GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers heads into another offseason of uncertainty after one more frustrating finish to a brilliant year.
Rodgers drove the Packers to a touchdown on the game’s opening possession, then couldn’t get them back in the end zone the rest of Saturday night. Their season ended with a stunning 13-10 NFC divisional playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
Robbie Gould’s 45-yard field goal as time expired won the game for the 49ers, who scored 10 unanswered points in the final five minutes.
“A little numb, for sure,” Rodgers said. “I didn’t think it was going to end like this."
But was this just the end of Rodgers' season? Or is it the end of his remarkable tenure in Green Bay?
The shocking finish capped a turbulent year in which Rodgers skipped the Packers’ mandatory minicamp; missed a game due to a positive COVID-19 test after making misleading comments about his vaccination status; but still earned All-Pro honors and put himself in position for a possible fourth MVP award.
Rodgers didn't want to speculate on his future. He said last month that he hadn't ruled out any possibility, including returning to Green Bay, requesting a trade or retiring.
“I don’t think it’s fair to anybody or myself to really go down those paths at this point,” Rodgers said. “It’s disappointing, sad and fresh. I’ll have conversations in the next week or so and start to contemplate after that.”
Rodgers did say Saturday night that his relationship with general manager Brian Gutekunst had improved this season.
Rodgers entered Saturday having thrown 20 touchdown passes with no interceptions over his last seven regular-season games. But he once again wasn’t spectacular in the postseason. He went 20 of 29 for 225 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. He was sacked five times while working behind an offensive line missing injured tackle David Bakhtiari.
When the Packers had the ball in a tie game in the closing minutes, they went three-and-out and punted, which eventually led to the 49ers’ winning field goal.
“I think Aaron did everything he could,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. “He was under a lot of duress. I think it's more to do with I didn't put our guys in position to make enough plays. I take that very personally.”
It was only fitting the game came down to a kick because the Packers’ special teams breakdowns enabled San Francisco to pull off this comeback. Green Bay’s kick teams were its biggest weakness all year, and that was never more evident than Saturday night.
The 49ers tied the game with 4:41 left when Jordan Willis blocked Corey Bojorquez's punt and Talanoa Hufanga returned it 6 yards into the end zone.
There was an equally big special teams mistake on the final play of the first half.
After Rodgers threw a 75-yard pass to Aaron Jones – the longest completion of his playoff career – the Packers had the ball at the San Francisco 14 with a chance to build on their 7-0 lead. But after Nick Bosa sacked Rodgers and forced a fumble the Packers recovered, Jimmie Ward blocked Mason Crosby’s 39-yard field goal attempt.
Green Bay needed to capitalize on that long pass from Rodgers to Jones because the Packers didn’t create enough big plays. After A.J. Dillon scored from 6 yards to cap the game’s first possession, the Packers did relatively little with the ball.
“Disappointed in the offense, 10 points is obviously not enough," Rodgers said. "The defense, they played outstanding. Special teams obviously hurt us, taking points off the board and giving them points. But, offensively, scoring 10 points is never good enough.”
The Packers have contended just about every season Rodgers has been healthy, yet haven’t reached a Super Bowl since their 2010 championship season. Now the question is whether Rodgers will continue chasing a second Super Bowl title in a Packers uniform.
Rodgers said last month he would try to make a decision on his future soon and was keeping all options open. All-Pro receiver Davante Adams also has an uncertain future as he enters free agency.
Rodgers and Adams put out Instagram posts in the offseason with references to Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen of the Chicago Bulls during their 1997-98 title run that was chronicled in the ESPN documentary “Last Dance,” a winking suggestion that this also might be their last year together in Green Bay.
Since getting selected 24th overall in the 2005 draft, Rodgers has spent his entire career in Green Bay.
“I’m very proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish here,” Rodgers said. "Thankful — deeply thankful — for so many years here in the organization and all the incredible teammates and coaches that I’ve had over the years. That’s part of the legacy, I think, the friendships, and the memories on and off the field.
“But I don’t know. I’m still super competitive, still know I can play at a high level, so it’s going to be a tough decision, I have a lot of things to weigh in the coming weeks. But, man, just so much gratitude for this city and this organization and such a long, long career here that I’m proud of and really thankful for all the men and women that work here, the men I’ve gotten to cross paths with, coaches and players over the years.”
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