The Packers feasted on Seattle’s third-down defense all game, converting time and time again. With the game in the balance, Green Bay leading by five points, the Seahawks forced another third-and-9 at the two-minute warning.
Aaron Rodgers dropped back, faced pressure from a Seattle blitz, and zipped a pass to Jimmy Graham over the middle. The ex-Seahawks tight end snagged the ball with his momentum carrying him forward close to the first down line as he was tackled.
Officials ruled Graham earned enough yards for a first down. Replay review, despite additional footage, and some angles showing that he looked down short, deemed the play stand as called. Ball game. Packers 28, Seahawks 23.
A flabbergasted Pete Carroll, frustrated at the ruling, gave the sideline ref an earful after the play.
After the game, Carroll was more diplomatic about the call not being reversed.
“My guys just were telling me it was short, you know?” he said, sounding exasperated. “It looked short and had they called him short, then it would’ve been short. It’s the same thing last week: you call ’em a score, you let ’em score. They wouldn’t overturn that one — I’m going back to the Niners game, I guess. That’s how it goes.”
The Seahawks had an opportunity to complete an epic comeback after a sleepy first half that saw them get down 21-3 at the break. Russell Wilson spun wizardry in the final two quarters, leading three straight touchdown drives to cut the lead to five points.
After the defense got a stop, Wilson got the ball with 4:54 remaining. A drop by Malik Turner on first down that would have crossed midfield stymied the drive, and a third-down sack on Wilson set up a fourth-and-11. With three timeouts and the 2-minute warning to come, Carroll decided to eschew going for it and punted.
The Seahawks never got the ball back.
“We were thinking about going for it in that sequence, but not at fourth-and-11,” he said. “We thought our odds were so low. We had all the clock, we had the time, we had all of the opportunities to stop them to get the ball back, and so we didn’t want to put it all on one play. If it was fourth-and-five or three or somewhere, we were all through the whole discussion of it, but it winds up being a sack and fourth and 11, unfortunately so.”
Carroll’s defense couldn’t get a stop. Given how efficient the Packers‘ offense was for much of the game, it’s fair to question the wisdom in punting and risking never getting the ball back.
The Packers converted 9-of-14 on third downs, which was the story of the game. Seattle forced two third-and-longs on the final drive. The first, third-and-8, Davante Adams, as he did all day, burned defensive back Ugo Amadi out of the slot, and Rodgers placed a perfect ball for the first down. Then Jimmy Graham made what ended up the game-sealing play.
“I think it’s pretty special, a little extra special to get the ball to Jimmy Graham on that last third down,” Rodgers said after the game during an interview with FOX’s Erin Andrews. “He was in Seattle, you know, for a few years.”
Seahawks fans know. And they’ll forever believe he was short of a first down on this day.
Seattle had its chances on the road, but came up just shy, review or not.