At one point, Saturday's game between the Green Bay Packers and the San Francisco 49ers appeared to be on its way to living up to the drama of the Baltimore Ravens-Denver Broncos game that preceded it. The 49ers led 24-21 after a first half filled with momentum-changing big plays and miscues. The Packers tied the game with a field goal on their second drive of the third quarter, setting the stage for a potentially exciting finish.
Then Green Bay went limp. They seemed to have no answer for Colin Kaepernick, as the Niners reeled off 21 straight points with their read-option attack. Even more frustrating to some fans was the offense's inability to sustain drives. Forced into a big hole, Aaron Rodgers could not find a rhythm under a heavy Niners pass rush.
After the loss, Devin Shanley of the SB Nation blog Acme Packing Company put the blame squarely on the coaches' shoulders. In particular, he lambasted the lack of attempts in the running game:
In the last week of the season the Packers did in fact travel to San Francisco to face those Niners again. In the first half the offense kept a pretty solid balance. DuJuan Harris was running the ball well, and even had an 18 yard touchdown run. They were able to keep pace with the Niners and matched them blow for blow. But in the second half someone thought it would be a good idea to forget the run again. Harris would run the ball two more times, both on the first drive of the half (for three yards each), and then no more. The Packers would run the ball only two more times after cutting Harris out of the game (both runs were with Cobb and fairly successful). By the end of the game Aaron Rodgers would have 39 pass attempts to 16 running attempts for the Green & Gold (keep in mind as well three of those 16 rushing attempts were scrambles by Rodgers himself).
This is an outright failure of a plan. This was a failure of the offense in general. This was unlearning every last hard lesson that this team learned throughout the hard fought year.
The Packers will head home from the playoffs for a second straight season. The 49ers move on to the NFC Championship Game to play the winner of Sunday's tilt between the Seattle Seahawks and the Atlanta Falcons.