Brandon Bostick, meet Bill Buckner.
Bostick’s misplay of a simple onside kick didn’t cause his Green Bay Packers to lose the NFC Championship Game on Sunday. The Packers made mistakes a team effort in their 28-22 overtime loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
Buckner’s egregious error didn’t cost his Red Sox the 1986 World Series, either. The Sox had already blown their Game Six lead—twice!—before Buckner proved more adept at grabbing headlines than ground balls.
But Buckner’s name was the one that lived in infamy in Boston. Until 2004, when all was forgiven.
Like Buckner, Bostick had the misfortune of making the most egregious play at the most inopportune time. And for that reason, his name shall forever rankle the Packer faithful.
Bostick’s gaffe became the lightning rod for a collapse of epic proportions. The Packers enjoyed a 12-point lead with just 2:09 left to play. That’s when Seahawk quarterback Russell Wilson strolled into the end zone from a yard away, making the score 19-14.
Seattle’s Steven Hauschka then teed up for the obligatory onside kick. Everyone knew what was coming, including the Packers. And they knew what they were supposed to do.
"I was supposed to block," Bostick told Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He was supposed to take out the second man down, and let Jordy Nelson field the kick.
There’s genuine good logic behind this. In his seven year NFL career, Nelson, a wide receiver, has 400 receptions. He had a career high 98 this year. He caught five passes Sunday.
In his two year career as a reserve tight end, Bostick has nine receptions, including just two this year.
So what did Bostick do?
"I just ran to the ball," he told McGinn. "I thought I could get it. Obviously, I couldn’t. I felt like I had my hands on the ball. I just got hit, and then I didn’t have the ball."
"Bostick tried to highpoint it, and it just kind of bounced away from him," kicker Mason Crosby told McGinn.
"We lined up good," added tight end Andrew Quarless. "We just made a bad decision. Bo was decisive. He went for it. It’s nobody’s fault."
"We were pretty mad that happened," cornerback Micah Hyde told McGinn. "But you have to move on. Obviously, we don’t plan on giving something like that up."
Nor did the Packers plan on giving up another touchdown a mere forty-four seconds later. Another crucial mistake ensued.
Seattle went for two, Wilson was rushed, and his only recourse was to loft a lazy pop fly of a pass across the field toward tight end Luke Willson. Instead of batting the ball down, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix misjudged the ball, let Willson get in position, and offered a little hop as the ball settled safely into Willson’s arms. Ha Ha, indeed.
Those two points meant that Green Bay’s final, frantic drive, resulting in a Crosby field goal, produced only a tie, not a win.
Those points would not have mattered had the Packers cashed in on early opportunities. Their first drive ended with an endzone interception. The Packers then forced two turnovers, but only turned them into six points. Both drives reached the Seattle one-yard-line.
In fact, the Packers would induce five turnovers during the game, and produce only those two measly field goals as a result.
Midway through the third quarter, leading 16-0, the Packers had the Seahawks facing third-and-19. Inexplicably, defensive coordinator Dom Capers chose to rush but two men, with a third spying on Wilson.
Given half an hour to find someone open, Wilson found Doug Baldwin for a 29-yard gain. The Packers defense held right there, but a fake field goal produced a 19-yard touchdown.
"Well-orchestrated play," Packers coach Mike McCarthy told Lori Nickel of the Journal Sentinel. "The awareness there, and the execution on them, that was obviously a big play. Big plays on special teams were definitely a factor."
With 5:13 left and the Packers up, 19-7, safety Morgan Burnett came up with the Packers fourth interception. He appeared to have an open field in front of him, but he chose to take a knee after a four-yard return. Had he returned into field goal range, the Packers would not have fretted over running back Eddie Lacy losing four yards on three straight runs.
That was the Packers second straight three-and-out series, when a single first down might have secured the win.
"You can’t let them complete a pass for a touchdown on a fake field goal," quarterback Aaron Rodgers told Nickel, in summation. "And you can’t give up an onside kick. You can’t not get any first downs in the fourth quarter, and expect to win. And that’s on top of being really poor in the red zone in the first half."
Still, that provided little solace for Brandon Bostick. "I’ll try my best to move on from it," he told McGinn. "I don’t know how long it’ll take. My assignment was to block, and Jordy would have caught the ball and the game would have been over.
"I was just thinking about everything. The game, my teammates, everyone in Green Bay, my family, and everything. I just feel like I let everyone down."