The Packers’ Super Bowl hopes died again on the frozen tundra.
Green Bay lost to San Francisco 13-10 in the NFC divisional round on Saturday night in an upset that eliminated the No. 1 seed from the playoffs, renewed doubts about the future of Aaron Rodgers and exposed a key weakness in the worst possible time.
If it is possible to have a fusion at temperatures of zero degrees, then that is what happened. What went wrong for the Packers this postseason?
The Packers were never able to build a two-touchdown lead in the game because they made a series of special teams errors, all at the worst possible times.
Green Bay had a chance to go up 10-0 before halftime after Rodgers completed a 75-yard pass to Aaron Jones with 26 seconds left in the second quarter, but Mason Crosby’s 39-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Jimmie Ward two moves later. . Crosby made 25 of 34 field goal attempts in the regular season, a career-low 73.5 percent rate.
Deebo Samuel returned the opening kickoff of the second half 45 yards to set up San Francisco’s first points of the game, a Robbie Gould field goal. The 49ers tied the game with 4:41 left when Talanoa Hufanaga returned a blocked punt for a touchdown. Gould then hit a 45-yard field goal in the snow as time expired to seal the victory.
That’s 13 points that switched sides in a cold-weather fistfight. Packers special teams coordinator Maurice Drayton will feel the heat, but that’s not the big question in Green Bay right now.
No offense in the second half
Green Bay opened the game with a 10-play, 69-yard touchdown drive that AJ Dillon capped with a 6-yard touchdown run. But he couldn’t take advantage of the defense holding San Francisco to 58 yards in the first half.
The problem? Green Bay had 58 total yards in the second half. Dillon left with an injury and Rodgers had five sacks. Snowy weather in the second half worked in the 49ers’ favor, and Rodgers caught Jones and Davante Adams, who accounted for 219 of Green Bay’s 225 receiving yards.
Will the play be questioned? On the Packers’ last two drives, Rodgers was 1 of 4 for 4 yards (a completion to Adams) and took a sack. The Packers only had one running play in that critical stretch.
San Francisco set up Gould’s game-winning field goal with Jimmy Garoppolo’s 14-yard pass to Samuel and then Samuel’s 9-yard tie on third-and-7.
Should Aaron Rodgers take heat?
The stakes were high for Rodgers. He was coming off consecutive NFC championship losses and a soap opera offseason that included an open question about whether this would be his last season with the Packers.
Rodgers delivered an NFL MVP performance in the regular season with 4,115 yards, 37 touchdowns and four interceptions. He led Green Bay to a 13-4 record. However, the season was not without drama. Rodgers tested positive for COVID-19 before a Week 9 matchup against the Chiefs, and he was more open and honest with the media than ever.
The criticism is coming full blast now, especially from Rodgers critics who took issue with that newfound bluntness. He is 11-10 in the postseason and 0-4 against the 49ers. That’s the lowest winning percentage (.524) among NFL quarterbacks with at least 11 playoff wins, a velvet rope fraternity that includes Tom Brady (35-11), Joe Montana (16 -7), Terry Bradshaw (14-5), John Elway (14-7), Peyton Manning (14-13), Ben Roethlisberger (13-10), Brett Favre (13-11), Troy Aikman (11-4 ) and Roger Staubach (11-6).
Rodgers’ winning percentage is the closest to Manning’s (.519). Manning, of course, left Indianapolis to get a second Super Bowl ring in Denver. Cue the awkward talk of the offseason rumor mill in Green Bay. Is coming.
Lambeau mystique fades
Green Bay went 13-0 at Lambeau Field from 1939 to 2001, a streak that spanned the entire Vince Lombardi era and a portion of Favre’s heyday in the late 1990s.
Since Michael Vick torched the Packers on Jan. 4, 2003, in a 27-7 blowout, the Packers are 7-6 in home playoff games. That includes losses in the NFC championship game to the Giants and Buccaneers and Saturday’s loss. Rodgers is 5-4 in home playoff games.
One could argue that the weather helped San Francisco, of all teams, pull off an unlikely upset.
Obviously, it’s Rodgers’ future, and how coach Matt LaFleur and general manager Brian Gutekunst respond in the offseason knowing that 2020 first-round pick Jordan Love has spent the past two seasons on the bench.
The Vikings and Bears will hire new coaches, and the psychological toll of three swings and misses in the playoffs will require a large-scale response to maintain that level of dominance within the NFC North. Rodgers could easily stay in Green Bay, but more changes are coming.
Green Bay has been very good lately in the regular season. The Packers are 39-10 in the last three years under LaFleur, the best regular-season record in the NFL.
That will not be discussed until September.
It is a question that will be faced at least a week earlier than expected.