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Inbox: It's sad to see it end

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Sam from Melbourne, IA

I'm disappointed the season is over obviously, but I think I'm more disappointed the Packers didn't make more of a game out it than they did. Still what a year and I'm looking forward to seeing where this team goes from here.

That's a pretty good summation of my thoughts as well. I'm tired enough to end the column right there. Everybody good?

Joshua from Coon Rapids, MN

Dominated again. That hurt.

Yeah, that wasn't the plan. I really thought the Packers had closed the gap since Week 12, but I also think the 49ers found another gear in January. What they did these last two weeks is really, really impressive. The NFC was a meat grinder throughout the regular season, but only one of the playoff teams reached another level. The rest of them just kept grinding.

Bob from Bement, IL

Did any witnesses get the license of that truck?

Thanks for the chuckle.

Al from New Franken, WI

There are fans who are happy the Packers made it this far despite all the conversation against their success this year. And there are fans who are upset this team let the opportunity in front of them slip through their hands. Who is right?

Both. There isn't a wrong answer. The Packers had a huge opportunity and didn't really give themselves a chance, with loads of blame to go around. That's maddening and tough to swallow. They also had a wonderful year that was a blast, with plenty of credit to be shared. That beats a lot of alternatives. I'm not going to tell anyone how to feel. The big picture is a mixed bag of emotions, because I think this team is poised to be a contender for a few years here, but there's no assurance they'll get this chance again.

Dave from Lake Zurich, IL

Do you think the two fastest teams are in the Super Bowl?

Yes, and I said to Wes during the second half I wouldn't be surprised to see the 49ers and Chiefs combine for 100 points in the Super Bowl. The way San Francisco can run it and the way Kansas City can throw it, I'm not sure how much the defenses will have to say about the outcome.

Colt from Sarasota, FL

Well, ... that was embarrassing. The Packers did not look ready to go. I have not often seen a team get whooped twice by the same team in the same fashion in the same season in professional football. The score could have been much worse. San Francisco was the much better team again. Their lines, defense, special teams, coaching, and preparation looked better, and they protected the football. Rodgers isn't getting any younger. If he wanted to know the path to the Super Bowl, that ain't it, chief.

Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?

Doug from Union Grove, WI

We, as fans, myself included, became indignant when some said we were the fourth of the remaining four. I like to think of myself as an optimist, but we didn't do anything to prove them wrong.

Nope, but I couldn't care less. There are bad matchups and this is clearly one of them for the Packers right now, whether it's play style, personnel, coaching, whatever. This league can be like that.

Glenn from Hardscrabble, IN

Just like when I got turned down 20 times by the same girl in high school, it hurts but I gotta move on today.

It's difficult to get this close three times in six years and not get over the hump. It's not a good feeling. This is the second time in a row, though, where there's no arguing who the better team was.

Jim from Tempe, AZ

Hello II, if you can't stop the run, it won't be fun. The stop on third-and-1 on the opening drive certainly didn't set the tone we were hoping for.

When an apparently simple running play on third-and-8 goes for a 36-yard touchdown, that's an uh-oh moment. Draw up all the X's and O's you want, but run defense is about getting off blocks and tackling. The Packers didn't do either, and that's why Garoppolo only threw eight passes. That was the easiest game Kyle Shanahan will ever call.

Guilherme from Lins, Brazil

We need to get one of those at home.

Yup, but it was a tough year to get that in the NFC. 13-3 didn't even get New Orleans a bye.

Larry from Bakersville, NC

Mike, I'm fresh out of questions, just a few thoughts. As bitterly disappointed as I am with the Packers' performance last night, what a season! A rookie coach, rookie players in key positions, new offense, and all the Pack did was go from 6-9-1 to 14-4, sweep and win the North, No. 2 seed in the playoffs, and made the NFCCG. Would any of us have truly believed the team would accomplish even one of these feats before the season began? Just a few players needed to get over the "fabled hump"!

No one articulates the big picture better than Aaron Rodgers, both in good and tough moments. The confidence he expressed in the team's leadership at all levels, which I wrote about in my postgame editorial, is what to take into the offseason.

Matt from Dyersville, IA

If you could use one word to sum up the Packers' 2019 season, what would it be?

Entertaining.

Julian from Gastonia, NC

Clearly the 49ers demonstrated that they are a much better team than the Packers. Keep in mind though that the 49ers' roster is filled with very high first-round and second-round draft picks by losing so many games year after year. That's no guarantee of eventually building a championship roster but for the 49ers at least it appears to have worked out that way. It should be an interesting offseason for Green Bay. Will they build a stronger roster or take a step back?

The 49ers are an interesting case. They went from three straight NFC title games (and one Super Bowl appearance), to out of the playoffs for five straight years, to back in the Super Bowl. I don't know what to make of it but it's not a typical trajectory. As for the Packers, if Gutekunst has proven anything in his two years as GM, it's that he identifies weaknesses and addresses them, exploring all avenues in that process. He'll find what this team needs. Everyone is already asking what that is and I'll share my thoughts there in due time.

Eric from Salinas, CA

D-train D-railed.

Another locomotive entered the picture.

Rob from Muskego, WI

I was expecting if we were to be torn apart by anything it'd be the tight end, not the run. What happened to the run defense?

I don't know, and I don't think the Packers knew or they would have fixed it.

Dan from Grand Rapids, MI

When something bad happens you have three options. You can let it define you, break you, or strengthen you. The Chiefs turned it around a year later, and I hope we can learn from that and follow suit. Thanks for the excellent year, Mike and Wes!

Congratulations to the Chiefs. First Super Bowl in 50 years, and after a decade and a half, Andy Reid gets another shot at it. There's a lot to like about their story.

Howard from Appleton, WI

Hi Mike, in response to Bob from New Britain, CT, you mentioned two circumstances when the officials should whistle a play dead as a defender crosses the neutral zone: (1) "unabated to the quarterback," or (2) if contact is made with an offensive player. I thought there was a third one – if an O-lineman moves in reaction to the defender (even if not actually hit by him) and the ball still has not been snapped. Am I wrong about that?

No, you're absolutely correct. Oversight on my part.

Al from Spearfish, SD

Since Spoff took a baseball question on Friday, here's another. Shouldn't the players be disciplined in some way as well?

I think so, but if the investigation isn't able to determine definitively who was involved and who wasn't, I can understand the reluctance to hand out what could appear to be arbitrary discipline.

Levi's Stadium hosted the NFC Championship Game between the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020.

Steve from Plainfield, WI

So do we get the 29th or 30th pick in the draft?

The Packers will pick 30th because their regular-season record was better than Tennessee's.

Mackenzie from Fort Worth, TX

We get a shot at them next year, right?

Yes, out west again. As a couple of readers have mentioned, if the 49ers win the Super Bowl, and the league wants the champ to kick off the season again, it's not out of the question the Packers will be out there in Week 1.

Annie from Cincinnati, OH

I do have one question – why do we play the 49ers in California again next year? Isn't it their turn to come to Lambeau since we played there this regular season? I strongly dislike going to the West Coast.

It certainly wasn't the Packers' friend this season. It's how the rotation works with what I call the "placeholder" games, in two-year cycles. In 2019 and 2020, the NFC West was/is hosting the North teams that finished in the same place in the standings the previous year. The Packers and 49ers both placed third last year, and this year's game was out there. Now they both finished first, and it's back out there again in 2020. The Vikings will play at Seattle a second straight year, too, and the Bears will play at LA again as well. After the two divisions play one another top to bottom in 2021 (when the Packers will travel to San Francisco yet again, because the Niners played at Lambeau in 2018 when the full divisions were matched up), then the NFC North will host the West in the placeholder games in 2022-23.

Travis from Bremerton, WA

Great season, guys. I was really excited to see Jace Sternberger catch a TD pass. I've been waiting all season to see him in action. Hope he gets a lot more in Year 2!

I anticipate him getting plenty of opportunities. He's a young player whose improvement will mean a lot to the offense in 2020.

Braden from Aurora, CO

Is the future bright or did we miss an opportunity with a healthy team?

Again, both. There's reason to feel good about where this team is headed, but health-wise you couldn't ask for a better run. Caught some breaks as far as the health of certain opponents, too. Years like that are rare. What I will say from a health perspective is Gutekunst has built each of his two rosters as GM with more experience in backup positions, which helps prevent health hardships from becoming too disruptive. I expect he'll continue that approach as best he can, cap-wise.

JT from Whitewater, WI

This season surpassed my expectations after the team won its seventh game. Everything after that was frosting on the cake. That said, next year comes with higher expectations. I'm looking forward to seeing how Gute addresses the run defense, an aging right tackle, a complementary receiver to 17, and the next tight ends who can block and stretch the middle of the field, just to name a few. I mean, how hard can it be, right?

There's a lot of work to do, and we have many months to discuss that. I do think the expectations issue will be the biggest difference. The challenge for the players will be to stay as close together and as loose when there are more external pressures starting in Week 1.

John from New York, NY

II, as much as I try to look on the bright side of this season with a 14-4 record all the way to NFC Championship, I still feel sad it has come to an end. I do believe we are close and a few pieces away from bringing Lombardi home in the next couple of years. Rodgers deserves one more ring. Thanks for all your insight and entertainment you provided us this season. We will be back!

I think so, too, but yeah, this was a really fun team to cover and it's sad to see it end. So many close games and dramatic moments that galvanized the team and kept it believing. They needed to summon their best game on Sunday, but they never really did all season long. That's what makes it so remarkable to me they got as far as they did.

Bradley from Charlotte, NC

Disappointed obviously, but this season was certainly a ride as it alternated between frustrating and incredible. What will you remember most from this season 10 years from now?

All the clutch plays made late in games on both sides of the ball. That's what defined this team and this season.

Lucas from Morgantown, WV

As much as that loss broke my heart, the sense of hope is undeniable and truly unfathomable. Aaron is not quitting on this team and neither should we. The leadership is in place. Mark this day. We won't play another half of football like that for a long time. Without question, there is always hope. Thank you for one hell of a season, guys.

Back at you. Happy Monday.

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