NFC North: 2013 Week 16 PIT at GB

Special teams miscues hurt Packers

December, 22, 2013
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Nick Perry's encroachment penalty with one minute and 35 seconds remaining in Sunday's 38-31 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers might have been the most inopportune special teams miscue.

But it wasn’t the only one.

With the Steelers lined up for a 28-yard field goal, the Green Bay Packers linebacker -- a regular on the field goal block team -- jumped and the officials threw a flag. The 5-yard penalty on fourth-and-3 from the Packers’ 10-yard line in what was a game tied at 31-31 gave the Steelers a first down and 10 seconds later running back Le’Veon Bell scored the go-ahead touchdown.

“It’s an undisciplined play,” Perry said. “I jumped, and they capitalized on the play. You know, I’ve got nothing. It’s a bum play. It happened. Gotta look forward.”

Perry said he thought he saw the snapper move the ball.

Special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum’s units had plenty of other problems on a snowy, windy day at Lambeau Field.

Among them were:
  • The Steelers’ perfect execution of a fake punt in the third quarter, when punter Mat McBriar threw a 30-yard pass to tight end David Paulson. Another 15 yards was tacked on after Packers backup tight end Jake Stoneburner was called for roughing McBriar. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger scored on the next play, a 13-yard scramble.
  • Mason Crosby’s 23-yard field goal in the third quarter that was blocked, although that actually worked in the Packers’ favor when the Steelers were called for illegally batting the ball out of bounds after it was blocked. The Packers scored a touchdown on the next play, a 2-yard Eddie Lacy run.
  • Allowing a 41-yard punt return and a 46-yard kickoff return to Steelers returner Emmanuel Sanders.

“I think when you see the way weather can kind of affect special teams, it’s difficult to play sometimes,” said Packers fullback John Kuhn, one of their top special teams players. “They threw some punches, and we threw some punches back. That’s kind of the way it went.”

Of the fake punt, Kuhn said: “I felt they executed a good play for their punter to make a throw like that in these kind of conditions. They made the play. We didn’t.”

Crosby said he believes his plant foot slipped and the ball came out low on the blocked field goal. He admitted he wasn’t sure the Packers would get the ball back even after the Steelers' penalty.

“I didn’t know what the situation was going to be,” he said. “Obviously just disappointed not hitting that kick, but we got a touchdown out of it, so it ended up being beneficial to us.”

It wasn’t a total washout on special teams. Rookie kick returner Micah Hyde had kickoff returns of 33, 39 and 70 yards -- all better than the Packers’ previous season best of 31 yards.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Green Bay Packers tight end Andrew Quarless wasn't planning to rush home to watch the Sunday night game between the Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles.

It's not that he didn't care.

It's that he's hoping superstition comes through for him again.

Quarless did not watch last Monday night's game, when the Detroit Lions lost to the Baltimore Ravens on Justin Tucker's 61-yard field goal. The result of that put the Packers in a position where they would win the NFC North if they won their final two games.

Now that the Packers need help again -- thanks to their 38-31 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday at Lambeau Field -- Quarless is holding out hope that the same strategy works again.

“I didn't watch the game last week when Detroit lost,” he said. “Maybe I might not watch this one.”

But Quarless might be in the minority.

Most of teammates said they planned to watch -- and hope.

“Only thing you know now is that the chance is still there,” Packers cornerback Tramon Williams said. “And with that chance still there right now, you can't dwell on this right now. Obviously, by the end of the night you're going to know what the situation is. But we can't dwell on it right now. Only thing we can do is hope for the best, and obviously right now we hope Philly wins.”

All the chaos that was Sunday's loss to the Steelers -- the blocked field goal that the Packers were fortunate to get back because of an illegal batting penalty, Matt Flynn's pick-six and his fumble, Nick Perry's offside penalty that gave the Steelers a first down when they were ready to settle for a field goal in the fourth quarter and Don Barclay's false start penalty with 20 seconds left that ruined the Packers' last drive -- none of it will matter as much if the Eagles beat the Bears.

That would set up an NFC North title game between the Packers and Bears next Sunday at Soldier Field.

“I'm not into drama,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “We wanted to control our own destiny, we let that opportunity out of our hands, and we have to sit and hope Philadelhpia beats the Bears. It's the reality of where we are in our season. We're kind of a peak-and-valley football team, that's the way our season's gone, we've had a lot of challenges come our way. Good Lord willing, maybe the ball will bounce our way tonight.”

Rapid Reaction: Green Bay Packers

December, 22, 2013
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A few thoughts on the Green Bay Packers' 38-31 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday at Lambeau Field:

What it means: The loss did not eliminate the Packers (7-7-1) from playoff contention, but it might be only a matter of hours before it does. If the Chicago Bears beat the Philadelphia Eagles in the Sunday night game, the Bears will win the NFC North. It would make the Week 17 finale between the Packers and Bears a meaningless game from the Packers' perspective.

Stock watch: Quarterback Matt Flynn did not have another comeback in him. He turned the ball over twice. He threw an interception that cornerback Cortez Allen returned 40 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter. Then, with the game tied at 31-31, Flynn fumbled at the end of a scramble, giving the Steelers the ball with 1:51 left at the Packers' 17-yard line, setting up the game-winning touchdown.

Injuries galore: In a season filled with injuries, the Packers lost more playmakers against the Steelers. Outside linebacker Clay Matthews left in the second quarter with another thumb injury. On the 50th sack of his career, Matthews appeared to reinjure his right thumb, which he broke on Oct. 4. Matthews missed four games after he had surgery to place pins in his thumb. Running back Eddie Lacy dropped out in the third quarter after he reinjured his right ankle that he first sprained on Dec. 8 against the Atlanta Falcons. Linebackers Mike Neal (injury not immediately known) and Brad Jones (ankle) also did not finish the game.

Wild third quarter: In the third quarter alone, the Packers had a field goal blocked only to get the ball back and turn it into the go-ahead touchdown after the Steelers were called for illegally batting the ball out of bounds, then gave the lead right back to the Steelers, who went 68 yards on six plays, and then fell further behind when Flynn threw a pick-six. On the final play of the quarter, Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk intercepted a Ben Roethlisberger pass.

What's next: The Packers close out the regular season against the Bears on Sunday at Soldier Field. The game is currently scheduled for a 1 p.m. kickoff but could be moved under the league's flexible schedule plan for Week 17.