Revisiting the Fail Mary

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As the Packers and Seahawks prepare for a season-opening showdown at Seattle, the quarterbacks and coaches that night take a stroll down memory lane.

Russell Wilson dropped deep into the pocket and, just as he was about to get drilled by Clay Matthews, launched the ball into the dark Seattle night.

Up went Green Bay Packers safety M.D. Jennings for the game-winning interception … and the Seahawks stole a 14-12 victory in front of a national television audience and a crew of replacement officials who would be collecting their NFL paychecks.

“I can promise you that the only time that topic will brought up is when I’m in here. We’re past it,” coach Mike McCarthy said on Sunday in the Lambeau Field media auditorium.

The play, of course, is ancient history and has no bearing on Thursday’s season-opening game at Seattle. At the time – Week 3 of the 2012 season -- the Packers were a season removed from a Super Bowl championship. Wilson was just a rookie and the Seahawks were a season away from becoming a Super Bowl champ. The two players central to the appropriately named “Fail Mary,” Jennings and the player given credit for catching the ball, Seattle receiver Golden Tate, are no longer with their teams.

“It was a tremendous celebration on our end of it, and really a major disappointment (for the Packers) for all the obvious reasons when you lose on the last play of the game,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said in a conference call on Sunday. “As such a controversial as it wound up being, the guys on the field had to call it, and they called it the way they saw it. It didn’t work out for any of you guys, but it worked out for us. So, we had a great celebration on it. At the time, I’m not feeling bad about it. That wasn’t the way we would feel at that moment and all that.

“Now, we’ll all have our own debate about that whenever the time comes when we’re retired and gone. That referee was standing right there, looking right there – right down at it – and he didn’t miss what he saw. He just saw it the way that Golden Tate made the catch. So, I know that he wasn’t confused. He saw what he saw. Sports are like that. We see it in all games and all types. Every weekend, there’s a situation that doesn’t come out exactly how people think it should. So, I think it was a good learning experience for everyone. It’s humbling. We were very humbled by the victory.”

For the Packers, it was a bitter disappointment, though they won the NFC North, anyway, with an 11-5 record. For the Seahawks, it wasn’t a defining moment, either. In fact, they lost at St. Louis six days later and needed a five-game end-of-season winning streak to get into the playoffs.

“We’ve never thought of games that way, that one game was going to compound into this or that and tell a story for us,” Carroll said. “We haven’t been that way. That’s part of the discipline that we have, that the game that is over is gone. Whether you won it or you lost, you have to go on and deal with what lies ahead and what’s next. We did that then and we’ve continued to do that. When you look back on the season, because they are such a good team, it was a very significant and very fortunate win for us. Not that it catapulted our mentality or anything like that, but we were very fortunate to get the win and we went to the next week.”

For Wilson, the thrill of victory was incredibly sweet and stood in stark contrast to his senior season at Wisconsin, when the Badgers lost on a Hail Mary at Michigan State.

“It was a great game. It was a battle till the very end,” Wilson said in his conference call. “To be on the other side of it, it’s one of those other things. That was two years ago. We’re focused on this moment right now and being lasered into preparing and making sure we can do everything we can to come out with a win over a very, very good football team in the Green Bay Packers.”

For Rodgers, only the sight of a friendly face could brighten the mood after the Packers – despite yielding eight first-half sacks – had defeat snatched from the jaws of victory.

“I was in the locker room and I was watching it up on the TV, the replay back, and I turned around and there was my buddy, the star of one of my favorite movies, Cary Elwes of “Princess Bride,” in the locker room. That put a smile on my face at a time where there wasn't many other things I would have done there.”


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com, and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.

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