Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy walks off the field following the Packers loss Sunday to the 49ers at Lambeau Field. / Kyle Bursaw/Press-Gazette Media
There will be plenty to rue and relive for the Green Bay Packers in the next several months, and their inability to push the San Francisco 49ers to the brink late in the fourth quarter Sunday will be chief among them.
Trailing 20-17 with a first-and-goal at the San Francisco 9-yard line, the Packers gained just 3 yards on their next three plays and were forced to settle for a 24-yard field goal by Mason Crosby.
From there, the 49ers ate up the final 5 minutes, 6 seconds, moved into field goal position and saw Phil Dawson kick a 33-yard game-winning field goal as time expired to give San Francisco a 23-20 victory in an NFC wild-card playoff game at a frosty Lambeau Field.
A portion of the Packers’ final drive featured the running of their 230-pound rookie tailback Eddie Lacy, who bulldozed his way for runs of 5 and 8 yards against a 49ers defense that was starting to give ground.
“It’s definitely a key point. We wanted to try and tire them out,’’ said Lacy, who finished with 81 yards on 21 carries. “They’re great on defense. We definitely wanted to pound the ball and try and get them as tired as possible.”
And the plan appeared to be working from Lacy’s viewpoint.
“Towards the end of the game, you could see that a lot,” Lacy said. “We were able to make a lot of runs and break a lot of tackles.”
But after a 25-yard pass to Randall Cobb put the ball at the 49ers’ 9, the Packers called a timeout and on first down left Lacy on the sideline. Coach Mike McCarthy had Cobb line up in the backfield, gave him the ball and ran him behind left tackle Marshall Newhouse. Cobb was quickly vanquished by linebacker NaVorro Bowman, who took him down after just a 1-yard gain.
“I had my guy and was trying to get him upfield, and I feel I accomplished that,’’ Newhouse said. “The point was for Cobb to run up under that and I think he got up under. I didn’t see what happened the rest of the play.’’
As for Lacy, he stood on the sideline and watched.
“I’m not surprised,’’ he said. “I believe in the coach. Whatever call he makes, I’m satisfied with it whether it’s giving me the ball or some other teammate. We’re a team here; no matter what he calls, we’re behind him 100 percent.
“So me not getting the ball in that situation is not something I’m going to sit back and be like ‘Oh, we should have did this or should have did that.’ I’m behind coach 100 percent in everything he decides to do.”
Newhouse, too, said he was not surprised the Packers didn’t stick with their power game.
“No, we have so many guys that can score at any time, there’s no surprise,” he said.
Lacy remained on the sideline on second down when Rodgers rolled right but found no one open and had to throw it away. On third down, again Rodgers couldn’t find an open receiver, the protection broke down and he scrambled for a 2-yard gain.
So instead of taking the lead and putting the onus on the 49ers, the Packers were forced to settle for a tie.
“The red-zone series, the ability to attack the end zone. Kicking field goals down there obviously factored, too,’’ McCarthy said. “We knew we had to score more than 20 points today, and I didn’t get that done.”
On that critical possession, it was the 49ers’ defense that got things done when it mattered most.
“I think it says a lot about our defense in how we can step up and make plays when it’s time,’’ said 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith. “We just stayed consistent and didn’t panic. A lot of teams don’t know what to do when someone starts to drive on them, and they mess up. We didn’t hit the panic button, and that had something to do with why we came out with a win.”
— email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @PCMikeW.