Three takeaways from Packers’ NFC title game loss to Bucs

Green Bay Packers, Aaron Rodgers (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Green Bay Packers, Aaron Rodgers (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

Heartbreaking. For the second year in a row and fourth time since 2014, the Green Bay Packers fall at the final hurdle before the Super Bowl.

This was the year. With the league’s top-scoring offense, an ascending defense, and home-field advantage in the playoffs, the Packers were in position to go all the way.

A showdown with Tom Brady and rematch with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would never be easy. The Packers fell just short.

Here are three takeaways:

1. Missed opportunities costly for Packers

Tom Brady threw three interceptions in the second half. In such a big game, we don’t see that too often. These turnovers helped the Packers get back into the game, but they couldn’t keep their foot on the gas in the crucial moments.

There were missed opportunities throughout the game. From settling for three points after missing a chance to tie the game at 14-14, to dropping a two-point conversion and, again, settling for three with a chance to tie the game in the fourth quarter.

A great defensive performance? Far from it, but Mike Pettine’s unit did come away with three takeaways. A dominant offensive display? Not today, but the Packers were in the red zone four times and put it in the end zone on just two of those trips.

There were opportunities. Many of them. Each time, the Packers couldn’t make it count.

2. Disaster either side of halftime the turning point

Tampa Bay started fast and outplayed Green Bay in the opening two quarters, but Matt LaFleur’s team dug in and kept themselves right in the game. Even after a slow start, the defense improved and the offense got into rhythm.

With possession and only down by four, the Packers actually had a chance to take the lead before the half.

But either side of the half, we saw the worst-case scenario. Aaron Rodgers threw an interception, leading to a Tom Brady touchdown to extend Tampa Bay’s lead to 11. Mike Pettine’s call on the TD was not a good one, and the same can be said of Kevin King’s coverage.

Frustrating, but not time to panic. Then, three plays into the third quarter, Aaron Jones fumbled and the Bucs turned it into an eight-yard touchdown on the next play.

In a close game with a chance to take the lead, three bad plays put the Packers 18 points behind. It was going to take a miracle from that point.

3. Bucs get pressure, Packers pass rush struggles

Pressure was always going to be crucial in this game.

Brady had a clean pocket for much of the game and was sacked only once. Rodgers, on the other hand, was under pressure all game long. Sacked five times and pressured countless others, the Bucs’ front seven forced the Packers into long down-and-distances too often while also shutting down the ground game.

Billy Turner and Rick Wagner both had great seasons but they struggled in this matchup against a dominant defensive line.

The Bucs’ consistently got pressure, but the Packers’ pass rush failed to make the same impact.