Packers: What Really Went Wrong?


by Andrew Coughlin

The Green Bay Packers got it handed to them by the 49ers in round two of the NFL playoffs.  The week one battle between these two teams seems like a distant memory.  It also seems like that test for the Packers was a bit more forgiving than this last one.  Green Bay was beaten and beaten soundly by San Francisco.

So what happened?  Green Bay is an elite level organization that some would argue is still ascending.  So, why were they taken out in such disappointing fashion?

The easy blame can be placed on the defense; the defensive coordinator; the defensive game plan; player execution; take your pick.

It's a combination of all these factors, but the turning point in this game for me came early in the second quarter.  

Green Bay is up 14-7 and their defense just did a good job of holding San Francisco's offense at midfield.  At that point in the game, a turnover on downs for the Packer defense was a huge battle won.  They were giving the ball back to the offense and had just taken the crowd out of the game and were about to get a well deserved rest.  

Fumbling the ball on a punt return is inexcusable, especially in a playoff game of this magnitude, where teams have to play their absolute best to win and make it to the next round.  Albeit early on, that fumble turned the tide of the game.  Green Bay had the momentum, the lead and the opportunity to dig the proverbial knife further into a vulnerable opponent. 

Instead, it allowed San Francisco to tie the game, the crowd got back into it and the momentum went exceedingly back to the opponent in a big way.

Packers' special teams coach Shawn Slocum put WR Randall Cobb in immediately after Ross fumbled. 

When asked about what happened during the punt, Slocum said, "I know he was thinking about making a play because he had done that against Minnesota, had gotten the ball off the 10-yard line out to the 20, I know that was going through his mind and he was overly aggressive. That really hurt us in that ballgame. We had a one-score lead and a chance to get the ball back and score again."

Ross should never have been put in that situation.  Replacing Cobb with a young player was an ill-advised move by head coach Mike McCarthy.  Returning punts is a high pressure situation already.  Add the pressure of a playoff game while being on the road and that's one big time situation for any player to be in, especially a rookie.

We'll never know how the game would have turned out if Ross didn't fumble the ball, but I can assure you that the Packers would not have lost by two touchdowns.


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