After an absence of 2 seasons, the Packers finally returned to the postseason. We were again in the NFC Championship Game, one win away from the Superbowl. And just like the last time, we were thoroughly outclassed by our opponent.
What happened? 2 years ago, the defense let us down in Atlanta. This time… well, the defense let us down in San Francisco. Last time it was Dom Capers. This time it was Mike Pettine. One defense allowed too many yards in the air (Capers), one defense allowed too many yards on the ground (Pettine.)
The 49ers passed less than 10 times for 77 yards. They ran for almost 300 yards. The good thing about a game like this is that they end relatively quickly, run plays means less clock stoppages. However, the bad thing about a game like this is everything else.
“When the offense gets going…” was a regular refrain from all fans over the season. Spoiler alert: they didn’t. The offense continued to not get in a groove until we were down 3+ scores, with little hope for a comeback. Any attempt to get in a groove was disrupted by turnovers (Rodgers had 1 INT, and a fumbled snap, in the first half) or penalties. We did cut their lead down to 2 scores at one point. Then the 49ers imposed their will on us.
I might do more analysis on the actual game if I can bear to rewatch it, but the crux of the problem is that we lack the playmakers to make up for any coaching deficiencies. Good coaching will make up for lack of playmakers, and vice versa, but for some reason we just could not execute today even when we knew what they were going to do. Not good enough.
What’s left to do in the offseason then? I think we should prioritise the Wide Receiver and Middle Linebacker positions. Blake Martinez is serviceable but we need a more dominant player in the middle that can go quickly from sideline to sideline, the 49ers killed us today running to the outside. Maybe we also need to get bigger in size, even in our base packages, it looked like the opposing offense were able to out-muscle our guys. Poor tackling didn’t help.
Davante Adams was great this year but there is a significant gulf between him and the 2nd Wide Receiver. Perhaps Equaninmeous St. Brown will develop after being off for the year. Leaning on Adams and Aaron Jones has worked for the majority of the season, but that’s clearly not good enough this time.
While this loss was disappointing, we’ve far exceeded my expectations for the year. Getting to the cusp of the Superbowl with a 1st year head coach, with a 12 year veteran QB learning a new system for the first time, was a pleasant surprise.
We obviously have a lot to work on in the off-season.