Observations from rewatching Packers’ NFC Championship Game Loss

I decided to torture myself even more last night and rewatched yesterday’s Green Bay Packers/Tampa Bay Buccaneers game. I know I already wrote a blog about the game yesterday.

The Packers lost their fourth NFC Championship game in seven years (which is more depressing to type than I thought it would be). And it doesn’t feel good. It really really doesn’t feel good. I was saying on Friday that this was a team that was really just coming together at the right time. In which the defense is playing well, finishing in the top 10, the offense is obviously incredible finishing basically top 1 in nearly every category. I was very confident in Green Bay winning the game to punch their ticket to the Super Bowl. And in the end, it just didn’t get there.

There’s plenty of blame to go around. From coaching staff all the way down to every player, the only person I give a pass to is Marquez Valdes-Scantling. MVS played his tail off.

A key play in the first half was right after the Packers tied the game at 7-7 early in the second quarter. The ensuing Tampa Bay possession, the Packers defense had two good stops on first and second down forcing a third down and nine yards to go. Tom Brady threw a 50-50 ball, Darnell Savage I thought had pretty good coverage on the play, but misplayed the ball and ended up being a 52-yard reception to Chris Godwin.

That’s a play that Savage makes more times than not. If the Packers get that stop and put the offense back on the field, Green Bay is able to have a chance to put the game script on their terms, the way they’ve been so successful for a month plus. And of course, compounding it then, the very next play Leonard Fournette bounces outside for a 20-yard touchdown run to make it 14-7 Tampa Bay.

The offensive line, which had been money for most of the year, struggled for a majority of the game. It was a bad matchup for Billy Turner, and I was surprised how little help Matt LaFleur tried to give him, even when it became apparent that he was way overmatched.

The other thing regarding the offense, when the Packers are going good and they’re able to do all the jet sweeps and the motions and the play actions and the bootlegs and there’s eye candy everywhere, then your offensive line has it a little bit easier because the defense is guessing and not teeing off rushing the passer.

People are still pissed off at Matt LaFleur for kicking the field goal to cut it to 31-26 with 2:05 left and all three timeouts plus the 2-minute warning. Here’s the deal: NO MATTER WHAT THE PACKERS DID, whether they tied it, got the TD & missed 2-pointer, or kicked the field goal….the defense still needed to get a stop!! I understand disagreeing with the decision, but some of the responses y’all are giving are beyond over the top. They have to make a defensive stop no matter what the offense did.

Here’s an idea: don’t fumble deep in your own end. Or give up absolutely absurd touchdowns in the final eight seconds of the first half when the opposing team has one timeout and ALL YOU HAVE TO DO is make sure they don’t get into the endzone. That’s just me though.

Packers cut the deficit to 28-23 with 24 seconds left in the third quarter. The Packers defense allowed only 3 points over the final 15:24 of the game and also intercepted Tom Brady twice in that span. I think most people would have expected the Packers to win that scenario 99 of 100 times.

Six incompletions inside the 10-yard line (throughout the game) and six straight failed passing plays (in 4th quarter) after two Jaire Alexander interceptions pretty much decided this game. 12 plays with the ball in the hands of the MVP (Aaron Rodgers). Simple, but almost certainly true.

The pass interference on Kevin King in the final two minutes was a good call (even though ball wasn’t catchable in my opinion, which I guess should have rescinded the penalty), which an offensive hold wasn’t called.

But the issue is this: you can’t play “let them play” for 58 minutes and then throw flags the final two minutes. Pick one!

Like I said yesterday….there will absolutely be a “missed opportunities” autopsy of this game. The Packers missed yet another opportunity yesterday, and it was a great one.

Change is inevitable in professional sports. The Green Bay Packers are currently $28,759,726 over the salary cap for 2021. So there will players leaving and new players arriving, that’s just the nature of the business.

First and foremost, I wouldn’t be shocked if the Packers had two new coordinators next season.

The Packers will probably let Kevin King walk, especially considering the performance yesterday and his injury history. I’d also be shocked if Preston Smith was a Green Bay Packer in 2021.

A key free agent will be All-Pro Center, Corey Linsley. I’m hoping the Packers re-sign him, but I don’t know if they’ll be able to afford him.

Aaron Jones is another free agent this offseason. I suspect his last game at Lambeau Field as a Green Bay Packer featured putting the ball on the carpet twice.

Here’s how the Packers have responded following a NFC Championship Game loss (something that has become the norm lately):

1996: 13-3 (Won Super Bowl)

2008: 6-10 (Missed Playoffs)

2015: 10-6 (Lost in Divisional Round)

2017: 7-9 (Missed Playoffs)

2020: 13-3 (Lost in NFC Championship Game)

2021: To Be Determined

The Packers absolutely have the team that can make another run at it (assuming Rodgers is still the quarterback), but my concern is the “hangover affect” from yesterday’s loss. LaFleur, Rodgers and the team were all devastated from the loss. Hopefully, they’re able to move on to the next and not let this have a hangover affect into 2021.

Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre was on SiriusXM radio earlier today and talked about Aaron Rodgers’ postgame presser:

“I wouldn’t pay much attention to it. I think frustration, disappointment, hurt, pain, all were in that soundbite. Look, there’s no way the Packers would do anything to jeopardize losing Aaron. Unless Aaron just chooses to retire, which I would be shocked. The guy’s playing better now than he’s ever played, and without him, you certainly wouldn’t have been even close to where you were yesterday. And I think the same will go for next year, and really the next few years, if he chooses to play. I wouldn’t pay much attention to what he said. I’ve been there. It’s so — I mean, it hurts. It’s painful. The last thing you want to do is think about next year, ’cause you just had a major disappointment, and that’s what you’re hearing in that soundbite.”

Favre went on to say:

“I mean, why wouldn’t you think they’d be in the same position next year? There’s no reason to think that, unless they don’t play up to their capabilities, and there’s no reason to think Aaron would not play the same way he played this year, ’cause he tends to do it year in, year out. And I think for the Packers, more so with them, you would be foolish to make any move other than bringing him back and going as long as he wants to go.”

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