GREEN BAY—The Packers wanted one more play, but it would be the last play, leaving Mike McCarthy and his team to wonder if this season will include one more meaningful play.
"We needed one more play tonight," McCarthy said following one of the most gut-wrenching losses of the season, 38-31, to the team the Packers beat in the Super Bowl three years ago, the Pittsburgh Steelers.
What the Packers need most now is a Philadelphia win over the Chicago Bears on Sunday Night Football. It would set the stage for a winner-take-all game between the Packers and the Bears in Soldier Field next Sunday. The winner would claim the NFC North title, should the Eagles beat the Bears.
"The message in the locker room I'm embarrassed by because I didn't know Detroit lost the game," McCarthy said.
Did his team know a Bears loss would give the Packers a win-and-in scenario next week?
"I'm sure they know now but they didn't know when I talked to them because I didn't know," McCarthy said.
Here's where it all stands:
The Lions are history following their loss to the Giants; it's over in Detroit.
With a win tonight in Philadelphia, the Bears will clinch the NFC North title and the Packers will be eliminated from playoff contention.
A Bears loss to the Eagles will give the Packers a chance to win their third consecutive division title and make the loss to the Steelers meaningless. Had the Packers beaten the Steelers, the Packers would've still had to win in Chicago to claim the division title and its playoff berth.
Sunday's game included some of the zaniest action of the season. The Packers got a touchdown after the Steelers had blocked a Mason Crosby, point-blank field goal attempt, then the Packers faced a let-him-score decision late in the game, with the game tied at 31-31 and the Steelers able to execute a walk-off field goal attempt.
Did the Packers allow rookie running back Le'Veon Bell to score from a yard out?
"We talked about that, yes," McCarthy said.
It left 1:25 to play and that appeared to be plenty of time for a rally following a 70-yard kickoff return by Micah Hyde. Matt Flynn quickly moved the Packers, who were without a time out, to the Steelers 1-yard line. Overtime seemed to be in the bag, until tackle Don Barclay was guilty of illegal procedure, which not only moved the ball back to the 6-yard line but necessitated a 10-second runoff that took the clock down to 10 seconds.
"We knew there'd be a runoff and the clock would run. We should've gotten two plays off. We went as fast as we could," Flynn said.
The Packers were unable to get the ball snapped until four seconds remained and that made Flynn's incomplete pass for Jarrett Boykin the final play of the game.
McCarthy's voice betrayed any cover he up; he was drained. At one point he said, "I'm just trying to get through this press conference."
The questions came.
"The offense was aligned at 10 seconds and the play was called. They were set," McCarthy said with an edge in his voice.
Pittsburgh's game-winning touchdown was the result of a Matt Flynn fumble that was forced by Troy Polamalu on a third-and-8 play from the Packers' 10-yard line. Flynn couldn't find an open receiver so he took off down the left sideline and tried to split two defenders when Polamalu arrived and stripped the ball.
"I've got to protect the ball. It's not my thing to split defenders but I was trying to win the game and I wasn't thinking about ball security," Flynn said.
"I'm fine with Matt's decision," McCarthy said.
Flynn was 21 of 39 for 232 yards, one touchdown, one interception and a 69.6 passer rating in some of the most severe weather conditions in recent Lambeau Field history. His third-quarter interception resulted in a 40-yard touchdown return by cornerback Cortez Allen. It was a game-changer that gave the Steelers a 10-point lead, but the Packers would rally to tie the game with 7:14 to play.
The interception was the result of tight end Andrew Quarless bumping into Flynn as he was attempting to throw the ball.
"It's probably my fault. We haven't run that protection. That's an example of a guy not having a lot of reps. You can put that on me," McCarthy said.
Blame? It won't be necessary should the Eagles beat the Bears. Complete game coverage