Aaron Rodgers. MVP. Super Bowl winner. 4x First-team All-Pro. NFL 2010’s All-Decade Team. Conspiracy Theorist. Immunized. The impressive resume for the family hater himself never ends. However, his playoff resume does not quite live up to everything else. His ten playoff losses with the Packers leave many questioning his effectiveness in the playoffs and if he simply isn’t clutch. Not to mention nearly every playoff loss was either pure embarrassment or extreme heartbreak. In this article from the Sports Wave, I will rank each of Aaron Rodgers’ playoff losses in terms of three principles: regular-season success, offseason implications, and, most importantly, heartbreak. Overall, I will rank each of Aaron Rodgers’ playoff losses in terms of disappointment.
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10. 2009 Wild Card Loss to Cardinals
For number 10, we have to travel all the way back to the final season of Kurt Warner’s career, 2009. While this game indeed broke the hearts of many Packer fans, it also brought hope to many more. The ending certainly wasn’t ideal, especially since Aaron Rodgers missed this throw to win it, but who cares. At the end of the day, Aaron Rodgers proved to the nation that he could put up big numbers when it mattered most. Unfortunately for him, the Pack’s 5th best passing defense collapsed against Warner’s best playoff performance. Although the outcome, especially the ending, was not ideal for Rodgers, hope began to build for Packer fans as they got their new legendary franchise quarterback. Superbowls and playoff victories were on the docket for every person living in Wisconsin.
9. 2012 Divisional Loss to 49ers
Pure poetry, the Packers start their 2012 season with a loss to the 49ers and end with a loss to the 49ers. While many remember this game as the “Colin Kaepernick Game,” and rightfully so, we need to dive into the Packer’s final regular-season game to get the full scope of disappointment. Heading into the last week of the regular season, the Packers had a chance to win over the Vikings and clinch a bye and the number two seed in the NFC. However, the Vikings were playing just as hard as they needed a win to clinch a playoff spot. In conclusion, the game turned into one of the greatest games to end a regular season with the Vikings winning. The Packers fell to the three seed with the loss and got bulldozed by the 49ers in Candlestick Park.
The playoff exit marked the second year in a row, with the Packers exiting early in the divisional round. While they are only two years removed from a Superbowl victory, a small minority begin to question head coach Mike McCarthy.
8. 2013 Wild Card Loss to 49ers
Once again, the Packers start their 2013 season with a loss to the 49ers and end with a loss to the 49ers. Although the loss was certainly disappointing, especially since it was a game-winning field goal in the snow at Lambeau (history really does repeat itself), most fans were just happy to see the Packers in the playoffs in the first place. In week 9 against the Chicago Bears, Aaron Rodgers suffered a fractured collarbone after a bizarre hit from Shea McClellin, causing Rodgers to miss eight weeks of regular season football. Most considered the Packers done after the injury as the Packers got stuck with Scott Tolzien at QB. Instead, the Packers pull off unbelievable victories against the Falcons, Cowboys, and Bears to somehow win the division at 8-7-1.
Thus, expectations were meager, especially after getting slated to face the 12-4 49ers. Colin Kaepernick again ran over the Packers with 98 yards, including a couple of scrambles to set up Phil Dawson for the game-winner. However, with the Packers getting fully healthy, they were destined for the Superbowl in 2014.
7. 2016 NFC Championship Loss to Falcons
Only one word describes this game: obliteration. After a year marked with frustrating losses and R.E.L.A.X., the Packer’s season ended on a dud. Despite starting the season 4-6, the Packers won their final six regular-season games to win the N.F.C. North. More success followed in the playoffs. After destroying the boat-party Giants and upsetting the Cowboys in Jerry’s World, destiny was calling the Packers. Unfortunately for the Pack, she hung up at the worst possible time. The Packers had no answer for Julio Jones and the number one ranked offense as the Falcons moved up and down the field with ease. While this loss is undoubtedly forgettable for Mike McCarthy, it wasn’t, as this was his final playoff game with the Packers; thus ending a tenure rifled with playoff losses and disappointment.
For Rodgers and the Packers, it marked an end to an era of Packer football. Micah Hyde, J.C. Tretter, Jordy Nelson, Morgan Burnett, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Clay Matthews, Mike Daniels, Randall Cobb all left when the Pack made their next playoff appearance. With a new wave of players and a revitalized defense, the Packers finally made improvements on the other side.
6. 2019 NFC Championship Loss to 49ers
A doomsday clock appears in Lambeau field as we reach the second in a trio of disappointing championship losses. Nobody knows what it’s counting down towards or why it appeared, but soon speculation builds. Despite drafting two first-round defensive players and signing many others, the Packers’ defense crumbled on the biggest stage. Raheem Mostert ran like the gingerbread man the entire game through the Packers’ defense and never seemed to stop. Jimmy Garoppolo only attempted EIGHT passes and yet still won by 17. For Rodgers, his offense could never get going until the fourth quarter, and by then, it was too late. Even though he went 13-3 in his first season as head coach, Matt LaFleur was badly out-coached and showed signs of weakness.
While this loss was neither heart-wrenching nor franchise-changing, it’s clear the season killed Rodgers on the inside. The offseason brought no cathartic feelings either. After the Packers drafted Jordan Love, and the failure to get Rodgers more help outside of Davante Adams, the writing was on the wall for the soon-to-be breakup.
5. 2020 NFC Championship Loss to Buccaneers
The doomsday clock strikes again as it moves 367 days to 366 after the loss. Again, no one knows what it’s counting down towards or what it signifies for the Packers. However, after a crushing loss at home to the Buccaneers, many realize its purpose. Finally, after nine years, the Packers returned to greatness as the best team in the NFC, and it was well deserved. The 2020 Packers were on fire from top-to-bottom, with Rodgers leading the charge. The Packers were incredibly efficient, and the newly made defense finally seemed to hold its weight. For once in a long-time, the Packers were Super Bowl favorites. However, there is one small thing in their way. Tom Brady. Nobody, not even the 13-3 Packers, stopped him from reaching the Super Bowl. TB12 ran through Green Bay, with help from officiating, giving the Packers another frustrating loss.
Despite leading the Buccaneers in most statistical categories, the Packers simply were not prepared enough for the game. From blown coverages, to Rodgers not running with clear lanes, to kicking a field goal despite being down eight with 2:05 remaining, a comedy of errors plagued the Pack from achieving the victory. Additionally, the game marked Rodgers’ final straw with the organization. Overall, a cataclysmic loss for the Packers as they once again fail to win the NFC Championship.
4. 2011 NFC Divisional Loss to Giants
After a miraculous season from both the offense and defense, the Packers become the only team in NFL history to go “one and done” after going 15-1. Soul crushing. Right on the cusp of winning a Super Bowl after starting in the Wild Card, the Packers lose to the Cinderella Giants. Heart-stopping. I fully believe that all of Aaron Rodgers’ playoff losses can be tied to this single loss. If Rodgers and the Pack win this game, they not only complete one of the most incredible seasons of all time, they legitimize their chance at a dynasty. Mind-numbing. Instead, the Packers lose on a multitude of poor decisions, missed opportunities, and crushing turnovers. The game is dramatically different if Rodgers doesn’t miss this throw, gets a half-second longer of pocket time, or the defense tackles Bradshaw. However, they failed on all fronts. Pain.
To this day, many wonder how an offensive unit that was one of the best since 1993 could fail this hard. The nine dropped passes, four turnovers, and four sacks are disparaging for an offense that averaged 35 points during the regular season. Nonetheless, the opportunity to repeat as Super Bowl champions and build on an already impressive resume was lost for Rodgers. Although it was clear the Pack was around to stay, the loss foreshadowed the next ten years to come. Overall, it was one of the worst losses in the Packers’ 120-year history.
3. 2015 Divisional Loss to Cardinals
One year removed from the tragedy in Seattle, the Packers find an even more fanatical way to lose a football game. Unlike other losses on this list, this loss isn’t marked with juicy drama or an excellent season gone in the blink of an eye. Simply put, this loss kills a fan on the inside. Nothing is worse as a fan than to watch your team pull off an incredibly improbable comeback on the biggest stage only to lose it in a span of three plays. After ending the regular season with two straight embarrassing losses to the Cardinals and Vikings, many predicted a quick exit for the Packers. Nonetheless, the Packers beat 9-7 Washington and looked to pull of the upset against the 13-3 Cardinals.
The Packers led for most of the 2nd half after a touchdown to Jeff Janis. However, after a tipped touchdown into the hands of Michael Floyd, the Packers were back on their heels. Somehow they pulled off the miracle as Jeff Janis achieved legendary status in Green Bay. However, it didn’t matter as Larry Fitzgerald pulled off his own miracle. After back-to-back soul-crushing defeats, it became clear that Mike McCarthy’s seat was boiling to a crisp. Again, while this loss never brought offseason changes or dramatic overhaul, the loss officially started the narrative that Rodgers can’t win in the playoffs.
2. 2021 Divisional Loss to 49ers
As Robbie Gould’s kick sails through the uprights, the doomsday clock strikes 0. Hundreds watch in terror, knowing pain and suffering are sure to follow. Hundreds more watch in delight as the reign of terror that plagued the realm for years comes to an end. What more can I say about the latest Packer collapse. After a season filled with drama, vaccinations, threats, questionable decisions, the final nail gets slammed into Aaron Rodgers’ coffin with the Packers. Despite going 13-4 and finally getting a competent defense, Rodgers cannot pull off the championship that has alluded him since 2010. The loss itself is pretty frustrating, eight three-and-outs, missing Allen Lazard on third-and-11, and the many special teams’ mistakes. However, this loss stands out for one reason—the end of the Rodgers era.
After the 2019 Championship loss to the 49ers, it was clear that the end was coming fast and painful. However, I doubt anybody predicted this hard of a crash. Rodgers went from being one of the most liked players, by anybody outside the NFC North, to one of the most hated in three years. Despite falling from a cliff into the center of an erupting volcano, this loss is not the most painful in the Rodgers era. We must return to a simpler time where pandemics were fake and Tom Brady still only had three rings.
1. 2014 NFC Championship Loss to Seahawks
Just like the previous 49ers’ losses, the Packers’ season begins and ends with a loss to the Seahawks. Unlike most NFL games where only 8-9 plays have a significant impact, this game had 30. Every single moment, decision, and play had significant ramifications on the game’s final score. From the Packers failing to convert at the goal line early, which only led to only six points, to Russell Wilson converting a 3rd and 19 because Dom Capers doesn’t understand prevent defense, I can list 30 different plays if the Packers succeeded, the game is different. Instead, the Packers blew a 12 point lead in about 2 minutes. No other loss on this compares to the absurdity of this game and how badly the Packers ruined the ending. Rodgers rightfully deserves plenty of blame which most of it stems from only scoring SIX points off of FIVE takeaways.
Overall, this loss signifies the Aaron Rodgers’ era as a whole: do just enough to make noise and seem good but fail when it matters most. No other loss is more painful, gut-wrenching, heart-stopping than this one. The Packers were a play away from making the Super Bowl again but watched from their couches. Check out this article if you want a more in-depth look at those significant plays. Otherwise, rejoice as the era of Aaron Rodgers’ with the Packers closes and celebrate each of these heart-stopping losses.