The Green Bay Packers’ 2013 season ended abruptly Sunday night as a last-second field goal gave the San Francisco 49ers a 23 – 20 victory. It was another thrilling game to watch, but the scrappy Packers came up a play or two short and so the season ends as it started, with a loss to the 49ers.
I thought that the Packers would need thirty points to win this game. Opportunities to score those thirty points were squandered early in the game when the offense went three-and-out on their first three possessions. Typical of the 2013 season, the Packers lost key players Sam Shields and Mike Neal to injuries early in the game and they did not return. Nonetheless, an interception by Tramon Williams swung momentum the Packers’ way, which led to an Aaron Rodgers to Jordy Nelson touchdown pass. By halftime the Packers were only down 13 – 10 and Cheeseheads had high hopes for a comeback three weeks in a row.
The beleaguered and battered Packer defense did their best to keep the game close. Late in the third quarter it was long overdue for the potent Packer offense to pick their play up a notch. With a combination of Eddie Lacy and James Starks rushing the ball and then a clutch 26-yard pass to Randall Cobb on a fourth down, the Packers took a 17 – 13 lead in the fourth quarter.
The Packer defense had a very difficult time throughout this game containing the scampering talents of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. He ran for 98 yards rushing on the day and the Packer coaches and players haven’t yet figured out how to contain him, which is becoming a repetitious story. That said, the undermanned Packer defense probably overachieved on the day when they were matched up against a very talented opponent.
As cold as it was in Lambeau and with the fourth quarter lead, Cheeseheads were smelling victory but that was not to be. Poor kickoff coverage followed by a long run by Kaepernick and the Niners took back the lead 20 -17. On the ensuing drive the Packers got within ten yards of the goal line and had a first down, but failed to convert a touchdown, settling instead for a field goal and leaving five minutes on the clock with the game tied at 20 – 20. Kaepernick got loose once again and soon the 49ers were within easy field goal range. Time ran out as the winning field goal was kicked.
The Packers displayed lots of effort and heart, but too much running by Kaepernick did the Packers in. Would Clay Matthews III have made a difference in this game had he been able to play? Who can say? At the end of the day, the Packers can hold their heads high and Cheeseheads can be grateful for the memories of incredible wins over Dallas and Chicago the past two weeks. With all the injury adversities, it just wasn’t in the cards to go any further than Wildcard Weekend in 2013, and so it is on to next season.
Packer Partisan columns shall continue up until the Super Bowl. In those I will endeavor to analyze the 2013 season and speculate on what the Packers needs are and what they might address as the team moves forward to the 2014 season and beyond. Happy New Year to Packer Nation and remember… the Pack will be back.