SEATTLE — Aaron Rodgers was the best quarterback in the NFL this season. He'll probably collect his second league MVP award in a couple weeks as a result.
But the Green Bay Packers' collapse in Sunday's NFC Championship Game against the Seattle Seahawks means this season won't end in Rodgers' shot for a second Super Bowl ring — an accomplishment that means a lot to him within the context of the franchise's storied history.
Hall of Famer Bart Starr set the standard, quarterbacking the Packers to wins in the first two Super Bowls in the late 1960s. Future Hall of Famer Brett Favre won three straight NFL MVPs from 1995 to '97, but only brought Green Bay one championship.
Rodgers won his first title after the 2010 season and, at age 31, has time to pursue No. 2. Chances like the one the Packers wasted in Sunday's 28-22 overtime loss don't come often, though. And Rodgers' biggest frustration may be how little he could've done to change it.
"It's going to be a missed opportunity that we'll probably think about the rest of my career," Rodgers said. "We were the better team today. We played well enough to win, and we can't blame anybody but ourselves."
The Packers led 19-7 when safety Morgan Burnett intercepted a Russell Wilson pass and slid to the turf with 5:04 to go. Given how little Seattle had done offensively to that point, it made sense to focus on running the ball and grinding clock, as they'd done on the previous series.
But for the second straight possession, the Packers went three-and-out — this time on Eddie Lacy runs for minus-4, minus-2 and 2 yards.
"Not very good," Rodgers said of those two abbreviated drives. "When you do that, that's how you lose games."
Green Bay punted, Wilson suddenly found some sort of rhythm and the most pivotal play was an onside kick by the Seahawks that third-string Packers tight end Brandon Bostick mishandled.
Rodgers touched the ball just once more, leading Green Bay to a tying field goal to force OT. He finished 19-of-34 passing for 178 yards with a touchdown, two interceptions and a 55.8 rating while continuing to battle through mobility limited by a strained left calf.
In his postgame media conference, Rodgers mused that the team wasn't playing as aggressively as usual at times but declined to elaborate. All that mattered was the outcome: Nine months of work fallen short in a heartbeat, Starr still standing alone in Packers lore.
"You just go home, think about it, stay with it, move on. Start getting ready for the offseason program," Rodgers said. "This one's going to hurt for a while because of the close proximity to that feeling, when the clock hits zero and you're ahead. And we gave it away."
Follow Tom Pelissero on Twitter @TomPelissero.