GREEN BAY – It almost defies explanation.
For all the jubilation and heartbreak that have come with the Packers' seven previous playoff appearances under Head Coach Mike McCarthy, nothing stands out more than this:
Of McCarthy's six career postseason losses, the opponent's winning points have been scored on the final play of the game four times.
There aren't stats for walk-off losses in football, like there are in baseball, but think about that. In the most intense, emotional moments imaginable, the Packers have seen their season end on the equivalent of a Game 7 walk-off base hit four times in a span of eight years.
Packers fans probably don't need to be reminded, but here's the rundown:
- Lawrence Tynes' field goal in overtime of the 2007 NFC title game vs. the Giants
- Karlos Dansby's fumble return for a TD in overtime of the '09 wild-card game at Arizona
- Phil Dawson's field goal as the clock struck zero in the '13 wild-card game vs. San Francisco
- Jermaine Kearse's TD reception in overtime of the '14 NFC title game at Seattle
To put the nail-biting intensity of the Packers' recent postseason history into perspective, consider that aside from Green Bay's three overtime games mentioned above, only four other playoff games in the league have gone to overtime in that same time span, and only two of those were in the NFC (the '09 and '11 title games).
"It's thrilling. We love it," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said this week when asked about months of exhausting work coming down to three hours on Sunday in Washington. In the Packers' case, it just as easily could come down to three seconds.
"That's what they pay us to do. You get paid in the regular season, and you create your legacy in the postseason. That's what it's all about. It's about these opportunities."
Amidst the walk-off defeats, the Packers have pulled out a few down-to-the-wire games, too. In 2010, Tramon Williams' interception in the end zone at Philadelphia came with just 33 seconds on the clock in the wild-card game. Two weeks later, Sam Shields' interception to clinch the NFC title in Chicago came with 37 ticks left.
But there's something about a game being in the balance and then abruptly ending with a score on one final snap that raises the drama to its highest height. Those finishes have produced the lowest of lows in the McCarthy era to date. Does that mean the Packers are due to have one of these last-play scenarios finally go their way?
The 2015 season has been chock-full of crunch-time moments already for Green Bay. Damarious Randall's batted pass on fourth down vs. San Diego and the Hail Mary in Detroit were the thrills. Goal-to-go situations to win or tie at Carolina, vs. Chicago and Minnesota at home, plus a field goal attempt vs. the Lions, were the agonies.
"I will say this team, regardless of what's going on, we have battled in all the games we've played in," kicker Mason Crosby said. "There have been moments that have kind of slipped away from us. If we come up on the short end of those a couple times, we have not stopped just fighting for those games.
"That's the type of stuff we need in the playoffs. Obviously, we need to take it a step further and make sure we get a win here."
Crosby is just one of three current players, along with Rodgers and fullback John Kuhn, who have been here for all four final-play postseason defeats.
As the kicker, it could come down to him, and it seems almost surreal in this context that the Packers are playing Sunday at FedEx Field. On their last visit there, in Week 5 of 2010, with the score tied, Crosby had a 53-yard field goal attempt clang off the left upright with one second left. The Redskins eventually walked off as overtime winners on a field goal of their own.
It's time for Green Bay. It's time for the final play to go Green Bay's way.
"We've battled in so many different years I've been here," Crosby said. "We're going to fight for it."