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The Packers laid a gigantic egg in Atlanta on Sunday. Pete Dougherty sifts through the detritus.
This time there was no last-second heartbreak to end the Green Bay Packers’ Super Bowl hopes. No late-game play or decision to dissect and overanalyze.
Instead, Aaron Rodgers’ and the Packers’ epic run of the past two months ended with a dud. No shootout, no last stand. It just vanished one step shy of the Super Bowl in a blowout loss to the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome.
“Frankly, we ran out of gas,” coach Mike McCarthy said.
The Packers’ 2016 season will be remembered most for its extraordinary turnaround — the team was on life support after a brutal four-game losing streak left it at 4-6, but then went on a memorable eight-game run that took McCarthy to his fourth conference title game.
But it also will be remembered for the way it finished. Because all the weaknesses and shortcomings that had plagued the Packers during bad times were laid bare on Sunday as the season’s final impression.
Bob McGinn’s assessment was no less stinging.
What got the Packers to this spot either deserted them or was taken away by the Falcons, who will be making their second appearance in the Super Bowl (and first since the 1998 season).
Their 22nd-ranked defense, which had at least shown some semblance of respectability to go with 18 takeaways during the winning streak, was pathetic. Atlanta piled up 493 yards, 30 first downs and a 77% third-down conversion rate before calling off the dogs after three quarters.
The Packers wide receiving corps was a big part of this team’s success throughout their eight game winning streak, but Michael Cohen writes their injuries became too much to overcome against Atlanta.
As for the defense, Tom Silverstein shines a light on the fact that in each of the team’s last six playoff losses, Dom Capers’ group has been primarily at fault.
Packers guard TJ Lang battled through a litany of injuries all season long, including a broken foot that was aggravated in the loss to the Falcons. Ryan Wood writes on the soon-to-be free agent and how he wants nothing more than to finish his career in Green Bay.
Ryan also wrote on Mason Crosby’s streak of playoff perfection coming to an end.
After the game, I chatted with readers over on our Facebook Live page:
Elsewhere, Aaron Rodgers was noticeably emotional when asked about Jordy Nelson playing through broken ribs:
The AP wrote about the dominance of the Falcons as they head to their second Super Bowl:
Rob Demovsky tries to interpret Aaron Rodgers’ post-game remarks. (And does so correctly, if you ask me…)
Writing for ESPN, Jason Wilde points toward uncharacteristic early mistakes that doomed the Packers in Atlanta:
Aaron Rodgers laments the early season losses that sent them on the road in the playoffs:
Dan Patrick posits a theory:
Predictably, the Internet went to town on the Packers after yesterday’s game:
Finally, after a long, winding season, Super Bowl LI is set.