Hello Packer Nation,
While we have a whole month before the 2021 league year begins, it is always good look back at the Packers failures in the playoff and try to dissect the issues that would cause them to be in 4 NFC Championships since 2014, and not win a single one.
1. 2014 @ Seattle L 22-28 OT
2. 2016 @ Atlanta L 21-44
3. 2019 @ San Francisco L 20-37
4. 2020 Tampa Bay L 26-31
1. Lets go back and look at the 2014 loss in Seattle, a game Packers were winning for three quarters until the team imploded in the 4th quarter. This was probably the most shocking loss of them all, considering the Packers forced Seattle's offense into 5 turnovers and sacked Russell Wilson 5 times.
Lets first look at how the Packers took advantage of 5 Seattle turnovers:
Interception #1: In Seattle's territory. Packers drove down to the Seattle 1 yard line - settled for field goal.
Fumble in Seattle's territory and Packers recover with great field position. Packers drove 22 yards on 6 plays - settled for field goal.
Interception #2: In Seattle's territory, Packers turned the ball over three plays later on Rodgers INT.
Interception #3: Packers intercepted Wilson in the end zone resulting in a touchback. 4 plays later, Packers punted.
Interception #4: Morgan Burnett intercepted Wilson near midfield and went down on his own, instead of returning it for as much as he could get. 3 plays later near midfield, Packers punt the ball back to Seattle. 7 Plays later, Seattle scores TD and GB only leads 19-14.
Then with 2:09 left in game and Seattle down 19-14, a Seattle onside kick produced the unthinkable as Brandon Bostick abandoned his responsibility to block and allow Jordy Nelson to catch the ball. Instead, Bostick went up and tried to catch the ball in the air and fumbled the attempt. Seattle recovered and went down the field with ease for another TD and a 22-19 lead. The Packers offense made short work and kicked a field goal to send the game into overtime. The Packers offense never got the ball back.
To throw salt into the wound, the Packers offense was 1-3 when inside the red zone. Packers were also 3-14 on third down. Offensive execution was not very good this game. Rodgers was 19-34 for 178 yards and threw for 1 TD but also threw 2 INT's. 6 points off five turnovers (most of them in Seattle's territory) just won't cut it.
What lead to this defeat? The Packers offense really executed poorly and settled for field goals. Rodgers was only sacked 1 time. They could not extend drives and faltered on third down. The defense, in the second half, was gashed by Wilson and Marshawn Lynch. Seattle's offense converted 8-16 on third down with the majority of their success in the second half. And of course, special teams gave up a fake field goal for a touchdown and muffed an onside kick that lead to another touchdown. Collectively, this was a team loss as all three facets played a role. I will say as good as Seattle's defense was, the Packers didn't get dominated in the trenches offensively, but the defensive front got ripped apart in the fourth quarter.
2. Let's go back and look at the blowout in Atlanta in 2016. From the very start, Green Bay didn't have a chance in this one. Atlanta's first offensive drive went 13 plays for 80 yards and ended in a touchdown. On Green Bay's first offensive series after Atlanta, the Packers missed a 41 yard field goal. On the Packers second offensive series, Aaron Ripkowski fumbled the ball as the offense was driving for their first score. 9 plays and 80 yards later, Atlanta scored another TD and went up 17-0. Two series later, Rodgers threw an interception and Atlanta went down the field in 9 plays to score another TD and a 24-0 Atlanta lead going into half time.
The Packers offense finally woke up in the second half but it was too little too late.
What lead to this defeat? The Packers could not find any offensive rhythm and had two turnovers in the first half that lead to 14 points for Atlanta. Atlanta's offense was on fire all game racking up close to 500 yards of total offense and converting 10-13 third down attempts. Atlanta's Matt Ryan shredded a depleted Packer secondary for 392 passing yards and 4 TD's. Julio Jones, who took advantage of Packer CB LaDarius Gunter, tallied 180 yards of receiving and 2 TD's. Atlanta averaged 10.3 yards per pass attempt. The Packers offense abandoned the run and attempted to put the game on Rodger's shoulders. The Packers defense was no match for the firepower Atlanta brought.
I will say this game shaped how the Packers have built their team from 2017 to today. Secondary and outside pass rush ARE their priority. From Jaire Alexander to Darnell Savage in the first round to Josh Jackson, Kevin King and Josh Jones drafted in the 2nd, the Packers have not invested a third round pick or higher on DL/ILB since 2016 (DL Kenny Clark 1st). DL Montravius Adams (3rd), DL Kingsley Keke (5th), DL James Looney (7th) ILB Oren Burks (3rd), ILB Kamal Martin (5th) all were drafted 3rd round or later and have been their only investments in their defensive fronts since 2017.
3. Let's go back and look at the blowout loss to San Francisco. This was a game where the Packers offensive and defensive fronts were completely outclassed by a superior front presented on both sides of the ball by SF. San Francisco only passed the ball 8 times ALL GAME and they had no reason to attempt many passes. SF absolutely obliterated the Packers defense on the ground, amassing 285 rushing yards and averaged 6.8 yards per rush attempt. Packers DC Mike Pettine didn't have the defensive line personnel to stack the box and stop the 49ers on the ground, much less did he even attempt to incorporate the defensive lineman he had. He preferred to counter with 1-2 DL personnel groups and put a safety or two in the box. Once SF's offensive line got to the second level, Blake Martinez, Ibraheim Campbell, Darnell Savage, Adrian Amos and Will Redmond (four latter players were safeties Pettine decided would stop the run) had no chance to get off offensive lineman engulfing them. The Packers offense turned the ball over three times and SF turned into 10 points.
What lead to this defeat? The Packers completely lost offensive momentum after they could not mount any drive of substance and Aaron Jones had no room to run. You could say the offense's inability to mount any threat led to the Packer defense gasping for air. The Packers didn't have the personnel on defense to stop the formidable rush offense San Francisco presented. But, the offense could have assisted in the first half by quelling the momentum shift and they could not. Rodgers was tasked with putting the offense on his shoulders and he wasn't able to do it.
4. We don't have to relive the only NFC Championship game Aaron Rodgers hosted at Lambeau. The Packers were beat on the field in more ways than one. The Packers lacked offensive balance and execution. The defense lacked pass rush, ability to get off the field on third down and had many coverage break downs. The Packers were whipped in the trenches and could not control the line of scrimmage on either side of the ball. The lack of execution was clearly unthinkable. They shot themselves in the foot so many times and were still in the game for all four quarters. This game could have a long term effect on this organization, mentally. How they overcome this one will be on Matt LaFleur.
What the Packers do this offseason will require more thought than any other in recent memory. Not only are they "cap" strapped, they will likely need to replace key free agents Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams and Corey Linsley. There is no one currently on the roster to replace the consistent productivity these players brought to the table, but AJ Dillon will be first in line to replace Jones and Williams.
More offseason moves to come!
Go Pack Go!