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The Green Bay Packers' loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Saturday stings sharply in the immediate aftermath, perhaps because it might ultimately hurt much worse.
If it's indeed the last game featuring Aaron Rodgers in a Packers uniform, it's an unceremonious end to an era filled with success ... but also its share of playoff setbacks. In an eerie parallel to Brett Favre's last game in early 2008, Rodgers' own disappointing performance played a role in what might be Green Bay's missed last chance at a Super Bowl title for several years.
Where does it rank in the canon of Packers playoff disappointment? For that, we'll need the context of what comes next, so its position on this list is tenuous. On the bright side ... there are many worse occasions to choose from?
15. NFC title game setbacks (and Randy Moss)
It's saying something that we can lump together a bunch of NFC championship game losses here and not have them higher on the list. The Packers' loss to San Francisco after the 2019 season (37-20), Atlanta after 2016 (44-21) and Dallas after 1995 (38-27) were all painful in their own right, but all featured Packers teams that weren't favored to win. One more loss worth mentioning: a loss to conference rival Minnesota at Lambeau Field after the 2004 season, a 31-17 setback made famous by Randy Moss' ... uh, gesture.
14. Almost back (1982 season)
The Packers only made two playoff appearances between Super Bowl II and the Brett Favre era, and they only won a single playoff game in that stretch, in 1982 over the St. Louis Cardinals. Green Bay almost won at Dallas in the divisional round, as well, with a zany fourth quarter that featured James Lofton's 71-yard reverse for a touchdown and Mark Lee's 22-yard interception return. But the Packers made ample mistakes, and the Cowboys were able to match those scores to prevail, 37-26.
13. The Colin Kaepernick Chronicles (2012-13 season)
Saturday was not the first time the Packers have lost to the 49ers at Lambeau in the playoffs on a last-second field goal. It was Phil Dawson turning the trick after the 2013 season, although the 49ers were favored and had the better record when they topped the Packers in the wild-card round, 23-20. The real issue was Colin Kaepnerick, who had almost single-handedly destroyed the Packers in the preceding season's playoffs, a 45-31 blowout in which the Milwaukee-born Kaepernick passed for 263 yards, ran for 181 and accounted for four touchdowns. The Packers showed they hadn't adjusted to the issue in the regular-season opener in 2013, when Kaepernick threw for 412 yards and three scores in a 34-28 win over Green Bay. Perhaps his 227 yards passing and 98 yards rushing count as progress for the Packers in the 2013 playoff loss, but he'll forever be a boogeyman in Packers lore.
12. Desert drama (2009 season)
In his first playoff appearance, Aaron Rodgers delivered a sensational performance after the 2009 season, throwing for 423 yards and four touchdowns as he led the Packers back from a 24-7 deficit to tie the game with less than 2 minutes left at 45. But Rodgers was sacked by Michael Adams and fumbled in overtime, allowing Karlos Dansby to return it for a game-winning touchdown in the first of multiple playoff overtime setbacks in the Rodgers era. Kurt Warner threw for 379 yards and five scores as Arizona carved up the Packers defense in the 51-45 contest.
11. A rare Lombardi-era loss (1960 season)
It might not be top of mind in terms of Packers-fan suffering, either because it happened so long ago or because the Lombardi-era Packers had plenty to celebrate But Green Bay's title hopes were dashed in late 1960 when Jim Taylor was dropped at the 9-yard line as time expired, one play after Gary Knafelc was tackled in bounds at the 22-yard line to keep the clock moving. The hurried final snap got off with 5 seconds left, and Chuck Bednarik made the tackle to give the Philadelphia Eagles the crown, 17-13.
The back-and-forth game included a go-ahead Eagles touchdown run by Ted Dean in the fourth quarter. The Packers had three chances to answer thereafter but Max McGee fumbled (recovered by Bednarik), the subsequent drive ended in a punt and the game's final drive began with 1:05 left at the Philly 35-yard line. Green Bay led almost every statistical category but still fell short.
The Milwaukee Journal ran a front page full of photos demonstrating that Packers defensive end Bill Quinlan was held by Eagles lineman Billy Barnes on the score that eventually accounted for the winning points.
The Packers were playing for their first title since 1944. But they bounced back, winning in 1961,1962 and 1965, then the first two Super Bowls (and NFL titles) in 1966 and 1967.
10. Michael Vick breaks Lambeau's spell (2002 season)
Nobody came to Lambeau Field and defeated the Packers. It hadn't happened in the playoffs ever, and teams from warm-weather locales faced the biggest uphill battle. But that mystique came crashing down on Jan. 4, 2003, when Michael Vick and the Atlanta Falcons took a 24-0 lead at halftime en route to a 27-7 victory in the wild-card round. That blocked punt for a touchdown against the 49ers wasn't a novel miscue; the Falcons took a 14-0 lead in the first quarter when Mark Simoneau blocked Josh Bidwell's punt and Artie Ulmer covered it up in the end zone. Green Bay went on to lose playoff games at home after the 2004 season, as well as 2007, 2011 and 2013 (and each of the past two years).
9. Larry Fitzgerald (2015 season)
Larry Fitzgerald went 75 yards on the first play of overtime, then eventually scored from 5 yards out to quickly dismiss Green Bay's dramatic attempt at a comeback in the divisional round of the 2015 playoffs. Green Bay had tied the game on a Hail Mary pass to Jeff Janis as time expired, but the upset bid was denied, 26-20.
8. The Bucs stop (the Packers) here
A touchdown pass on the last play of the first half to Scotty Miller gave the Buccaneers a 21-10 lead at halftime in the NFC championship game at Lambeau Field on Jan. 24, 2021. The Packers entered the game having lost three straight NFC title games since the triumph in Super Bowl XLV, but this was the first time the Packers were able to play at home. A controversial decision to kick a field goal with 2:05 left brought the Packers within 31-26, but Green Bay never got the ball back, and the Tom Brady-led Bucs were on their way to a Super Bowl crown.
7. Terrell Owens (1998 season)
It's perhaps the highlight of a Hall of Fame career for Terrell Owens when he made a sensational 25-yard touchdown catch with 8 seconds to go in the wild-card round of the 1998 playoffs on Jan. 3, 1999. But it was also a lowlight in Packers history. The play turned a Packers win into a stunning 30-27 loss on the heels of two Super Bowl appearances, marking the first of 10 straight years without an appearance in the NFC title game. Making the moment worse, of course, was that the game took place in an era where instant-replay review wasn't utilized, meaning the infamous Jerry Rice fumble on the final drive went without an overturn. The Packers had taken the lead on the first snap after the 2-minute warning on an Antonio Freeman touchdown, but Steve Young was able to engineer the winning sequence.
6. Last dance dashed (2021 season)
With more context, this entry could move up (or down) the list. Was the 13-10 gut punch against San Francisco at snowy Lambeau in the divisional round truly Aaron Rodgers' final game as a Green Bay Packer? Was it a passing-of-the-torch moment as Jordan Love (or someone else) continues Green Bay's three-decade run of success? Or was it the turning point where Green Bay plummets off its perch as one of the league's elite?
5. 15-1 and done (2011 season)
The 2011 Packers were an offensive juggernaut, a superior regular-season team to the 2010 squad that eked its way into the playoffs and then won a Super Bowl as the No. 6 seed. But despite a 15-1 record — the best mark in franchise history — there would be no repeat of the postseason magic. The Packers never got on track in the divisional round against the Giants, falling behind at halftime, 20-10, thanks to a touchdown on the final play of the first half (sound familiar?). Green Bay committed four turnovers, never led in the contest and ultimately fell in lopsided fashion, 37-20.
4. 4th and 26 (2003 season)
Sure, the visual of the blocked punt against the 49ers will linger in our minds forever. But will the play ultimately get its own Wikipedia page? The phrase "4th and 26" alone brings heartburn to Packers fans. On Jan. 11, 2004, the Packers had all but wrapped up a win that would have put them into the NFC championship game, but Donovan McNabb found Freddie Mitchell from the infamous down and distance with 1:12 to go and no timeouts, a 28-yard connection that enabled a game-tying field goal from David Akers and forced overtime. In the extra session, a Favre interception set up another Akers field goal that put the Eagles into the next round, where they fell to the Carolina Panthers.
3. The deepest freeze (2007 season)
Playing in one of the coldest games in Lambeau Field history on Jan. 20, 2008, the Packers had their sights set on one last Super Bowl with Brett Favre under center. The New York Giants had shocked top-seeded Dallas, giving Green Bay an opportunity to host the NFC title game. But though the Packers dodged a bullet when Lawrence Tynes missed a 36-yard field goal in regulation, Favre threw an interception to Corey Webster on the second snap of overtime, allowing Tynes to atone with a 47-yard field goal. It feels eerily similar to what the Packers are facing today, except that team was even one step closer to the Super Bowl, and we know with certainty that an acrimonious separation with the team's Hall of Fame quarterback awaited.
2. Seattle (2014 season)
In the unforgettable NFC championship-game loss on Jan. 18, 2015, the botched onside kick by Brandon Bostick is the visual everyone carries away from the game, but there is so much blame to go around: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix getting lost on a 2-point conversion, Julius Peppers telling Morgan Burnett to take a knee after what could have been a game-clinching interception return, a Seahawks third-and-19 conversion in the third quarter, and two 35-yard completions in overtime that gave Seattle the 28-22 win. The Packers looked ticketed for the Super Bowl and were stunningly left short.
1. Super Bowl XXXII (1997 season)
The Packers were heavily favored Jan. 25, 1998 to repeat as Super Bowl champions, but John Elway obtained the Lombardi Trophy that had eluded him when Terrell Davis scored a go-ahead touchdown with 1:45 left to cap a 157-yard rushing performance that sent the Packers to a 31-24 defeat. It’s still arguably one of the top-five biggest Super Bowl upsets in history. Elway and the Broncos beat the Falcons in the following year's Super Bowl, too, clinching the back-to-back Super Bowls that Packers fans thought would be theirs.
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Where does Packers' loss to 49ers rank among playoff heartbreaks?