a microcosm of Packers’ afternoon
Everything about that game was contributed to missed opportunities on defense. It started with that brutal finish to the first half, allowing a 39-yard TD with no time on the clock. Then it was three ugly penalties with two minutes left that helped Tampa Bay drain the clock. That last play by Godwin was merely the icing on the cake. If people were looking for reasons why defensive coordinator Mike Pettine was fired, that sequence from the end of the first half to that pitch for a first down is why.
A shame too because it’s not like the defense didn’t make contributions. They intercepted Brady three times on three consecutive drives. Unfortunately, the Packers managed to convert those turnovers into just seven points. A giant blown opportunity in a game full of them. Chris Godwin is certainly grateful for their inability to finish. He now has a ring to show for it.
Things have only gotten worse for Green Bay since that day.
News broke right before the draft in April that Rodgers wasn’t returning to the team. This due to a dispute with team management brought on by their treatment of him the past couple of years. Suddenly a team that was minutes from the Super Bowl could be without their MVP. Forced to start the Jordan Love era earlier than hoped. Has their window closed just like that? Is the Godwin pitch the last fleeting glimpse of the Lombardi trophy for years to come? One can only hope.