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Sherman: Pain Of Loss Hasn't Gone Away


When you're the general manager and head coach of a professional football team, losses like the one the Green Bay Packers suffered last Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles will keep you up at night.


Addressing the Wisconsin media in his season-ending press conference at Lambeau Field, GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman admitted Wednesday that he still hasn't gotten over the 20-17 overtime loss that knocked the Packers out of the playoffs last weekend.

And in the days since, when he has a spare moment, he isn't just replaying the game in his head, he's watching it on film.

"I came in here at 1:30 this morning and had to see it again," Sherman said of the Packers-Eagles game tape. "I couldn't sleep and I just analyzed it over and over again.

"The feeling from that game leaving the field was you got kicked in the gut. And it hasn't gone away."

It probably won't for a while.

Heading into the offseason with all but one of last Sunday's starters slated to return in 2004, the Packers' future appears bright. But then so did their chances of playing in this weekend's NFC Championship game, until they squandered a 14-point lead and brought an end to their 2003 season.

"I'm not taking anything away from Philly because the bottom line is winning the game and they won the game," Sherman said. "But I felt like we had some opportunities we let slip away.

"I can handle getting beat. I can handle that. Some team beats you, that's football. Someone's going to win, someone's going to lose. But I just felt like we let some opportunities slip through our fingers the other day and it's hard. It's hard to handle (in) that way."

The key plays in the Packers' demise have been much discussed in the days since, but Sherman went over them again Wednesday: the fourth-and-goal play inside the 1-yard line that the Packers failed to convert for a touchdown in the second quarter; the fourth-and-1 play at the Philadelphia 41-yard line that the Packers passed up in favor of a punt in the fourth quarter; the fourth-and-26 play that the Packers didn't stop that allowed the Eagles to continue their game-tying drive; and Brett Favre's untimely interception in overtime that set up Philadelphia's game-winning field goal.

Of all of them, Sherman said he was most disturbed by the Packers' failure to stop the Eagles on fourth-and-26.

Although he admitted that by going for it on fourth-and-1 the previous possession the Packers might have been able to run out the clock and win the game, it was only the Packers' subsequent failure defensively that made the offensive decision backfire.

"If you get a team into fourth-and-26, I think you've made the right call," Sherman said in defense of the decision to punt. "We were able to do that, we just didn't make that play.

"But there's certainly both sides to the coin. I understand that ... (But) if you said to me right now, 'Mike, do you want to take fourth-and-26 or risk going for it on fourth-and-1?,' I probably would take the fourth-and-26."

A few months ago, Sherman and the Packers might also have been more willing to accept a second-round playoff loss.

At the bye week in late October, the Packers were a mere 3-4, and with four games to go in the regular season they were just a little bit better at 6-6. But after winning four straight in December to get into the playoffs, outlasting the Seattle Seahawks in tightly contested Wild Card playoff game and then building a lead on the Eagles last weekend, there's the feeling that they let a Super Bowl season out of their clutches.

Sherman said that he didn't consider the Packers underachievers in 2003, but noted that they did leave something on the table.

On the other hand, what they picked up is confidence.

In 2001 and 2002, the Packers were booted out of the playoffs by a combined 48 points. This time, even in a loss, there's evidence that the race for the Super Bowl holds a spot for the Packers.

"I feel very confident that the men, even though they (were) disappointed when they left to go their separate ways, are excited about the future," said Sherman, who termed the 2003 team "light years" ahead of his 2000 squad.

"Maybe not at this present point because they are still dealing with this loss, but they know what they are capable of doing. I don't know if at any point they really believed that capability until this season."

And that may be the only thing that makes last Sunday's loss worth holding on to.

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