Packers: Death, taxes and miscues after another NFC title game loss

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

The 2020 Green Bay Packers fell short of Super Bowl LV after another heartbreaking loss in the NFC Championship Game after a number of miscues did them in.

Even with the game being played at Lambeau Field — a first for Aaron Rodgers and Co. — Green Bay couldn’t stop Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from moving on after a superb 2020 campaign.

But, alas, while there were chances to get back into this one throughout the game, Green Bay’s failure to capitalize at key times was, unfortunately, their own doing.

Kevin King, what are you doing?

After Green Bay cut the deficit to 14-10 late in the second quarter, those wearing Green and Yellow inside Lambeau Field watched a Packers defense give up one of the most inexcusable plays to end the half.

With Green Bay deferring to the second half, there was an opportunity to potentially double-up the score and take the lead in the second half.

However, to do that, Mike Pettine’s group needed to defend a late Tampa Bay possession to end the half. Coming off a Rodgers interception, Tampa Bay reached the Green Bay 39-yard line with six seconds remaining.

Any way you slice it, Green Bay should have protected its end zone knowing that any shot by Brady would be an end zone heave or a very quick throw to the sideline.

Instead, the world witnessed Tampa Bay WR Scotty Miller run right by King to haul in a 39-yard touchdown to go up 21-10 at the break.

Aaron Jones’ second half fumble

Facing a 21-10 deficit to start the second half, it was looking like now-or-never territory for the Packers’ offense to get back into the NFC Championship Game.

With a Tampa Bay defense getting stronger as the game progressed, greatly taking away Rodgers’ top weapons, he would target Aaron Jones three-straight times.

The third reception by Jones, however, would lead to a fumble forced by Jordan Whitehead and recovered by Devin White at the GB-29 and returned for 21 yards.

Jones had been a reliable offensive option for Green Bay all season, but two fumbles (one recovered, one lost) had been an indictment of how the game had been progressing.

On the very next play, a hard play-action from Brady would lead to a Cameron Brate touchdown making it 28-10 early in the third quarter — a deficit they would never recover from.

One touchdown scored off three Brady interceptions

While a 28-10 deficit looked like too much to overcome, the football gods —well, mostly Brady — decided to let the Packers hang around.

If the story of the game for Tampa Bay was their incredible success on third downs, then Green Bay’s story could be attributed to the failure of turning takeaways into points.

Brady doesn’t make postseason mistakes too often and hadn’t been picked off either against Washington or New Orleans, but two Jaire Alexander picks and one Adrian Amos pick should have turned the tide considerably.

It didn’t.

Following a Robert Tonyan touchdown on the previous possession, Rodgers would eventually toss his third touchdown of the day to Davante Adams to make it a 28-23 game.

However, even with two more Brady interceptions on Tampa Bay’s following drives, Rodgers and Co. failed to gain any traction on a go-ahead drive.

In the postseason where second (and third) chances aren’t handed out that often, you have to make the opposing team pay. Green Bay didn’t.

The question that will be asked all offseason in Green Bay

For all the Tampa Bay big plays, the interceptions, being a wild-card road team, they gave Green Bay one final opportunity to tie the game.

Facing a third-and-goal from the TB 8-yard line, Rodgers would step up in the pocket with seemingly a good chunk of green to run towards the end zone. Whether Rodgers would’ve made it is anyone’s guess, but a forced throw into double-coverage on Adams fell to the ground.

And instead of going for it on fourth down, Matt LaFleur sent out Mason Crosby for the chip shot, and Rodgers never touched the ball again.

With minutes remaining in the Packers’ season, it appeared that LaFleur was banking on kicking the field goal to make it a five-point game, erasing a touchdown and two-point conversion scenario and asking his defense to make an otherworldly stop against Brady.

Was it the right call? Was it the wrong call? It’s easy to at least see some of the process LaFleur was thinking knowing you needed a defensive stop, regardless.

But to not give Rodgers a chance to tie with his ability will plague this team all offseason. A tough pill to swallow as the Bucs would run out the clock and celebrate an NFC Championship win at Lambeau Field.

Next. 3 takeaways from Packers' NFC title game loss. dark