Packers eliminated by 49ers after blowing late lead

Blocked punt turns tide of game
Morgan Rode
Sports Editor

Updated: Jan. 23, 10 a.m.

The Green Bay Packers suffered a 13-10 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in a NFC Divisional Round playoff game after surrendering 10 points in the final five minutes of action on Jan. 22 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay.

Clinging to a 10-3 lead with under five minutes to play, all Green Bay had to do was punt the ball back to San Francisco and lean on a defense that had dominated for most of the night. Instead, the 49ers broke through the Packers’ punt protection, blocked Corey Bojorquez’s punt, scooped up the loose ball and returned it 6 yards for the game-tying score.

Tied up, the probable MVP Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ offense had a chance to redeem themselves after a sluggish game, but a penalty on first down pushed the ball back, and Green Bay eventually went three-and-out.

A 57-yard punt from Bojorquez made San Fran start the drive from its own 29, but gains of 12 and 14 quickly moved the 49ers into Packers’ territory. On a third-and-seven play, Green Bay’s defense allowed a 9-yard run, and after a couple 1-yard runs drained all but four seconds, San Fran’s Robbie Gould drilled a 45-yard field goal to end the game and stun the Packers.

“Well, that’s a tough pill to swallow for all of us right now,” said Packers coach Matt LaFleur. “That’s a really disappointed locker room. I hurt for them.”

“I am a little numb for sure. Didn’t think it was going to end like this,” said Rodgers.

There was plenty of blame to go around in the loss, with the special teams and offense carrying the brunt of it.

Not only did the special teams allow the punt to be blocked and turned into points, but a field goal at the end of the first half was blocked, keeping Green Bay’s lead at 7-0 heading to halftime.

A 45-yard kickoff return to open the third quarter helped the 49ers get on the scoreboard with a field goal.

Like he often does when any part of the team struggles, LaFleur took the blame for the poor special teams’ play.

“It’s extremely disappointing, especially when you look at what happened tonight,” said LaFleur. “Again, these are things I got to do a better job (of) and be more involved (with) to make sure that those types of things don’t happen. That we’re putting these guys in the right position, that we’re coaching them the right way. Ultimately, it all falls on me.”

Coming off the bye week, the Packers’ offense opened the game firing on all cylinders.

The pass game helped Green Bay march right down the field on the opening drive before running back A.J. Dillon powered in from 6 yards out to give the Packers a 7-0 lead less than six minutes into the game. The drive went 69 yards in 10 plays, with 54 of the yards coming through the air.

On the second offensive drive of the game, Green Bay had picked up 33 yards in four plays and were at the San Fran 42-yard line before tight end Marcedes Lewis fumbled the ball after catching a pass. The turnover turned out to be a big play, as Green Bay’s offense never really got back in rhythm.

The Packers next three drives went for a combined 26 yards and ended in three punts.

A 75-yard pass from Rodgers to running back Aaron Jones looked to jumpstart the offense right before halftime, but a sack on the next play resulted in a fumble. Green Bay fell on the loose ball, but with time dwindling and no timeouts left, had to spike the ball and attempt a field goal, which was blocked.

Green Bay’s offense gained just 58 yards in the second half, with 57 of those coming on a drive that ended in a 33-yard Crosby field goal.

“I didn’t have a great night tonight,” said Rodgers, who completed 20 of 29 passes for 225 yards and was sacked five times. “They did a good job of kind of getting me off the spot and a better job of taking away some of the quick game that we got going the last time we played them and I just missed a couple reads.”

The shortcomings on special teams and offense wasted a spectacular showing from the Packers’ defense.

Boosted by the return of outside linebackers Za’Darius Smith and Whitney Mercilus and cornerback Jaire Alexander, the Pack’s defense was elite to start the game. Before gaining 68 yards on their final drive of the first half, San Fran’s offense was at negative-10 yards through four series, all ending in punts.

On the drive that gained 68 yards, the Packers didn’t allow points, as safety Adrian Amos intercepted a pass from Jimmy Garoppolo near the end zone.

San Fran gained 154 yards in the second half, but the Packers’ defense was stingy in the red zone, forcing a short field goal and turnover on downs to end two possessions.

Smith and defensive lineman Kenny Clark each had a sack, while outside linebacker Rashan Gary finished with two sacks to lead the defense. Gary had three tackles for loss, including the one that resulted in the turnover on downs, and had three of the team’s seven quarterback hurries.

The 212 yards of total offense allowed by the defense was the fewest given up since a playoff game against the Atlanta Falcons in 2011.