|Peter Giunta, here with the Giants|
|Peter Giunta, here with the Giants|
|Classic players from each team: Art by Merv Corning|
By Eric Goska
The Packers added yet another dismal chapter to their ever-expanding dossier of postseason failure.
And like so many of the previous entries, this one will sting for years to come.
A strong start by Green Bay did nothing more than force the visiting 49ers to work harder. Trailing for what seemed like an eternity, San Francisco hung around until pulling the plug in the closing minutes to secure a 13-10 win in a divisional playoff game at Lambeau Field.
No autopsy needed. Abysmal special teams play ended Green Bay’s season.
For years, the question has become not whether the Packers will come up short, but how. And for years, the team has invented new ways to flame out.
And those are merely 49ers performances that helped short circuit Green Bay. There have been far too many others, some too painful to recall.
Credit the Packers with a quick getaway. They drove 69 yards in 10 plays, never facing third down as they went up 7-0 on A.J. Dillon’s 6-yard burst with five minutes, 35 seconds elapsed.
By the end of the first quarter, Green Bay had salted away 109 yards and seven first downs. San Francisco: minus-seven and zero.
Until Saturday night, the Green and Gold had been 10-0 at Lambeau Field in the playoffs when producing more yards and more first downs than their opponent in the opening 15 minutes. Might as well toss that stat in the dumper along with the season.
Never ahead by more than seven, Green Bay continued to lead deep into the fourth quarter. It remained in front despite Marcedes Lewis’ lost fumble and Josiah Deguara’s drop. It did so despite allowing the 49ers to start three drives from their 40 or beyond.
The Packers stayed out front despite quarterback Aaron Rodgers being sacked five times, 49ers defensive back Jimmie Ward blocking Mason Crosby’s first field goal attempt and Allen Lazard being the only Green Bay receiver other than Davante Adams to catch a pass.
The team held on because its defense battled. San Francisco didn’t record a first down or pass completion until six-and-a-half minutes remained in the second quarter. The 49ers had negative yardage on third down until midway through the third quarter.
Even after quarterback Jimmy Garappolo and tight end George Kittle hooked up for 24 yards – the 49ers’ longest offensive gain of the night – Green Bay held tight. Four plays later, linebackers Rashan Gary and De’Vondre Campbell dumped running back Elijah Mitchell for a loss on fourth-and one.
The Packers held the upper hand on the scoreboard until 4:41 remained in the fourth quarter. That’s when defensive lineman Jordan Willis blocked Corey Bojorquez’s punt and safety Talanoa Hufanga ran it in from six yards out to tie the game at 10 apiece.
A lead that had held for 49:44 went poof. And San Francisco, which had never been on top, finally got there on Robbie Gould’s 45-yard field goal as time expired.
Only once before had the Packers been out front longer in a playoff game that they lost. They led for 51:42 in a 28-22 loss to Seattle in which they blew a 16-point lead and failed to recover a late onside kick.
Just one more in a long line of blunders that cost Green Bay in the postseason. There have been so many, someone should write a book.
|Bobby Bryant (20), Drew Pearson (88) and Paul Krause (22)|
By Eric Goska
Take heed, Packer Nation!
If your Green and Gold warriors don’t come out swinging, they’ll likely be one and done.
No halftime adjustments, no last-minute rally will save your team. If Super Wild Card Weekend was any indication, a strong start is a must.
Beginning Monday, Jan. 10, the Green Bay Packers invited fans to participate in a Letters to Lambeau campaign. Those so moved could submit notes, drawings and letters to support and encourage the team.
Consider this my Cautionary Tale for Titletown. The hare, not the tortoise, will prevail come Saturday.
Six games kick-started the playoffs. Four hardly qualified as contests with the Bills, Chiefs, Buccaneers, and Rams rolling to victory.
The common thread in all six? The winning team held the upper hand offensively – often by a wide margin – at the close of the first quarter.
For those on the short end . . . well . . . see you next year.
In the opening 15 minutes of play, Buffalo outgained (150 to 63 yards) and out-first downed (9 to 3) New England. Kansas City (65-12; 3-1), Tampa Bay (137-17; 11-1) and Los Angeles (122-[-3]; 7-0) did the same to Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Arizona, respectively.
Collectively, the six winners amassed 666 first-quarter yards to 161 for the losers. Victors notched 44 first downs to nine for those whose seasons came to a close.
The message is clear: dawdlers get left in the dust.
In 2019 and 2020, Matt LaFleur’s Packers produced a number of solid starts. The team drummed up more first downs and more yards in the opening quarter than their opponents in 16 of 32 regular-season games, going 14-2 in those contests.
This season, the number of double-doubles dropped to four. Yes, Green Bay was unbeaten in those games, but in order to capture a third straight NFC North title, the team had to overcome a greater number of slow starts.
This is reflected in the Green and Gold’s lack of first-quarter scoring. Green Bay has sent 35 teams to the postseason (an NFL record), but this club in 2021 was only the fifth of those 35 to be outscored (51 to 84) in the opening period.
The message bears repeating: The Packers need to come ready to play.
The upcoming playoff game at Lambeau Field will be the 25th at that venue for Green Bay. After starting 11-0 in the postseason at 1265 Lombardi Avenue, the team has been an unimpressive 7-6 in their last 13 encounters.
Want to get an idea of who will win before the final gun? Keep an eye on that first quarter.
The visiting team has recorded a double-double on eight occasions, with five wins. Green Bay has come away with that honor 10 times and has yet to be defeated when doing so.
The Packers would do well to increase that to 11 Saturday night when they host the 49ers in the divisional round.