This year’s Green Bay Packers looked like a team on a mission. Like a team destined to end up in Indianapolis and atone for the franchise’s Super Bowl loss 14 years ago in San Diego. Since that fateful day on the West Coast, the Packers have had some of the toughest playoff defeats of all the teams in the NFL. Where does Sunday’s loss sit on that list?
5. 1998 defeated by San Francisco 49ers 30-27
The Packers were eight seconds away from a playoff win over the 49ers for a staggering fourth-straight season, but that win wouldn’t happen thanks to a conservative defensive call and Terrell Owens’ catch in between three Packers’ defenders. Many fans remember this game thanks to Jerry Rice’s fumble that wasn’t ruled correctly, but the defense broke down many times on that final drive. The loss spoiled a great performance by running back Dorsey Levens, 116 yards rushing and another 37 receiving, as well as the brilliant comeback drive by Brett Favre. This loss was even more painful as it was the final game for both Mike Holmgren and Reggie White.
4. 2009 defeated by Arizona Cardinals 51-45
What a game this was in the desert. The Packers probably didn’t deserve to win since the defense forced just five third down attempts and one punt and Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner had five touchdowns to four incompletions. As the first of three overtime games on the list, the Packers had a chance in the final session after 21-point comeback. Aaron Rodgers missed Greg Jennings for an 80-yard touchdown on the first play of OT which would’ve capped an amazing first playoff start for No. 12. He had 422 yards passing and five total touchdowns. However, the Packers were stunned by Carlos Dansby’s fumble return for a score on that first possession. The unforgettable image is the one of Mike McCarthy falling to his knees seconds after that touchdown was scored.
3. 2007 defeated by New York Giants 23-20
Another overtime game, another heart-breaking loss. Brett Favre’s final pass as a Packer will always be remembered, but like the Arizona game, it’s amazing the game got to overtime in the first place. Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes missed two field goals in the fourth quarter and the New York defense all but shutdown Favre and the Packers offense. After a 201-yard performance vs. Seattle, Ryan Grant had just 29 yards on 13 carries. The lone bright spot was Donald Driver’s 90-yard touchdown catch and run in the second quarter. This loss was painful, but after watching these Giants beat the 18-0 Patriots two weeks later, it was obvious they were the better team that day. This loss was also a building block to the ’10 Super Bowl championship team.
2. 2003 defeated by Philadelphia Eagles 20-17
To me, this is higher than the Giants loss in 2007 because the Packers clearly were the better team on the field that day in Philadelphia. Ahman Green, who had 1,880 yards that season, ran all over the Eagles defense, gaining 156 yards, which helped build an early 14-0 lead. This game was such a tough loss to swallow since it was the Packers’ mistakes that led to the defeat. The failed 4th & goal run by Green in the second quarter, the decision by Mike Sherman not to go for 4th & 1 with just over 2 minutes to go in the 4th quarter and then the infamous 4th & 26 pass play given by a defense that looked just like the one that gave up Owens’ catch in San Francisco. This was all before the first Favre in overtime interception debacle.
1. 2011 defeated by New York Giants 37-20
After a 15-win regular season, the high-scoring powerhouse that was this year’s Packers laid one of the biggest eggs in recent NFL history in the postseason, which is why this loss is atop the list. After scoring 560 points, second all-time in a season, the offense was lethargic, scoring just two touchdowns and turning the ball over a season-high four times. Aaron Rodgers missed open an Greg Jennings for an early touchdown and it got worse after Tom Crabtree’s drop of a sure 3rd down conversion and Jennings not hauling in a touchdown in the 3rd quarter. And like the entire regular season, the defense was downright pathetic. Hakeem Nicks had two touchdown catches on plays that shouldn’t have happened, the back-breaker being the Hail Mary at the end of the first half. It was a fitting end to the season, since all year we heard how the 32nd ranking in yards on defense didn’t matter. But we found out that ranking did matter.