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Packers squander late chance to score tying touchdown

Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - The Steelers' Lawrence Timmons and Ryan Clark stop Packers tight end Andrew Quarless from scoring on the last possession in the fourth quarter Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013, in Green Bay, Wis.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>The Steelers' Lawrence Timmons and Ryan Clark stop Packers tight end Andrew Quarless from scoring on the last possession in the fourth quarter Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013, in Green Bay, Wis.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - The Steelers' Brett Keisel celebrates his fourth-quarter fumble recovery Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013, in Green Bay, Wis.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>The Steelers' Brett Keisel celebrates his fourth-quarter fumble recovery Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013, in Green Bay, Wis.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - The Steelers' Brett Keisel beats the Packers' Josh Sitton on his way to sacking quarterback Matt Flynn in the fourth quarter Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013, in Green Bay, Wis.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>The Steelers' Brett Keisel beats the Packers' Josh Sitton on his way to sacking quarterback Matt Flynn in the fourth quarter Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013, in Green Bay, Wis.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - The Steelers' Brett Keisel beats the Packers' Josh Sitton on the way to sacking quarterback Matt Flynn in the fourth quarter Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013, in Green Bay, Wis.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>The Steelers' Brett Keisel beats the Packers' Josh Sitton on the way to sacking quarterback Matt Flynn in the fourth quarter Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013, in Green Bay, Wis.

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By Mike Woods
Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013, 11:21 p.m.
 

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Despite all their miscues, ill-timed penalties and strategical errors, the Green Bay Packers still had a chance to maintain control of their playoff destiny by finding the end zone from 1 yard away.

But after comebacks the past two weeks, all the Packers found Sunday was misery after a 38-31 loss to the Steelers at Lambeau Field.

There were 20 seconds left, the Packers had a second-and-goal at the Steelers' 1, and

they imploded.

First, there was a false start penalty on right tackle Don Barclay.

“Trying to run a play,” Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari said. “Clock's running. People are screaming. I won't say it's the easiest situation.”

There was a mandatory 10-second run-off because the penalty came inside the final two minutes, and when the Packers lined up for second-and-goal at the 6 with 10 seconds left, confusion reigned.

“It just looked very chaotic and unorganized,” said fullback John Kuhn, who played for the Steelers in 2005-06. “It was a shame it came down to that. (Referee Carl Cheffers) announced it over the stadium speakers, so I think everybody caught on to that. It was just chaotic and very unorganized.”

From tight end Andrew Quarless' perspective, there was indecision beyond what was found with his teammates.

“I was kind of surprised with that 10-second deal,” Quarless said. “I did hear the ref say something, but to me there was a little level of confusion by them. I'm not going to blame it on them.''

The end came when quarterback Matt Flynn didn't take the snap until 3 seconds remained. His pass to Jarret Boykin in the end zone sailed high.

“We should have been able to get two plays off,” Flynn said. “We thought that getting the ball down, and getting the clock started, was a little bit weird.

“I don't know what happened. I think (Cheffers) was holding up the center and wound the clock when he was backing up, so I don't know.”

The Packers were out of timeouts when they burned their last one after Steelers tailback Le'Veon Bell ran to the Packers' 1 with 1:35 to play. That play was preceded by an encroachment penalty on Packers linebacker Nick Perry on fourth-and-3, which gave the Steelers a first down at the Green Bay 5.

After Bell's run to the 1, nose tackle B.J. Raji admitted the defense allowed Bell to score on the next play to save time.

“I would just say collectively, as a defense, we just decided with no more timeouts, we felt like the best chance was to (let them) score,” Raji said.

Asked why the Packers hadn't made that decision the previous play, linebacker A.J. Hawk said, “I don't know, that's a good question.''

When Packers coach Mike McCarthy was asked if he considered letting the Steelers score on first down from the 5, he paused, then said, “No, I didn't.”

In the end, that lack of timeout prevented the Packers from stopping the clock with 10 seconds left to get organized and essentially ensure they would get at least two cracks to score the game-tying touchdown.

“It was right there,'' cornerback Tramon Williams scored. “The opportunity was right there before us, and we let it slip through our hands.''

Mike Woods is a freelance writer.

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