Which is the worst way to end a season?

In an utterly crushing, heart-breaking manner, losing a game that seemed convincingly won, and in which any of a series of singular, seemingly simple, plays over the final minutes would have been the final nail in the coffin of the eventual winners?

Or to be completely outclassed and embarrassed and made to appear to be frauds to have even had designs on advancing to the Super Bowl?

I have to say A is worse, and thus people in Green Bay feel a lot worse today than people here in Indy. The Colts’ loss in New England yesterday will be but a footnote to whatever happens in two weeks in Arizona. But that Green Bay loss is going to live forever, even if Seattle does not defend their Super Bowl title. Along with the 2004 New York Yankees, they’ve become a go-to example of teams that had playoff games (or series, in the Yankees’ case) completely wrapped up only to lose them in terrible fashion.

Another vote in favor of Green Bay as the worst loss? I didn’t have to watch the entire Colts game. We were watching with friends at their house and headed toward home as halftime was winding up. As we began out 20-minute drive home, New England scored to go up 24–7. By the time the girls were in bed, it was 38–7 and thus I settled down to finish my current book rather than watch the rest of the blowout in Foxboro.

Packers fans, on the other hand? They had to watch every last brutal second of their game. The rug was pulled out from underneath them. Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, and Jermaine Kearse ripped their hearts out and stomped all over them.[1]

And, let’s be honest. Even the most optimistic of Colts fans realized it would take a monumental effort to pull off a win in Foxboro. A lot of us figured it would not be close by the fourth quarter. So while 45–7 was ugly and wiped out a lot of good feelings that came out of last week’s win in Denver, it’s not like the Colts were up by two scores late in the game only to walk away losers.

So the season ends for the Colts, with some good feelings about winning another division title and two playoffs games but the realization that they were pretenders to the AFC throne. And it kicks off an off-season that could be hugely important to how the next phase of the Andrew Luck era goes. Can they get a solid running back who can stay healthy? Can they solidify the offensive line? Can they find D-linemen who can stop the running game and a legitimate pass rush threat? Make smart decisions this year and the Colts will be set up nicely to ascend as the Brady-Manning era comes to a close. Swing and miss, and the Colts could fail to capitalize on the skills of the game’s next great quarterback.

But in Green Bay? Where the Colts are at the beginning of a potential window of consistent Super Bowl contention, the Packers could be on the back end of theirs. Aaron Rodgers is the best QB in the game right now, but how long will he stay healthy? How long will the other stars around him continue to perform, or remain with the Packers as their contract status changes? Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have shown that a quarterback can continue to be elite deep into his 30s. But there’s no guarantee that the Packers will be this close again in Rodgers career.

This one is going to hurt for a long, long time in Green Bay.

OK, all that aside, that was a bat-shit crazy game in Seattle. The Packers smacking the Seahawks in the mouth early, picking off Wilson four times over the day, moving the ball at will early,[2] and sucking the life out of the loudest stadium in the NFL. What if the Packers had gone for it, and scored, on either of their fourth-and-goal from the one opportunities? What if Morgan Burnett keeps running after his interception late in the fourth quarter? What if the Packers don’t go vanilla to run clock? What if they grab the onside kick? What if Ha Ha Clinton-Dix makes even a half effort to knock away the two-point conversion pass that put the Seahawks up by 3? What if Wilson doesn’t still have the confidence to make two perfect passes in overtime?

My friend and I, who had no real strong rooting interest, were screaming at the TV as the fourth quarter wound down. That was an incredibly entertaining game to watch. Shame the Colts didn’t give us a reason to watch all 60 minutes in the nightcap.

  1. Figuratively, of course. If they really did that, they’d all be in jail right now!  ↩
  2. At least until they got to the one yard line.  ↩