GREEN BAY – The Packers' season came to a stunning and disappointing end on Saturday night as the 49ers won the NFC Divisional playoff, 13-10, on a walk-off field goal at Lambeau Field.
Here are five takeaways from the postseason defeat.
1. The postgame emotions contained equal parts shock, disappointment and frustration.
For the second straight year, the Packers earned the No. 1 seed and first-round bye in the NFC only to come up short of the Super Bowl. To not even win one playoff game this time was unthinkable given the season they'd put together.
"This is a tough pill to swallow for all of us right now," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said. "That's a really disappointed locker room. I hurt for them."
There was plenty of belief the Packers were good enough to go all the way, maybe more belief than either of the past two years when they reached the NFC title game. Yet they didn't even get as close as they'd been in both 2019 and 2020.
"A little numb, for sure," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. "Didn't think it was going to end like this."
2. Of the numerous letdowns throughout the game, the ones on special teams stood out the most.
The Packers' third phase had been troubling all year and badly damaged Green Bay's chances to win.
A blocked field goal at the end of the first half prevented the Packers from taking a 10-0 lead. A 45-yard kickoff return by San Francisco's Deebo Samuel to midfield to open the second half set up the 49ers' first points of the game, a field goal.
Most crucially, a blocked punt with the Packers backed up near their goal line provided the 49ers with their only touchdown of the game, tying the score at 10 with 4:41 left in the fourth quarter. Jordan Willis deflected Corey Bojorquez's punt straight up into the air, and Talanoa Hufanga scooped it up at the 6-yard line for the easy score.
"You could argue that was the difference in the game," LaFleur said. "But I think it was more than just that play."
Finally, the Packers had only 10 players on the field for Robbie Gould's 45-yard field goal on the final snap.
"We would just like to play even … kinda have a wash in the special teams," Rodgers said. "That'd be good, but in crucial, critical situations, we obviously had some issues."
3. The offense shared plenty of blame, too.
Afterward, LaFleur and Rodgers kept directing most of their disappointment toward the offensive performance.
After starting the game with a 10-play, 69-yard TD drive capped by running back AJ Dillon's 6-yard run, a promising second drive ended with a fumble by tight end Marcedes Lewis in San Francisco territory.
Rodgers called that moment "a little bit of a turning point," and it was.
From there, the Packers managed just one first down on their next three drives, failed to capitalize (due to the blocked field goal) on a 75-yard catch and run by running back Aaron Jones on an extended play just before halftime, and started the second half with another three-and-out.
Then the one good drive in the second half was stalled by a false start in the red zone, forcing the Packers to settle for a field goal, and the last two possessions in the fourth quarter were three-and-outs.
LaFleur blamed himself for not having the answers to jump-start the offense.
"I think it's more to do with I didn't put our guys in position to make enough plays," he said. "I take that very personally."
LaFleur said the Packers got too "pass-heavy," and the 49ers' pass rush got after Rodgers, sacking him five times. He also felt the offense "pressed a little bit too much" down the stretch.
Meanwhile Rodgers lamented various decisions and throws, particularly on the last drive when he threw deep into double-coverage for Davante Adams instead of hitting Allen Lazard on an in route, believing he was open.
"I definitely take my fair share of blame tonight," said Rodgers after going 20-of-29 for 225 yards, but without a TD pass.
Jones finished with 170 yards from scrimmage (41 rushing, 129 receiving on nine catches) and Adams had nine receptions for 90 yards. But the rest of the team accounted for all of 32 yards, and the five sacks lost 29.
4. The defense was carrying the night but couldn't win all by itself.
A remarkable effort by the defense included four straight three-and-outs to start the game and an interception by safety Adrian Amos near the goal line late in the first half.
The 49ers moved the ball less than 40 yards for their first points, the field goal to open the third quarter, and the Packers stuffed running back Elijah Mitchell on a huge fourth-and-1 at the Green Bay 19-yard line with 6:10 left and the Packers up 10-3.
But it all went for naught, and the 49ers drove 44 yards in nine plays to kill the final 3:20 and set up the winning points, leaving triumphant despite just 212 yards of total offense and Jimmy Garoppolo's 57.1 passer rating (11-of-19, 131 yards, one INT). The Packers also sacked Garoppolo four times, with Rashan Gary getting two of them.
"We had plenty of opportunities to kind of put that game away," LaFleur said. "I thought our defense battled their ass off; I thought they competed at the highest level. We had a ton of special-teams miscues.
"It's extremely disappointing. I don't know. I don't have a lot more than that to say."
Lambeau Field hosted an NFC Divisional playoff game between the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers on January 22, 2022.
5. Rodgers will be contemplating his future in the coming weeks.
The Packers' likely four-time MVP quarterback said he will have conversations soon with people in the organization, including GM Brian Gutekunst, and then take some time to figure out his future – whether he wants to continue playing, and whether that will be in Green Bay.
The Packers have now come up short in nine postseason appearances since Rodgers led the team to a Super Bowl title 11 years ago. He called it a "fair question" whether another Super Bowl is possible for him here given all the contractual/salary cap challenges and difficult decisions forthcoming after the Packers did everything they could to keep last year's team together for one more shot.
"I don't want to be part of a rebuild if I'm going to keep playing," Rodgers said.
"It'll be interesting to see what things look like moving forward. But I'm thankful for this time, this team. Super disappointed, bummed out, frustrated with how I played tonight, frustrated with how it ended, but still deeply grateful for this season and these guys."