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Inbox: It's the hardest day of the season

This one’s gonna hurt for a while but hopefully not forever

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LB Ty Summers and WR Malik Taylor

Dean from Leavenworth, IN

After a night of restless sleep

I find myself

Speechless

You're not the only one, brother.

Chad from Lapush, WA

I bet the golden ticket would've made the chocolate taste horrible anyway. On the bright side, I can enjoy the Super Bowl one more year instead of being the anxious mess I would be with the Pack in it so I have that going for me. Thanks for the great season II and team! On to the draft! Go Pack Go!

I did appreciate how many Wonka analogies I saw in Monday's submissions. That was my silver lining on this otherwise depressing Tuesday morning.

Michael from Berrien Springs, MI

After scrapping 10 or 11 drafts of trying to write something for the II, with all the thoughts and feelings, negatives and positives, should haves and could haves...I realize to write anything is just too darn hard. I don't envy but I do admire what you guys must and are able to do for this job...and for us. Thank you.

It's the hardest day of the season. To this day, I haven't re-watched any of the four NFC Championship games I've covered. I barely remember anything about the 2016 game in Atlanta and wish I could forget Seattle. This one probably hurt the most, though, because this team had such high expectations. And the higher the expectations, the more disappointing it is when you come up short of the goal. At the same time, that's what makes sports special and winning the Lombardi Trophy such a monumental achievement. This one's gonna hurt for a while but hopefully not forever.

Vinny from Arlington, VA

I fear the narrative will be that Aaron Rodgers can't win the big games as they will point to his 1-4 record in NFC Championship games. And I think this is grossly unfair. Green Bay's loss was not due to Rodgers. Rodgers doesn't block, catch, provide pass coverage, or generate pressures, yet the media will likely unduly point to his record in these games. There were a number of missed opportunities and breakdowns that contributed to the loss beyond Rodgers' play on the field.

You win as a team. And you lose as a team. On Sunday, the Packers lost as a team. The 2020 squad worked hard for this opportunity – to win 13 regular-season games, to earn a bye, to play an NFC Championship Game at Lambeau Field. They got everything they wanted…aside from the victory that would've taken the Packers back to the Super Bowl. Again today hurts…a lot…but I hope the men in that locker room can look back and appreciate what they accomplished.

Scott from De Pere, WI

Aaron Jones has had some huge plays right out of halftime, except this time the huge play went against him. While the Packers weren't running the ball much, Jones does play a big role in the passing game and that was lost with his injury. How do you feel his absence affected the Packers?

Big time. Jones is a Pro Bowl running back who has been one of the team's top offensive playmakers all season. But this game is bigger than one player. I thought Jamaal Williams and AJ Dillon each had some nice plays. The Packers got 62 yards on 16 carries. They didn't break a big one but 4.2-yards per run isn't bad, either. I just don't think they ran it enough in the second half and you could hear that regret in Matt LaFleur's voice after the game.

Mike from Channahon, IL

Other than Troy Aikman during the telecast, I haven't seen or heard anyone mention that if they go for it at the end instead of kicking the field goal, they would have been defending from the 8-yard line (unless there's an end-zone INT). It would have cost a small amount of time and seems something that would have tilted the decision toward going for it. Did you hear that from anyone?

I haven't reflected back on that sequence as much as I did the two-point try in the third quarter. To your point, the Packers still would've needed to drive, score and then convert the two-point attempt – after getting another defensive stop. Green Bay was in a tough spot whichever way you slice it on that fourth-and-goal from the TB 8.

Craig from Cortland, NY

Hey, Wes. What was your take on going for two down 28-23? In my mind, that failed attempt is where the late fourth-quarter decisions originated. A score of 28-24 is part of the natural scoring rhythm of a game, while a five-point difference is not. The analytics crowd may disagree, and I'm no Dr. Strange, but I envision far fewer favorable outcomes down five instead of four. Kick the XP. TB FG makes it a seven-point game. Maybe ML goes for it on fourth down, not needing two make-or-break plays then and there.

I'm not an analytics guy. I don't know everything that goes into those decisions in 2020-21. But there used to be a maxim about not going for two until there's less than eight minutes left in regulation. I understand the law of averages in play with these decisions, but mathematics doesn't account for situational football and the human element of the game.

View some of the best photos from the Packers-Buccaneers NFC Championship Game at Lambeau Field on Jan. 24, 2021.

Ryan from Noblesville, IN

I haven't watched it yet but it has been said that AR's postgame press conference had a "message to Packers brass." Did you gather that, and if so, what did you take from it?

Aaron Rodgers is pretty darn good at expressing his thoughts and feelings, and doesn't need me translating for him. What was my takeaway? My takeaway was Rodgers is very disappointed in the outcome and needs some time to decompress after playing football in a bubble for six straight months. Whenever he's ready to expand on his thoughts, I'm sure there will be no shortage of microphones waiting to record that interview.

Malcolm from Fennimore, WI

Well, Rodgers will end up the NFL MVP this weekend. So at least we have that going for us, which is nice.

And deservedly so. He was the league's best, and most valuable, player in 2020.

Levi from Yankton, SD

When David Bakhtiari went down my optimism for the playoff run took a hit. I think we were able to manage through the Rams game because Aaron Donald plays on the interior and wasn't 100%. His loss was too much to overcome in this one with the outside pressure Rodgers was under. Outside of Rodgers, would you say that Bakhtiari is the hardest injury for this team to overcome?

I'd say that's accurate. Give a lot of credit to Billy Turner for what he did in six spot starts, but Bakhtiari is the highest-paid left tackle in NFL history for a reason – because he's the best at what he does. That's why a pit filled in my stomach after news surfaced that he tore his ACL last month.

Tom from Eagan, MN

Why didn't the coaches bench Kevin King and give Tramon Williams an opportunity after his first-half mistakes, especially if he had back issues and maybe shouldn't have even been active?

Because it's a familiarity business and Tramon had been on the team since Thursday.

Mark from Mount Horeb, WI

I've been a fan since the Lombardi days, so I am painfully aware of everything that has to come together for a championship Packers team. We wait, year after year, for Rodgers to be healthy, for him to have the right weapons, the right coaching, the right opponent and venue. All of that came together this season for the first time in a decade, and now it's over. When will we ever see it again? Another decade? Ever?

That's the great unknown, the beautiful mystery. It's the suspense of a team, and its fan base, waiting for all the stars to align for a shot at immortality.

Brad from Beresford, SD

This was a home game that we wanted so bad to happen. I think showing last year's meltdown at the hands of the 49ers as motivation maybe wasn't such a good idea. Maybe should have showed the Titans game…Your thoughts? Also, Brady didn't win that game as the media will project. The players around him all came to play. Kudos to Tampa, as they seem more active and wanted it more! Too many mental mistakes for the second biggest game of the year.

Quarterbacks and coaches always get too much credit and too much blame for the outcome of games. I think you're seeing a fair share of both in this case. The Packers needed to play mistake-free football to win and it didn't happen. And still there were several moments on Sunday where Green Bay could have pulled back into this thing and won it. Tampa executed when it needed to and that was that.

Bill from Raleigh, NC

Hi II, Brady's last interception seemed to show me what this game was about and why we didn't win. I think Mike said, "We need to get him off his spot." He threw a lot of good passes from his spot and his receivers didn't always help him, but our DL did not win their battles enough time to force him to move. He makes quick progressions and his arm is still good enough, but we couldn't get enough push often enough.

I won't argue with that, but the game really seemed to come down to Tampa scoring 14 points off two turnovers and Green Bay only getting six off three.

Scott from Hayward, WI

I have to say I am disappointed at our loss on Sunday, but I am more disappointed at how quickly some people (I refuse to call them fans) turn on certain players or coaches. The insulting remarks are so over the top. All because they are sick of losing so many NFC Championships. Do they stop and understand how many organizations and fan bases would love to have our problem? 14-4 season. The team deserves more loyalty than that. Thanks for the fun season Packers!

Everyone handles adversity and setbacks differently, some better than others. It is what it is. I've covered four NFC Championship Game losses in seven years. Trust me, I've seen and heard it all before.

Fletcher from Dundee, MI

Not so much a question as a thought for the future. If AR wants to win another SB in GB, it has become crystal clear that he is going to have to take a sizable pay cut to allow the Packers enough money to keep their best players and sign the talent in FA that he needs around him to finish the deal. It's not that he doesn't deserve every penny of what he makes, the problem is it limits the talent options, and reduces the chances of him ever winning a second SB.

Since it's the offseason, I might as well remind everyone of my ground rules this time of year – we're not firing anybody or restructuring contracts in this column. If that's the content you're looking for, Reddit is a Google search away. I'm sure someone out in cyberspace is willing to humor you.

Joe from Milwaukee, WI

I'd rather have a heartbreak in January than a meaningless December. Thanks for all you two have done. What was your favorite part of this uncanny season?

It happened Friday night. Sitting alone in the stadium bowl, just looking around and appreciating everything that went into making this season possible. I missed traveling to road games and interacting with the players in the locker room. But I still can't believe we covered this entire NFL season on a laptop and iPhone.

Steve from Sarasota, FL

Once again our coverage teams gave up far too many yards on kick returns. I don't understand why they still didn't have it together at this point of the season. Is it players? Scheme? Technique? Lack of attention? Or what?

I don't know, Steve. I'm not a special-teams guru.

Jeff from Athens, WI

Not to beat a dead horse on officiating here but it is pretty sad when there is so much inconsistency in the officiating in the NFL. Not just within one game, but the differences in what was or was not called Sunday was glaringly noticeable within the Packers-Bucs game and between that game and the AFC game. The frustration on that inconsistency has to be looked at by the league and fixed. It really sours my stomach and makes me not want to watch the Super Bowl at all – not even for the ads.

I have a lot of thoughts on how Clete Blakeman's crew officiated this game. I've written and re-written my thoughts and criticisms several times in penning today's column, but I think it's better if I just move on to the next question.

Richard from Canton, GA

Corey Linsley, Aaron Jones, Marcedes Lewis, Jamaal Williams, Kevin King, Will Redmond, Tyler Ervin, Damon Harrison, Montravius Adams, Jared Veldheer, Lane Taylor, Billy Winn and Tavon Austin. Has there ever been such a difficult set of decisions for your pending UFAs in the salary-cap era? That's not even counting the ones we signed during the season.

Probably not, but the Packers aren't the only team with difficult decisions to make this offseason because of this Godforsaken virus.

Matthew from Kansas City, KS

What happens with Devin Funchess (and other players that opted out this season) going into the 2021 season? Does his contract get pushed back a year making him still a Packer, giving them him, Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Allen Lazard (assuming he is re-signed)?

Funchess' contract tolled. So he's currently signed for 2021.

Steven from Summerville, SC

Aaron Rodgers mentioned how meaningful it was to have veteran guys like Marcedes Lewis there to back him up and help when he spoke in a leadership role to his teammates. Assuming this was Marcedes' last season with Green Bay, is there someone else already on the team that Rodgers can count on in similar situations?

I would never assume that. With the way Lewis played on Sunday (did you see him pancake JPP?) and the role he fits in this offense, I see no reason why he can't keep going. That being said, there are plenty of other leaders who have found their voice over the past two years – Davante Adams, David Bakhtiari, Allen Lazard and even Elgton Jenkins this year.

Max from Ingolstadt, Germany

Twenty-four hours later and this still feels like a punch in the guts. I can't shake the picture of Rodgers during that postgame presser. He looked so broken, like he'd aged 10 years during that game. Today, I looked at all the expiring contracts and our cap situation and it's really hard to imagine that we'll be back here next year or the one after. Can you please tell me something that gives me hope?

Packers football finds a way. This July, 90 players wearing green-and-gold uniforms will step back on Nitschke Field in hope of winning another Super Bowl. Tough decisions will have to be made and new stars will emerge. With any luck, the Packers will find the right combination of players, coaches and personnel to bring that elusive championship home.

Sean from Springfield, OR

There are many ways this loss can hurt. For me, I'm sad the season is over because Sunday football on TV was the one thing over the past year that felt a little bit normal.

Gamedays were the only time life felt normal in 2020. That's probably another reason this one hurt a little more. Because now that's over and there's six months of pontificating standing between me and the next meaningful practice.

Michael from Chanhassen, MN

Wes/Mike, going into this game my expectations were enormous. Coming out of this game my hurt was enormous. Watching and reading what the coaches and players had to say and felt, my respect and gratitude towards them are enormous. Thank you so much for a great season of II fellas. Life goes on.

So it does, and another offseason of opportunity awaits.

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