There was concern Seattle's disputed victory over the Packers would affect the playoff picture. And it has, even here.
Remember Sept. 26, when Christian Ponder was asked if he felt bad for a Packers team that was 1-2 and less than 48 hours removed from being robbed by a replacement official in that game-ending "Fail Mary" fiasco in Seattle?
Remember the Vikings quarterback smiling, knowing exactly that what he was about to say would go over big with the Purple masses who love to hate them some Cheeseheads?
"No," he said. "No, I don't."
Simple. Funny. The perfect response from an archrival.
He wasn't the only one at Winter Park picking at the Packers' exposed nerve endings. Safety Jamarca Sanford said he would have felt bad for a defensive back, but not one from Green Bay. Cornerback Antoine Winfield smiled and simply said he was glad that the major gaffe that ended the league's standoff with the regular officials happened to Green Bay and not the first-place Vikings, who were 2-1 and coming off an upset of the 49ers.
And backup running back Toby Gerhart might have summed up the general feeling best when he said: "Hey, it was the Packers. So I wasn't all that disappointed."
Everyone laughed at poor Green Bay's expense.
Three months later, the NFC North champion Packers come to town ready to deliver the last laugh. They are 10-2 since the Seattle loss and 11-4 overall, yet they still have a huge incentive for which to play -- a first-round bye -- thanks to the "Fail Mary."
In other words, a Vikings team facing a win-and-you're-in playoff scenario is guaranteed to get Green Bay's best punch because of the "Fail Mary." And that punch will come from the right arm of Aaron Rodgers, who has beaten the Vikings five consecutive times while completing 73.1 percent of his passes (117 of 160) for 1,467 yards and 14 touchdowns with three interceptions and a 122.2 passer rating.
Graham Harrell, he's not.
Now compare that with what might have been had replacement official Lance Easley not whiffed so badly when he took M.D. Jennings' interception and ruled it a touchdown by Golden Tate and a 14-12 Seahawks victory.
Had the "Fail Mary" not happened, the Packers already would have clinched the No. 2 seed and home-field advantage. They would be alive for the No. 1 seed, but probably not by the 3:25 p.m. kickoff Sunday.
An Atlanta victory at home in a noon kickoff against a flailing Tampa Bay team would have left the Packers with nothing to gain by beating the Vikings.
What would that have done to the Packers' game plan? Well, considering coach Mike McCarthy rested Rodgers with nothing for which to play at home in Week 17 a year ago, it's safe to assume he wouldn't have put the reigning MVP in harm's way -- and Jared Allen's path -- in a meaningless game.
So, ironically, the "Fail Mary" might have cost the Vikings a chance to face Harrell and a Packers team resting up for the playoffs. Also, if not for the "Fail Mary," the Vikings still would have had a chance at the No. 5 seed because Seattle would be 9-6, not 10-5.
"We couldn't ask for a better final regular-season game," said McCarthy, who probably means it since last year's 15-1 Packers coasted into the playoffs and were bounced in their first game.
"It's a playoff game, as far as we're looking at it. I'm sure that's how the Vikings are looking at it."
|Atlanta||1||Top 3rd Inning|
|NY Mets||0||Bottom 3rd Inning|
|St. Louis||2||Top 4th Inning|
|Chicago Cubs||3:05 PM|
|San Francisco||3:05 PM|
|LA Angels||3:05 PM|
|Chicago WSox||3:05 PM|
|Oklahoma City||7:00 PM|
|LA Clippers||9:30 PM|
|Holy Cross||6:00 PM|
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