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A pass intended for Packers wide receiver Davante Adams goes incomplete as 49ers defensive backs Dontae Johnson, left, and Talanoa Hufanga defend late in the fourth quarter.

GREEN BAY — It was 9:53 p.m. when Aaron Rodgers threw deep into double coverage, a heave that fell incomplete, a prayer intended for Davante Adams that went unanswered.

The last pass of Rodgers’ legendary 17-season career with the Green Bay Packers? Perhaps and, if so, let the records show it came seven minutes before 10:00 on Jan. 22, 2022.

The Packers’ 13-10 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in an NFC divisional playoff matchup on Saturday night at Lambeau Field was both a shocker and yet predictable at the same time, if that’s even possible.

The part that’s not surprising was that a complete failure on the part of a special teams unit that has been awful all season played a key role in the Packers’ early exit from the postseason. That unit, led by coordinator Maurice Drayton, was unreliable all season and it was hard to believe this team could win three games against quality opponents without it somehow messing things up.

The stunning part was Rodgers’ role in this disappointing finish. He was 20 of 29 for 225 yards, a passer rating of 91.9 that is adequate but well below the lofty standard he’s set.

In short, the star who likely will be named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player for the second consecutive season and fourth time in his career was closer to mediocre on a night the Packers needed him to be excellent. That’s been the case too often during a title drought since Rodgers helped bring the Vince Lombardi Trophy back to Titletown during the 2010 season.

It started so well, too, with the offense rolling down field on its opening drive, Rodgers hitting Adams three times for 35 yards and AJ Dillon rumbling into the end zone to give the Packers a 7-0 lead.

The next drive was going well until tight end Marcedes Lewis fumbled in San Francisco territory. The Packers’ first 14 plays from scrimmage generated 102 total yards. Their next 13 plays? Only 26 yards.

After that opening scoring drive, Green Bay’s offense went fumble, punt, punt, punt, blocked field goal, punt, field goal, punt and punt on its final nine possessions. That’s ugly.

This isn’t all on Rodgers, of course. The man calling the plays, Packers coach Matt LaFleur, deserves blame for a stinky offensive showing and he was the first to admit it afterward.

What to make of LaFleur’s first three seasons? He’s 39-10 in the regular season, producing three consecutive 13-win seasons. But he’s 2-3 in the postseason with no Super Bowl appearances despite being a No. 1 seed two years in a row.

“That’s a really disappointed locker room,” LaFleur said. “I hurt for them.

“Obviously I didn’t do enough for our team to win a football game.”

Plus, LaFleur is ultimately responsible for his hire of Drayton to lead the special teams. That unit, statistically the worst in the NFL, lived up to that ranking against the 49ers.

San Francisco had two long kickoff returns and blocked a 39-yard field goal attempt by Mason Crosby. The play of the game was Jordan Wills blocking Corey Bojorquez’s punt and it ended up in the hands of 49ers safety Talanoa Hufanga, who coasted in untouched for a 6-yard touchdown return that tied the game with 4 minutes, 41 seconds to play.

But the Green Bay special teams wasn’t done being sloppy: It only had 10 players on the field when Robbie Gould kicked a 45-yard field goal with no time remaining to win the game.

“That can’t happen,” LaFleur said. “That’s unacceptable. Again, that’s on me.”

Now what? Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst admitted back in July the team had gone all-in for the 2021 season. This team will look much different in 2022 because of salary-cap issues and the biggest question is whether Rodgers, entering the final year of his contract, will return.

“I think we’d be crazy to not want him back here,” LaFleur said.

So now we wait. The music to this last dance came screeching to a halt not long after that deep ball by Rodgers fell from the sky and bounced around on a snowy field, the conductor left to watch the rest of the performance from the sidelines.

The only thing left to do for Rodgers after that final field goal went through the uprights was to walk off Lambeau Field, maybe for the last time in green and gold.

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Contact Jim Polzin at jpolzin@madison.com.

Originally published on madison.com, part of the TownNews Content Exchange.

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