The Green Bay Packers are the New Philadelphia Phillies

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The Green Bay Packers saw their storybook season come to an embarrassing halt yesterday (Sunday, January 15) in a 37-20 NFC divisional playoffs loss against the New York Giants. Like the Philadelphia Phillies before them, who had the best record in baseball until they fell apart in the MLB division series, the defending Superbowl champs looked like they woke up still drunk from the night before, then decided to play a football game. The hometown crowd booed the Packers at halftime, which was followed by a chorus of “Let’s go Giants!” by the smattering of Giants fans combating frostbite in the Wisconsin cold at the game’s end.

Guest submission from Kent Page McGroarty

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    “We got beat by a team that played better,” remarked Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who added that he “didn’t think it would end tonight.” Though Rodgers finished the game with a team-high of 66 yards on seven rushes, he was hardly his usual on-point self. Rodgers made only 26 of 46 pass opportunities, and his quarterback rating of 78.5 took a serious swan dive compared to his regular-season rating of 122.5, an NFL record. He got sacked in the third quarter by Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora, resulting in his first fumble in a year. Rodgers watched his receivers get crushed by Giants defense, forcing him to dump off or scramble for short gains.

    Offense wasn’t the only problem for the Packers, whose defense couldn’t stop Giants quarterback Eli Manning from throwing for 330 yards and three touchdowns. Giants wide receiver Harkeem Nicks added insult to proverbial injury with 165 yards receiving and two touchdowns, the second of which he snatched out of the air above a scrum of Packers defenders minutes before halftime.

    When you compare the Packers regular season (8-0, 15-1 away) to that of the Giants (9-7, 5-3 away), it’s hard to not to wonder what the heck happened. Already being referred to as “the most disheartening playoff loss in Green Bay history”, yesterday’s Murphy’s Law-ish game is comparable to the Phillies’ performance in the 2011 National League Division playoffs against the St. Louis Cardinals.

A top draw in baseball since their 2008 World Series win, which caused just about the entire Philadelphia population to dance in the streets, the Phillies have remained consistent in their ability to secure a playoff spot. The 2010 addition of Roy “Doc” Halladay combined with the return of Cliff Lee and the 2011 addition of Roy Oswalt gave the Phillies perhaps the most impressive starting rotation in baseball. The team had previously relied heavily on the arm of World Series 2008 MVP Cole Hamels, and were known for their lack of pitching talent. When you think that the 2008 Phillies team only had Hamels, and did not include the big bats of Raul Ibanez, Placido Polanco, and Hunter Pence, it seemed the 2011 World Series title was well within reach. With their 2011 regular season record of 102-65, the Phillies were the only team to hit the 100+ mark for regular season wins. Yet when it came time to perform (and against the Cardinals, for God’s sake, though St. Louis still had a better record than the Atlanta Braves this year), they looked about as drunk as the Packers did yesterday. While the Phillies won Game 1 and Game 3, Game 1 was the only “high scoring” game of 11-6. The Phils couldn’t even score in Game 5, which they lost behind Roy Halladay at 1-0.

 So why do great teams fall apart during playoffs? Are they tired? Over-confident? Dealing with tragic loss? The 21-year old son of Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin drowned last week in Wisconsin, though Philbin still took his place on the field yesterday. Packers coach Mike McCarthy refused to blame the shocking accident as the reason behind the loss, stating, “There was nothing in preparation that had led me to believe this was going to occur.”

 Whatever the reason for a great team with a great record to blow it in the playoffs, one thing is certain: the fans are mad as all heck.

Kent Page McGroarty is a blogger for Gold Star Games, a leading tailgate gear supplier.

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