The dust has settled on another NFC Championship game and another season that arguably the best QB in the game is not moving on victorious. Aaron Rodgers and his Green Bay Packers lost the highly anticipated duel with Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers by a score of 31-26 in the NFC Championship game. There is a lot to unpack, but in the end where does this leave Aaron Rodgers?
There’s a lot of blame to go around in this game. The Packers were the better team in my opinion. For the most part, Rodgers played a better game than Brady. While Brady had one of his best halves of football, the 2nd half saw him through 3 INTs that really should have been 4 picks. Rodgers on the other hand, after a so-so 1st half, lead the Packers to a second half comeback and almost pulled it off. Granted he led the team to goal to go in the 3rd quarter and had to settle for a field goal. He couldn’t link up with Davante Adams at the goal line on a back-shoulder throw, but he doesn’t carry all the blame.
The Packers defense let them down for the second year in a row. Last year against the San Francisco 49ers, they could stop the run and got blown out the building. This year, the defense just couldn’t get off the field on 3rd downs and couldn’t guard anyone. CB Kevin King was picked on consistently and gave up big plays, including the TD to WR Scott Miller with 0:01 sec left in the first half. With the game on the line, down 5 with 2:05 left, they couldn’t get a stop to get off the field. The pushed the Bucs to 4th down and committed a questionable pass interference to seal the loss.
Take away Rodgers’ up and down performance, WR drops/miscommunication, officials and a poor defensive game plan and the Packer were in position to tie. But in my opinion, the one that shoulders the most blame is head coach Matt LaFleur. 4th and goal from the 8-yard line and the likely MVP at QB and you take the ball out of your best player’s hands? You don’t even give Rodgers the chance to win or lose the game? No one would argue the call to go for it on 4th down with the trip to the Super Bowl on the line. Instead of having the guts to tie the game, you elect to kick a field goal to make a one score game a one score game! Then you rely on a defense that played better in the second half but was being had to win the game? You give Tom Brady the ball as say all you need is 10 yards to seal the game? Lafleur even said after the game that he had play the 3 down from the goal line with the intention to kick the field goal, but said it felt like the right decision. It showed a lack of communication and guts that will haunt Lafleur forever.
But what’s next for Rodgers? I feel like he should get away from a team that has shown no respect to him. They drafted his successor in Jordan Love instead of offensive weapons. They hired this coach without consulting him at all. And then Lafleur didn’t trust him to win the game. But Rodgers should be back in Green Bay next season to have an early exit in the playoffs and officially waste his career. It’s hard to get to the championship game, let alone the Super Bowl. Brady makes it look easy but it’s not. Getting there 2 years in a row is not something you can take for granted. When you get those chances, you have to take advantage. Rodgers will leave this game as one of the best to do it, but a 1-4 record in the NFC Championship game and only 1 Super Bowl. It hurts his legacy and really makes it hard to put him in any GOAT discussion. His brilliance is unquestioned, he can be called the best pure QB we’ve ever seen (you’re your turn Patrick Mahomes fans). But his short comings in the playoffs are also unquestioned. Time will tell if Rodgers can get that 2nd chip, but for now we have to wait until next year.