GREEN BAY – There are infinite angles from which to view the Packers' maddening 13-10 playoff exit at the hands of the 49ers on Saturday night.
But the most frustrating one is probably this – for all the times the Aaron Rodgers-led Packers have been undone in the postseason by a subpar defense, that unit played probably its best playoff game in Rodgers' career.
Six times in Rodgers' previous nine playoff losses, the Packers surrendered 31 or more points, including the last three in a row in NFC title games in 2016, '19 and '20.
In this divisional defeat to San Francisco to end the '21 season, the Packers' defense allowed all of six points, and only three until the final play of the game, Robbie Gould's walk-off field goal.
The 49ers' other seven points were courtesy of a blocked punt, and the Packers' struggling special teams contributed mightily to the first three the defense gave up, too, allowing Deebo Samuel to return the second-half kickoff to midfield.
The Packers allowed just 212 yards, sacked Jimmy Garoppolo four times, picked him off once, and turned in a mammoth fourth-and-1 stop in the red zone to preserve a 10-3 lead with less than five minutes left.
How that wasn't enough is so hard to process, given how many times Green Bay's defense has required Rodgers to put up well over 30 points to win these games through the years.
Afterward, the disappointment in Rodgers' and Head Coach Matt LaFleur's voices, mostly regarding the offensive letdowns, was easy to hear.
"It's fresh right now," Rodgers said. "It's a little shocking for sure."
The defense got Jaire Alexander, Za'Darius Smith and Whitney Mercilus back from extended injury absences for this playoff run, and all were playing complementary roles in the standout effort Saturday night.
The excitement of their return, coupled with the way the game started with a Packers touchdown and multiple 49ers three-and-outs, had Lambeau Field at a fever pitch early.
It was all lined up for so much more.
"We truly had a Super Bowl-caliber team," Rodgers said. "In other years, it feels like sometimes you need things to go your way, but that didn't feel like this season.
"It felt like getting these guys back and the way we were playing on offense, and the way we could play on defense with those guys – and obviously they played excellent tonight – you just felt like this was a team that could really win it and didn't need a bunch of things to go their way.
"We just needed to make the plays in all three phases and then one of the phases played excellent, we didn't have a great night (on offense) and obviously special teams didn't either."
Whether or not this was Rodgers' last game in a Packers uniform will be known within a couple of months, but if it was, it's almost impossible to fathom this was how it played out.
The Packers had seven points on the board 5½ minutes into the game and added only three over the remaining 54½ minutes. Before this, Rodgers had never put up fewer than 20 points in a postseason game, no matter the weather conditions, health of the team or turnovers the Packers might've committed.
A playoff loss can happen to anyone at any time. Rodgers and the Packers know this as well as any Hall of Fame player or successful team.
But for this quarterback and this team to lose, like this, given its history, is as stunning as it is crushing.
"Ten points is obviously not enough," Rodgers said. "The defense, man, played outstanding. Special teams obviously hurt us, taking points off the board and giving them points.
"But offensively, scoring 10 points, never good enough."