GREEN BAY, Wis. -- What if?
Green Bay cornerback Micah Hyde saw San Francisco receiver Anquan Boldin run to the flat, then read the eyes of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and tried to flow with him. He moved into perfect position to defend Kaepernick's pass, even leaped to get the ball.
He just couldn't secure it.
Hyde came crashing to the ground. The ball fluttered away.
Any other day, it would have just been a good defensive play.
But Sunday in Lambeau Field in the wild-card playoff game against San Francisco, an interception there would have killed San Francisco's fourth-quarter drive and given the Packers the ball with very favorable field position.
"When the ball came my way, I definitely had big eyes," said Hyde. "As a DB when the ball comes your way, you think that every time you're going to pick it. I thought I had it."
Instead, Kaepernick whistled a 17-yard pass up the middle to Michael Crabtree on the next down and kept marching until the 14-play, 65-yard drive ended in a game-winning field goal.
For more than 16 minutes afterward -- an eternity in losing postgame interviews -- Hyde stood at his locker, his muddy cleats off, his tape ripped off and balled up, dead grass all over the ground, and answered one wave of questions after another. He never got testy or angry. He was asked nine times about the missed interception, and he brought it up himself two more times.
He took responsibility every time. No excuses with the weather. No blaming numb fingers or a slick ball. Nothing.
"It was just a drop," said Hyde. "I was there to make the play and tried to climb the ladder to get it. And it slipped out of my hands. I wish I could have come down with it, but you have to live with it.
"I'd like to think it was a tough catch -- I didn't come down with it. But I should have."
Hyde will now have the rest of the season to have that replay in his mind. He might not have been in position for a pick-six, but he could have been the catalyst for a Packers victory.
"It's one of those plays that will eat me up a little bit," said Hyde. "It's always going to be in the back of your mind. Someone that says they let it go is lying."
The Packers did not do a good enough job of stealing the ball from opponents this season and had a minus-3 give-away, take-away differential coming into the game. In recent years, take-aways had been a strength for the Packers defense.
Hyde had a decent game otherwise: five tackles and a forced fumble.
It wasn't hard for the rookie to look back at this season already and call it a great experience even though the ending was tough.
"It's tough; we feel like this slipped through our hands," said Hyde. "We had a chance to win this game, other than a couple of minor mistakes that we did make.
"But we definitely dealt with adversity. We showed that we're a good team and a lot of guys -- a lot of guys -- played this year. A lot. Next man in. It was tough, but we showed that we could bounce back."
After a shower he was greeted with another microphone and the same questions all over again. Just 23 years old, Hyde might not have made the play this time, but he wasn't lacking in accountability.
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