The Green Bay Packers season ended as they lost to the San Francisco 49ers 13-10 at Lambeau Field. The 49ers kicked a field goal on the final play of regulation to win the game and eliminate the Packers from the playoffs.
The Packers defense held San Francisco to just 212 total net yards for the game and Aaron Jones gained 170 total yards in the game including 129 as a receiver but it wasn’t enough in the end.
Here is a look at 10 things we learned from the Packers 13-10 loss to the 49ers:
- Special Teams Hurt the Packers Again
Special teams have been a problem all season and it ended up ending the Packers season this year. The biggest play was obviously the blocked punt in the fourth quarter that tied the game with 4:41 left in regulation. Corey Bojorquez couldn’t get the ball away on time and it was picked up by Talanoa Hufanga and returned six yards for the tying score.
That wasn’t the only issue on special teams in this game. Mason Crosby had a field goal blocked on the final play of the first half that would have put the Packers up 10-0 which would have been a tough lead to overcome in these weather conditions.
Green Bay’s kick coverage teams also cost the team valuable field position in this game. Deebo Samuel had a return of 45 yards and the 49ers averaged 30.3 yards on their three kick returns. In a low-scoring game on a freezing field, those yards were valuable.
The Packers also only had 10 men on the field for the game-winning field goal which is a bad mistake by the coaching staff. Something like that shouldn’t happen in the 18th meaningful game of the season.
Packers special teams were ranked last in the league during the regular season and cost the team dearly in this playoff loss. It is tough to imagine special teams coordinator Maurice Drayton returning in 2022.
- The Offensive Line Didn’t Get the Job Done
While David Bakhtiari played in the first half of the season finale in Detroit, he was not able to go against the 49ers. So, Matt LaFleur and the coaching staff had choices to make as to who should start along the offensive line against a 49ers team that features a strong front seven.
Unfortunately, LaFleur didn’t learn from what happened last year against Tampa Bay when the Pack started Billy Turner at left tackle and Rick Wagner at right tackle. Turner is a very good right tackle but he struggled to protect Rodgers as effectively on the left side last year against the formidable Tampa Bay pass rush.
Well, with Bakhtiari unavailable, LaFleur again turned to Turner at left tackle and went with Dennis Kelly at right tackle. Again, that just didn’t work and the 49ers sacked Aaron Rodgers five times and recorded six quarterback hits. The pass rush slowed down Green Bay’s passing attack.
The Packers had been effective for half the season with Yosh Nijman at left tackle while Turner is stronger on the right side than on the left. LaFleur took a gamble by moving Turner to the left side and it didn’t pay off.
- The Packers Pass Rush Was Strong
The Packers defense got Za’Darius Smith and Whitney Mercilus back and as expected, they did a very good job of getting pressure on Jimmy Garoppolo, holding him to 131 total passing yards and a net of just 106 yards.
The Packers had four sacks and hit Garoppolo seven times. Rashan Gary was outstanding with two sacks, three quarterback hits and three tackles for loss. Za’Darius Smith managed a sack early in the game in his first action since Week 1 against New Orleans.
The combination of the Green Bay pass rush and the weather helped slow down the 49ers pass offense and San Francisco didn’t score an offensive touchdown all game.
- The Packers Run Defense Was Effective
The Packers run defense has been inconsistent all season but they got the job done against San Francisco. The 49ers finished the game with 106 rushing yards on 29 carries. That’s a 3.7-yard average. Their longest run of the game was just 13 yards and that was by fullback Kyle Juszczyk.
The Packers had good pursuit for most of the game and were able to prevent the 49ers from moving the ball consistently on the ground.
- The Packers Missed A.J. Dillon
The Packers lost running back A.J. Dillon late in the first half to an injury and he was not able to return. The freezing temperatures and field conditions made this ideal weather for the Packers to utilize Dillon’s tough inside running. Dillon finished the game with seven runs for 25 yards and scored the Packers only touchdown of the game.
While Jones had his moments as a runner, including a 14-yard run that was the longest running play of the game by either team, the Packers missed Dillon’s ability to run between the tackles and to run over people.
The offensive line also did not do a great job of opening holes for the running game and the Packers gained only 67 yards on the ground in 20 carries for the entire game.
- The Packers Successfully Contained Deebo Samuel
Samuel is the 49ers top offensive weapon. The Packers defense did a good job of containing him as both a receiver and a runner. Samuel finished with three catches for 44 yards and a long catch of 18 yards on the game.
He ran the ball 10 times for 39 yards but his long run for the day was nine yards.
A weapon like Samuel is usually going to cause some damage, but the Green Bay defense was there and didn’t let Samuel beat them.
- Aaron Rodgers Struggled in the Cold
Yes, the conditions were brutal but Rodgers’ timing was off as well. Rodgers finished the game 20-of-29 for 225 yards. He did not throw a touchdown or an interception.
Those numbers aren’t terrible given the weather conditions, but Rodgers just wasn’t as sharp as he normally is.
He missed several throws that he normally completes and even his timing with Davante Adams, which is usually outstanding, wasn’t clicking on this cold January night.
Rodgers threw passes that were behind Adams, or to the wrong shoulder. He also failed to lead his receivers well which limited their ability to gain yards after the catch.
The cold weather and the 49ers defense helped slow down the Green Bay passing attack and the Packers were only able to score on touchdown all game.
- The Offense Stalled After the Opening Drive
Packers fans couldn’t have asked for more from their team’s first drive of the game. The Packers took the opening kickoff and marched 69 yards on 10 plays to take an early 7-0 lead. The offense mixed things up, running five times and throwing five passes.
After that, the offense sputtered for the rest of the first half, losing a fumble by Marcedes Lewis on their second drive followed by two three-and-outs and then another punt after picking up one first down.
Adrian Amos’ interception gave the Pack one last chance to score before the half and they managed to move from their own four to the San Francisco 21 but Crosby’s blocked field goal ended that threat.
In the second half, the Packers offense was stalled and didn’t manage even one first down on three of their four drives while kicking a field goal on the remaining one.
This was a disappointing performance by the Packers offense.
- The Packers Secondary Receivers Were Non-Factors
Davante Adams caught nine passes for 90 yards while running back Aaron Jones gained 129 yards on nine catches including a 75-yard catch that set up the blocked field goal on the final drive of the first half.
But the Packers missed Marquez Valdes-Scantling and his ability to stretch the field. The other wide receivers were non-factors in this game. Allen Lazard had one catch for six yards while Randall Cobb was targeted only once and did not make a catch.
The pass rush and bad weather didn’t help, but the Packers needed more from their receivers and LaFleur’s failure to throw more shorter passes and to scheme them open on those kinds of plays hurt the offense’s ability to move the football consistently.
- The Offseason Begins
Before this season started, the Packers were referring to this year as “The Last Dance.” While we don’t know what the future holds for this team, we do know there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding lots of key players and some salary cap issues to deal with.
Rodgers indicated after the game he would make a decision about his future “soon.” Adams is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent and players like Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith may be too expensive for the Packers to keep unless they are able to rework their contracts. MVS and Robert Tonyan are also unrestricted free agents.
It will be an interesting offseason in Green Bay with a lot of unknowns but how GM Brian Gutekunst and his staff resolve these issues will go a long way towards determining if the Packers can contend again in 2022.
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