Just when I thought 2021 was going to be off to a great start with Aaron Rodgers vs. Patrick Mahomes, Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur decided he forgot how football was scored. Though, to be fair, America has not really behaved well enough lately to deserve that Super Bowl so maybe this is karmic justice flooding over from the real world into the sporting realm.
Two minutes and nine seconds remained in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game with the Bucs leading Green Bay 31-23. The Packers had the ball eight yards away from a potential game-tying touchdown (if paired with the corresponding two-point conversion). They also have Rodgers, the likely 2021 NFL MVP, along with 2020 All-Pro receiver Davante Adams. Instead of going for it on fourth down, the Packers elected to kick on fourth down, which changed everything. The Packers went from losing and needing a touchdown with very little time left to still losing and needing a touchdown with very little time left. Maybe White Goodman was onto something over a decade earlier.
Sure, the Packers had all three timeouts and the two-minute warning remaining, but the Bucs also have Tom Brady on the other sideline. Just like NO ONE COULD HAVE PREDICTED, the Packers never got the ball back and the Bucs ran out the clock to advance to the Super Bowl.
Rodgers finished the game 33-48 for 346 yards and three touchdowns, to go along with an interception at the end of the first half. The star signal-caller had very little help around him as Aaron Jones fumbled twice and combined with Jamaal Williams and A.J. Dillon to add just 67 yards rushing. With tackle David Bakhtiari out, the Packers’ offensive line was abused and Rodgers was sacked five times. Other missed opportunities include a rocky officiating performance and a busted coverage with one second left in the first half that resulted in a Scotty Miller touchdown.
It is the decision by LaFleur, however; that will forever live in infamy among Packers’ fandom. The young coach is 26-6 in the regular season in Green Bay, but fell short just like 2019 when they lost to the San Francisco 49ers. God only knows who the Packers will draft in a few months, but recent history tells us it won’t be anyone who helps worth a damn. For now, it’s on to another Brady Super Bowl.