GREEN BAY, Wis. – It’s speculation season now that the Green Bay Packers’ actual season ended with a thud.
As usual, Aaron Rodgers is in the middle of it all.
In what could be considered his greatest playoff failure, the likely season MVP failed to lead the Packers to a single postseason victory even though their regular-season work put them in Position A as the top seed.
Of course, Rodgers didn’t get any help from the Packers’ special teams, which on back-to-back plays had a 39-yard field goal blocked to end the first half and allowed a 45-yard kickoff return to start the second half.
And that wasn’t even the worst of it. That happened in the fourth quarter, when the 49ers Jordan Willis blocked Corey Bojorquez’s punt and safety Talanoa Hufanga returned it 6 yards for a game-tying touchdown with 4:41 remaining.
As if that weren’t enough, the Packers had only 10 players on the field for Robbie Gould's 45-yard game-winning field goal as time expired.
Saturday night’s 13-10 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC divisional round accelerated the questions about Rodgers’ future. It’s also possible it influenced it.
"I did not think we’d be talking about this after this game, but I’m gonna take some time and have conversations with the folks around here and then take some time away and make a decision obviously before free agency or anything kind of gets going on that front," Rodgers said. "But it’s fresh right now. It’s a little shocking for sure.
"Definitely was hoping to have a nice week after the NFC Championship to enjoy the lead-up and then start contemplating some things. I haven't even let the moment really sink in yet."
Does another season without a Super Bowl make Rodgers any more or less likely to return to the Packers next season?
This time, they didn’t get within a sniff of the Super Bowl. After losing back-to-back NFC Championship Games, the Packers didn’t even get there this time.
Those worried Rodgers might feel like another Super Bowl is never going to happen for him in Green Bay shouldn’t rest easy until Rodgers declares his intentions for the 2022 season.
At least he promised a quick resolution when he spoke on the matter last month.
It all started so promisingly on Saturday. The Rodgers-to-Davante Adams connection was alive and well on the opening drive. They connected three times for 35 yards, and it led to a touchdown -- something that happened only three times in 17 regular-season games.
Then, despite possession after possession given to them by a swarming defense that sacked Jimmy Garoppolo four times, the Packers’ offense went nowhere.
Six straight drives without a point.
Their offense had not been so ineffective since the Jordan Love game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Nov. 7. The only time that happened this season with Rodgers was the 38-3 loss to the New Orleans Saints in the season opener, when they went eight straight drives without a point.
It’s not like the Packers’ defense didn’t give Rodgers and Co. plenty of opportunities, thanks to defensive stars like Rashan Gary, who had two sacks and a tackle for loss.
But Rodgers, who fell to 0-4 against the 49ers in the playoffs, failed to throw a touchdown pass in a postseason game for the first time since the 2010 NFC Championship Game against the Chicago Bears. He finished 20-of-29 for 225 yards.
It was reminiscent of last year’s NFC title game, when Rodgers was the beneficiary of three interceptions of Tom Brady, yet turned those into only seven points. Rodgers’ playoff record since his lone Super Bowl dropped to 7-9.
While Rodgers admitted that his performance wasn’t good enough, it was head coach Matt LaFleur who took most of the blame -- for the offense managing only 10 points, for the myriad special teams' mistakes and for another season without a Super Bowl.
“Ultimately,” LaFleur said. “It all falls on me.”
With the Tennessee Titans’ loss to the Cincinnati Bengals earlier Saturday, it’s the first time that both No. 1 seeds lost in the divisional round since the 2010 postseason, when the No. 1-seeded Patriots lost to the Jets and the top-seeded Falcons lost to the Packers.