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Issue 17 Out Now

Four Trips of Misery

Rogers leaving the field after NFC Championship loss (Photograph: Morry GASH/AP)

Aaron Rodgers is arguably the most talented quarterback to ever live, but his latest loss to Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Championship game is beginning to be a tradition for the Green Bay Packers.

Four NFC championship losses in seven years! Some have come against better teams like the loss to the Atlanta Falcons in 2016, or San Francisco just last year. The other two, being the choke job in 2014 against the Seattle Seahawks when former Packers head coach Mike McCarthy went conservative with a double digit lead in the fourth quarter. They took the ball out of Rodgers hands, decided to milk the clock and while doing so save the Seahawks life. Oh and how can we forget the faithful botched onside kick from Brandon Bostick on special teams. Seattle tied the game up, sending it into overtime where the Packers would falter.

This past Sunday was the latest indicted of the Packers organization. Their defense for years has been average. Tom Brady, at 43 years of age and the greatest winner the game has ever known, threw for 202 yards and two touchdowns. One being a 39 yards bomb to speedster wide receiver Scottie Miller, leaving all but one second remaining on the game clock.

The regular season high octane Packers offense were held to 10 points going into the half but coming out of halftime received the ball first with a chance to make it a 21–17 point game. On the third play of the drive Aaron Jones fumbled the ball after he took a bruising hit, knocking him out of the game. Brady and Tampa delivered once more, pushing the score to 28–10.

Just when it felt as though the game was beginning to get out of reach, Rodgers produced as he has done so many times before. Quickly Green Bay responded with an Aaron Rodgers to Devante Adams touchdown, we’ve become so accustomed to seeing. Trying to cut the deficit to three, the Packers opted to bypass the P.A.T. and instead go for two. Rodgers delivered a strike in the back of the end zone to 2019 sixth round receiver Equanimeous St. Brown, who dropped the ball.

With the Packers down five points their defense put on a clinic, forcing Brady to throw three interceptions in the second half limiting the Buccaneers offense to 10 points.

Momentum seemed to have shifted, the soon to be NFL MVP’s chance to take control over the game had presented itself. Rodgers and the Packers offense couldn’t capitalize as Green Bay would go into the late fourth quarter down eight points.

On 3&8 with the game on the line Rodgers opted to throw the ball across his body intended for Adams. However, he was broken up by two Tampa defensive backs.

Matt LaFleur is in his second year ever as a head coach. His inexperience showed when he decided to kick the field goal to cut the lead to five, while giving the greatest winner (in maybe American sports history) the ball back, with a chance to seal the win. The Packers might’ve forced Brady into three bad throws and an overall horrible second half, but when it’s winning time everyone knows what number 12 is fully capable of.

Tampa needed just one first down to run out the clock with under two minutes left. The Buccaneers converted and for the fourth time in seven years Rodgers and the Packers were eliminated in the NFC championship game.

As most great players Rodgers received the brunt of the criticism for the teams failures, and in traditional fashion the quarterback found someone to throw under the bus for the team’s shortcomings.

After the game, when pressed by the media about the team taking the ball out of his hand on fourth down to kick a field goal, the former Super Bowl MVP let his feelings be known.

“I didn’t have a decision on that one,” Rodgers said. “That wasn’t my decision. But I understand the decision and thinking with all of our timeouts. But it wasn’t my decision.”

The quarterback’s comments said so much while saying so little. If he wanted to back his coach he could’ve responded with a simple no comment because as a 16 year veteran Rodgers knows exactly what he was doing.

Can you really blame Rodgers for his comments? Imagine all the work you’ve put into to get your team thus far, MVP year at age 37, Super Bowl birth on the line, all the things you envisioned to accomplish as a kid but your coach basically says I rather trust our kicker and defense instead of you.

LaFleur in so many words said so himself .

“Yeah, anytime it doesn’t work out, you always regret it, right? “It was just the circumstances of having three shots and coming away with no yards and knowing that you not only need the touchdown, but you need the 2-point conversion. The way I was looking at it was, we essentially had four timeouts with the two-minute warning.”

By all accounts LaFleur has proven to be a great young coach but as we’ve seen throughout Rodgers Packers career is that he’s almost certainly let down in some sort of manner.

While Rodgers and the offense didn’t turn Brady’s turnovers into points, LaFleur is the biggest culprit. He’s the man in charge of calling the offensive plays, or better yet a lack thereof. It’s not like Rodgers was on the field being inaccurate and missing opens.

The moment became too big for LaFleur just like it had for McCarthy in 2014. The young 41 year offensive play call and head coach has a decent number of years ahead to fix his mistakes. However what Rodgers said in the aftermath of the loss was unprofessional. He knows in his heart of hearts he has only so many chances at the grandest prize, which can’t be jeopardized by another coach that falters under pressure.

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