Titans, Packers Both Lose on Upset Saturday

San Francisco 49ers DE Jordan Willis
San Francisco 49ers DE Jordan Willis
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Divisional - Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around emails about the games that each of us are watching. We share information about the games that the rest of the group might not be watching, ask questions, and keep everyone else informed about which games they might want to tune into (if they can).

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Cincinnati Bengals 19 at Tennessee Titans 16

Aaron Schatz: The Bengals had the No. 32 defense against the pass on first down, so the Titans pass on the first play of the game, and Jessie Bates immediately picks off Ryan Tannehill. So much for that advice I gave the Titans to pass on first down!

Scott Spratt: Well you presumably meant pass it to other Titans, not Bengals.

Bryan Knowles: Julio Jones was open, too; Tannehill just didn't work back there until about a second too late. The play was going to work, they should probably go back to it, but not precisely an ideal start.

Scott Spratt: After seeing the Titans sack Joe Burrow twice after that interception (only one counted because of a penalty), I'm reminded of this interesting split: the Raiders ranked eighth in pass rush win rate but just 24th in adjusted sack rate, and the Titans ranked 21st in pass rush win rate and 10th in adjusted sack rate. Maybe that's a small sample quirk, but I suspect the vanilla Cover-3 Raiders pass defense allows quarterbacks to read the defense and make quick decisions, which Burrow certainly managed last week. Burrow could have a lot harder time doing that with a Titans defense that plays from a lot of defensive alignments and disguises those before the snap. And that could lead to a lot more sacks for Burrow, who led the league with 51 this regular season.

Bryan Knowles: The Bengals' offensive line is accurately described. Big sacks on each drive so far, and some fairly bad whiffs by the line on each of them.

Rivers McCown: Glad the Bengals remembered Ja'Marr Chase is on the team after two series.

Aaron Schatz: 57 yards because the Titans big-blitzed and Kristian Fulton in man coverage couldn't tackle Chase. There was nobody behind him and Chase just kept running.

And I think while I typed that, Joe Burrow was sacked another eight times.

Scott Spratt: Smart play for safety Amani Hooker to slide. With a lead blocker, I don't think Hooker could have tackled Chase with a traditional effort. His slide tripped the blocker and forced Chase to hesitate, which allowed the pursuit to tackle him.

Vince Verhei: Getting caught up on DVR at the end of the first quarter. The game started with a play-action interception, followed immediately by a play-action sack. I thought the aggressive defensive fronts might be vulnerable to runs. Since then, the two teams have combined for 21 yards on 10 carries. So, uh, never mind. Add in the 24 yards lost on four sacks between the two teams and it has not been a good 15 minutes for offensive lines.

Scott Spratt: It felt like the Titans dominated that first quarter, but the Bengals are up 6-0. Tannehill may have cost the Titans about 10 points in net with his interception and bad overthrow of a wide-open A.J. Brown on what would have been a touchdown.

Vince Verhei: I totally disagree. The Titans have been outgained by about 50 yards and are down in the turnover margin. They have gotten some sacks in scoring range, but they're lucky they're not down 14-0.

Carl Yedor: Saying "it's all about the trenches" is a classic football cliche, but it has been very much the case so far in this one. Cincinnati has struggled to pick up Tennessee's pressure looks, Tannehill has sat in the pocket only to take hits, and neither running game has gotten much of anything going thus far. The Bengals hit a big play to Chase, and the Titans likely should have had one to Brown, but neither team has been able to move the ball consistently at all. At this rate, it may be a question of whose defense gives up more explosive plays rather than which offense is able to move the ball methodically down the field.

Scott Spratt: Trent Green in reference to A.J. Brown's yards after the catch: He reminds me of Deebo Samuel. Me: Samuel reminds me of A.J. Brown.

Bryan Knowles: Scott, in 2019, Brown and Samuel were one-two in YAC+. They would have been one and four in 2020 if Deebo had seen enough targets to qualify after missing time with an injured foot. They do it in different ways, but they're a couple of beasts.

Scott Spratt: They may be one-two in YAC+ for the next 10 years.

Derrik Klassen: That's the exact kind of drive you're worried about if you're Cincinnati. Opened with the hard play-action shot play to A.J. Brown to get to the Cincy 43-yard line, then finished out the drive with a string of tough, consistent runs and a rollout completion that got them into the red zone. Felt like the Titans hit all the right buttons on that drive. We'll see if Cincy's offensive line is good enough to let the Bengals do anything in response.

Aaron Schatz: Right decision by Mike Vrabel to go for two after a penalty brought the two-point conversion to the 1-yard line. Wrong outcome when Derrick Henry's forearm came down before the goal line. Tied 6-6, 6:07 left in the first half.

Vince Verhei: This may lose me some nerd cred, but ... the Titans start feeding Henry, and the gains are modest, but they're there, and I'm thinking about how much pressure there must be on a defense playing a big-play back like Henry, knowing any mistake can lead to a home run. And that's when Tennessee goes on a play-action tear, hitting the bomb to Brown, using it to convert a third-and-3, then a run to Henry, then back-to-back play-action for 21 yards. Henry carries it in from there, but it sure felt like the threat of Henry getting going was enough to open up the Titans' play-action.

Scott Spratt: Maybe teams in general don't need rushing success to enjoy success on play-action. But Tannehill's play-action numbers dropped precipitously after Henry went out for the second half of this year. Defenses treat Henry a certain way.

Bryan Knowles: Joe Burrow has been sacked five times already in the first half—and that's not including the two times he was knocked to the ground on plays which didn't happen. The playoff record for sacks is nine, most recently done by the Chiefs against Warren Moon's Oilers in the 1993 playoffs.

Rivers McCown: Do any of those other linemen on the Bengals bench know how to play football? This is a big non-endorsement for them.

Scott Spratt: 13 seconds left in the half just shy of midfield? Seems like a good spot for a quarterback draw.

Aaron Schatz: Both of these offensive lines look pretty overwhelmed at the half, which is why it is just 9-6 Bengals. Burrow is finding guys when he has time to throw, but he just doesn't have too many plays with time to throw. Mixon is going nowhere, five carries for 6 yards. Even Henry has only 30 yards on 10 carries and got stuffed on that two-point conversion, and Tannehill doesn't look very good. It's not just the offensive lines—I think that both quarterbacks hold onto the ball a little too long when they could get rid of it. These offenses need to be calling quicker pass plays in the second half.

Scott Spratt: Have the Bengals even run Chase on a jet sweep? They seem weirdly committed to smashing Joe Mixon into a brick wall on inside carries.

Carl Yedor: After the second quarter, my takeaway from this game hasn't really changed. The defensive fronts are clearly beating the offensive fronts, so it has been a real challenge to move the ball for both teams. The quarterbacks have been taking sacks and struggling to get the ball out quickly, so maybe some quicker-developing concepts would be beneficial to get these passing games rolling. To Scott's point, the Bengals got Chase one carry right after his big gain on the screen, so they need to find a way to manufacture some more touches for him in space. Tennessee's defensive structure has largely forced Burrow to look elsewhere in the passing game. Getting the ball to your best playmakers more often seems like pretty simple advice, but it strikes me as relevant here.

Vince Verhei: Bengals lead 9-6 at halftime, and I am having a hard time getting a feel for this game. You could easily point to Evan McPherson's 54-yard field goal and Tennessee's failed two-point conversion and argue that the Titans should be ahead. But they have really just had the one good drive, the one that ended on the touchdown. Otherwise they have the interception and four punts, including a pair of three-and-outs. The Bengals, meanwhile, have at least one first down on five of their six possessions. It seems like if they can get a touchdown with the opening drive of the second half, Tennessee could be in deep trouble.

Scott Spratt: Joe Mixon ran for 6 yards on five first-half carries. Trent Green at the start of the second half: The Bengals have to establish the run!

Bryan Knowles: Well, consider the run established, I suppose. Mixon carried the ball four times on Cincinnati's first drive in the second half, resulting in 34 yards and the touchdown, with a 7-yard reception mixed in for spice. If Cincinnati has figured out how to move the ball effectively on the ground, Tennessee may be in a wee bit of trouble here. Hell of a cutback by Mixon on the touchdown, too.

Rivers McCown: Obviously there's still plenty of ballgame left, but I'm gonna die laughing if after every "Titans are the worst No. 1 seed ever but obviously they are really good!" piece I read this week, this ends with them scoring six points.

Vince Verhei: I'm not sure what kind of runs the Bengals were trying in the first half, but their good runs on that drive were zone runs out of two-tight end sets, including the touchdown.

Aaron Schatz: That 45-yard, tackle-breaking run by D'Onta Foreman was like the personification of the whole "fungible running back" argument. He looked like Derrick Henry out there!

Vince Verhei: Mike Hilton: The Human Defeats Machine.

Aaron Schatz: NFL Matchup actually talked about the Titans using a lot of 11 personnel to run the ball, thinking they would want to keep the undersized Hilton on the field trying to tackle Henry. But it has been a ton of 12 personnel for the Titans today.

One big play-action pass to A.J. Brown just basically made up an entire drive for Tennessee. Forty yards on that one, 16 yards on the rest of the drive. Randy Bullock field goal. 16-9 Bengals.

Vince Verhei: Tennessee calls timeout on third-and-9 to avoid delay of game, then throws a short pass and kicks a field goal on fourth-and-3. Not good value on the timeout there, considering they're still down seven late in the third.

Scott Spratt: Wow, this interception vs. no interception call could decide the game. Amani Hooker had his hands on the ball before the ball touched the ground, but I have no idea if the ground helped him secure the catch or not.

Aaron Schatz: It stands as called! Off Samaje Perine's hands, into the hands of Hooker. There have been some amazing interceptions in this game.

Bryan Knowles: And the huge interception leads to a great grab by A.J. Brown a few plays later, and we have a tie game! Tennessee was looking on the ropes just two minutes ago. I think I'd argue Hooker's catch was better than Brown's, but we have seen some titanic grabs in the past four plays.

Aaron Schatz: Really good coverage by Chidobe Awuzie on that touchdown, too. Just a better grab by Brown with Awuzie's hands on him. One-handed basket catch as he was running backwards into the end zone.

Vince Verhei: And a great throw by Tannehill, who is having a hell of an up-and-down game today.

Brown's now up to 4-122-1 through not quite three quarters, though he also has four incomplete targets.

They just showed another replay of Hooker's tip-drill interception. Perine probably should have caught that, but it was not a great throw by Burrow, out in front of his target at virtually point-blank range.

Aaron Schatz: The Cincinnati offensive line is bad but some of the sack problem is on Burrow. He just got Cincinnati knocked out of field goal range by going back 16 yards trying to avoid a blitz. You have to know when you're cooked and either go down for a small loss or get rid of the ball downfield. Even better, he should have recognized the blitz and thrown hot.

Scott Spratt: It can't be fun for the Bengals defenders that the Titans' change-of-pace back, D'Onta Foreman, weighs 236 pounds.

Aaron Schatz: Big fourth-down go decision for Tennessee, fourth-and-1 on the Bengals 35, Henry hesitates behind the line of scrimmage and the Bengals take him down. Bengals get the ball back, still tied.

Bryan Knowles: As good as Derrick Henry is, I don't like the "hand the ball to the guy 5 yards behind the line" play, as opposed to the "have your quarterback fall forward 18 inches" play. Giving the ball to Henry is likely to give you more yards on average, but you don't need a big gain; you need a yard. Fall forwards if you're going to run straight ahead.

And on the following drive, Joe Burrow gets sacked for the ninth time, tying the postseason record. I feel like I should give the Titans some credit here—nine's a big number, no matter the circumstances—but the Bengals' line and Burrow's awareness have been terrible.

Aaron Schatz: Titans go really slow on the final drive and it ends up helping them. They take 40 seconds before a Tannehill pass, but the pass goes off the hands of Nick Westbrook-Ikhine and into the hands of Cincinnati's Logan Wilson. Bengals get ball with only 20 seconds left. But the Titans pass rush for once can't get to Joe Burrow and he finds Ja'Marr Chase to put the Bengals into field goal range!

Bryan Knowles: I wonder if all those sacks gave the Bengals cold feet; running the ball to settle for a long field goal rather than trying to pick up more yards on a pass (and risking sack No. 10).

Carl Yedor: I *really* disliked the way the Bengals played for the long field goal there, but with how much of a struggle pass protection has been for them tonight, the risk (and corresponding negative consequences) of a sack would have been quite high. With where they were on the field, I completely understood being afraid of the sack, but kneeling to place the ball in one specific spot and lose yards in the process was not ideal. That said, McPherson was absolutely money, and the rookie kicker successfully sent Cincinnati to the AFC Championship Game.

Tom Gower: Well fiddlesticks. That wasn't exactly exactly exactly what I didn't want to see, but the fact that the Titans had the ball in a tie game at the two-minute warning, had some success moving the ball, and still lost in regulation while letting the clock run precisely so they wouldn't lose in regulation is plenty rage-inducing. I need to go process this game some more before saying more things.

Vince Verhei: Agree with what Carl said about playing conservative for the long field goal, but Evan McPherson bails the Bengals out with the game-winner. He hit all four of his field goals today, from 38, 45, 52, and 54 yards—not a gimme in the bunch.

Tennessee got big days from A.J. Brown and Julio Jones, but the rest of the team combined for four catches for 16 yards. They could really use a reliable third receiver and/or tight end.

Tom Gower: Had I written something at halftime, it would have been about a game that very much still hung in the balance. Both teams got one explosive play that helped set up a score. The Titans made it to the red zone and finished it off there, while the Bengals always bogged down on the edge of the red zone (their one red zone "play" in the first 30 minutes was a false start at the 19). The Bengals were sticking in their three-receiver sets, as I thought they might, and it was all about the obvious pre-game storyline, whether the Titans defensive line would get to Burrow or he'd get the ball to a receiver before they did so. For Tennessee, Derrick Henry was effective enough but at only 3.0 yards per carry (10 carries, 30 yards) was not being particularly explosive, and the Titans were getting contributions in the pass game from both A.J. Brown and Julio Jones, but needed to get more from other players.

Then the Bengals came out in the second half and actually ran the ball well. One crucial change was switching to a lot more two-tight end looks. The Titans were primarily a two-high shell defense, and I didn't think they adjusted quickly to that look, and Joe Mixon finished off the drive with a great cut for a 16-6 lead. D'Onta Foreman's long run put the Titans in scoring territory (yay, explosive plays), but a great play by Mike Hilton for a pick gave me and every other Titans fan that "Oh, no" feeling. But Eli Apple's taunting penalty backed the Bengals up from where they should have started, Amani Hooker disrupted Tee Higgins at the catch point, a deep shot to Brown set up a field goal to cut it to seven, and then the Amani Hooker interception that stood; I think the Bert Emanuel Rule was fundamentally a mistake, but it's the rule, and the NFL went for the pusillanimous stands on review. And then on second-and-16, Tannehill threw a freakin' dime to Brown for six and the tie game.

And we got the fourth quarter, with long, drawn-out drives that ended without scores. Burrow was sacked for a huge loss on third-and-3 from the Titans 32. The Titans couldn't gain a yard on two chances from the Bengals 35. Burrow was sacked for a huge loss on third-and-8 from the Titans 48. And Tennessee got the ball at their own 16 with 2:43 left and a chance to win the game … and ran the ball for 3 yards and let the clock run to the two-minute warning. Then threw the ball, got a first down, ran again, and let the clock run. And completed a short pass and let the clock run. And I start rolling my eyes at Mike Vrabel's willingness to play for overtime instead of trying to actually let his offense go win a freakin' playoff football game. Naturally, Ryan Tannehill's pass for Nick Westbrook-Ikhine is tipped and intercepted when Westbrook-Ikhine doesn't get to his spot. Burrow hits Chase for a big play against Jackrabbit Jenkins in man coverage (remember how we talked on Thursday's show about how Burrow could get Chase on Jenkins whenever he wanted because the Titans just play sides with their cornerbacks?). Evan McPherson hits another long field goal, and the Titans' season ends.

Speaking as a Titans analyst, this felt like a huge missed opportunity on many levels. They were a five-loss team; five-loss teams are typically more like No. 3 or No. 4 seeds like the 12-5 Rams and Cowboys were than No. 1 seeds. For as many injuries as they had, and quite a few players missed a few games, they were about as healthy as you could expect for this time of year today. And Cincinnati was not a fearsome opponent; the game looked like an interesting matchup that could go any way. Both teams had clear potential strengths and weaknesses, and given the vagaries of a single game, it could have been anything from high-scoring to low-scoring by either or both teams. Tennessee's pass rush did as well as you could reasonably expect. Looking through old box scores, I don't think they had more than today's 13 quarterback hits on Joe Burrow at least since I started obsessively watching the team in 2006. And no quarterback had won a game when being sacked nine teams since Len Dawson and the Chiefs back in the days of the AFL. (Naturally, Mike Vrabel had a goofy-seeming comment postgame about the Titans maybe having too many sacks, albeit in the context of not having enough turnover-causing plays.)

Derrick Henry was ... unimpressive? Better than I feared he might be? Closed the game poorly, getting stuffed on the fourth-and-1, and going from +6 Rush Yards Over Expectation after 13 carries, per Next Gen Stats, to -6 after 20 carries (so -12 on his last seven rushes). When not targeting Brown or Jones, Tannehill completed four of eight passes for 16 yards and two interceptions. Sure, the Hilton pick didn't have anything to do with Chester Rogers (one catch for 3 yards), but the last pick mattered. The tight ends combined for one Anthony Firkser target in the first-half two-minute drill, not caught. It was worth considering that the Titans might be better than their full-season stats because their WR/TE grouping outside Brown and Jones was so non-productive, and they lived down to their advance billing as badly as the Bengals offensive line did.

I guess it's incumbent upon me to say something about the Mike Vrabel "analytics" decisions. Going for the two-point conversion after the Bengals penalty was the right call; you can't know at 6-6 how the rest of the game would go, having the ball at the 1 instead of the 2 is a significant advantage (62% vs. 48%, historically), even a 28-yard extra point is not guaranteed, and it's not nearly as simple as the rest of the game proceeding exactly the same. Going for it on fourth-and-1 at the Bengals 35 after getting stuffed with 8:06 to play also doesn't seem to me like it should be a controversial decision. That's an easily missable field goal that puts the Bengals in great field position if you miss it, a three-point lead is far from a lock, and I'm always a fan of putting the ball in the hand of your most important players in critical situations. But Henry couldn't convert either play, and sometimes that happens. But I wouldn't have been nearly as cranky as I was today had it happened in a regular season game.

San Francisco 49ers 13 at Green Bay Packers 10

Bryan Knowles: Minor surprises in the inactives—49ers cornerback Ambry Thomas, who has been working through a bone bruise, is inactive. There's nothing structural there; it's all about ability to withstand pain, and apparently it's too painful for him to go. That means Dontae Johnson or Josh Norman will be in the starting lineup for San Francisco. Aaron Rodgers might want to look that way early and often.

But, on the other side, David Bakhtiari is also out. He played about a quarter against Detroit, but apparently he doesn't feel comfortable either—it was a game-time decision, and the decision is "no." Dennis Kelly has been alright, but he's no Bakhtiari. Nick Bosa might want to look that way early and often.

First drive is everything the Packers would have wanted. Davante Adams with three catches for 35 yards, as Dontae Johnson is not, shall we say, an ideal matchup for arguably the best receiver in the NFL. Green Bay marches right down the field, 69 yards in 10 plays, with AJ Dillon punching things in to close things out. That's the way you start things.

Rivers McCown: If my entire game plan was built on having a positive game script and not letting my injured quarterback throw the ball deep too often, I'd simply not defer to Aaron Rodgers in the playoffs. Maybe that's just me.

Aaron Schatz: Bad Packers run defense has been stout on the first two 49ers drives, three carries for 8 yards. And Jimmy Garoppolo has already taken two sacks, so that's two straight three-and-outs. Packers defense is out-physicalling the 49ers early.

Vince Verhei: George Kittle drops an easy one on second down and Jauan Jennings can't reel in a harder catch on third down, and it's three straight three-and-outs to open the game for San Francisco. That's at least the third drop for the 49ers. Have to think the weather has something to do with that, but then, Green Bay's receivers are doing fine.

Scott Spratt: George Kittle dropped a slant route with some major daylight in front of him. At a minimum, that was a 20-yard gain. Maybe a touchdown. In the regular season, Kittle dropped just two of 76 catchable targets. His 2.6% drop rate per catchable target was third lowest of tight ends with 50 or more targets.

Derrik Klassen: It feels weird to say, but the 49ers' offensive struggles have been because of everyone *other than* Jimmy Garoppolo. Perhaps they still have some play-call limitations because of him, but he has thrown some good balls that have all been dropped so far. Have to imagine the 49ers won't just keep dropping passes right in their hands for the next three quarters.

J.P. Acosta: I have been impressed by the Packer run defense so far tonight. They're near the bottom of the league in run defense DVOA, but their front is doing a great job of holding up the Niners offensive line, allowing the linebackers to run free.

Bryan Knowles: I am going to suggest that -7 yards in a quarter may not be an ideal start. The fact that it's only 7-0 after a quarter is, frankly, astonishing. Either results will soon start to follow form, and the Packers will pull away, or they'll regret not capitalizing on a pretty damn bad 49ers start.

Scott Spratt: Is it better to have Trent Williams at left tackle and not Trent Williams at right tackle or two half-Trent Williamses at both left and right tackle?

J.P. Acosta: I'm slowly losing my mind watching Jimmy G go through progressions. It's not great!

Vince Verhei: Meanwhile, since the touchdown on their opening drive, Green Bay isn't doing much better. Their next three drives were a lost fumble and two three-and-outs. Drive after that picks up one first down, but they are still punting from their side of the 50.

Derrik Klassen: The 49ers defense has played about as well as anyone could reasonably ask. Getting pressure from both their stars and their complementary players, and I think their linebackers are doing a great job triggering on the run game and keeping things contained. Only allowing 7 points, which were on the opening drive, through a quarter and a half ain't bad. They just have to hope the 49ers offense turns it on at some point.

Scott Spratt: Sure, catch that pass, Kittle.

Bryan Knowles: Good lord, the 49ers put Trent Williams in motion. That seems unfair.

Carl Yedor: I am so happy that the 49ers blessed us with watching Williams go in motion there. Really made my evening.

J.P. Acosta: I'm sure Derrik can correct me, but I feel like the Packers are using De'Vondre Campbell as kind of an overhang defender instead of a traditional stack. Might be to get more numbers on the outside zone run game but I'm not sure.

Derrik Klassen: They definitely have been, which I think is important in this matchup because I don't think any of their outside linebackers can really drop off the line of scrimmage and play there (the way that, say, Leonard Floyd can for the Rams). Campbell did a ton as a SAM and overhang in Atlanta, too.

Bryan Knowles: And there's Jimmy Garoppolo in the red zone. Dodges some pressure and throws the ball up for grabs; interception inside the 10-yard line. Take a sack there, and the 49ers kick a field goal and have points and the ball coming out of the half. Instead, Rodgers has 56 seconds to recover.

Rivers McCown: Well, blowing a coverage and leaving Aaron Jones wide open downfield was not the twist I wanted as far as seeing this game become exciting.

Vince Verhei: I am appalled that Jones let himself get tackled in bounds here. That forced Green Bay to use their last timeout, and when Rodgers was sacked and fumbled on first down, they had to spike it on second down just to get a field goal.

And the kick is blocked!

Green Bay outgained San Francisco nearly 4-to-1 in the first half, turnovers are even, but they're only up 7-0.

Bryan Knowles: Considering how bad that was for 25 minutes, I will take 7-0 at the half.

Carl Yedor: This game definitely has the feel of one that will end up with something chaotic deciding the outcome. That end-of-half sequence could be one of those circumstances. I know the Seahawks missed the playoffs this year, but these two teams want to give us the feeling of their presence.

The good news for the 49ers is that the game is still close enough for them to try to run the ball consistently, which was their matchup advantage heading into the game. The bad news is that Deebo Samuel has been a complete non-factor, and San Francisco is averaging 3.1 yards per rush overall. For Green Bay, it seems basic, but more Davante Adams and more Aaron Jones in the passing game seem like real pressure points to use against the 49ers.

Vince Verhei: That's a good point—where IS Davante Adams? He had three catches for 35 yards on the first drive, but only two for 15 since.

Bryan Knowles: The 49ers have been bracketing Adams pretty consistently since that first drive, with Jaquiski Tartt on permanent "help Dontae Johnson not make a fool of himself" duty. In fact, that might be why Jones got so loose on the huge play at the end of the half; no safety help deep because they are trying to keep Adams contained.

Scott Spratt: Bryan, would you go to Trey Lance in the second half?

Bryan Knowles: In general, no, I wouldn't. I don't think most of the problem has been Garoppolo today; there have been drops and missed blocks elsewhere. In the red zone, however…

Scott Spratt: The Packers closed the first half and opened the second half with on-brand special teams plays. That kickoff return will start the 49ers near midfield.

Scott Spratt: The 49ers have had offensive penalties in both of their red zone trips today. Not great for their offense.

Bryan Knowles: Nearly two interceptions in the red zone, as well. If Eric Stokes is playing the ball, that might have been a pick-six.

Rivers McCown: I think the best time to call an offensive face mask for the first time all season is in the red zone in a playoff game.

Bryan Knowles: Normally, I'd be talking about how annoyed I'd be at Kyle Shanahan for kicking a 29-yard field goal here. But with Samuel and Williams both being shaken up, I think you take the points and hope that everyone can get straight on the sideline.

Vince Verhei: 49ers drove 39 yards (including yards lost on penalties) in 10 plays for that field goal. Only two of those plays were completions, and both were wide receiver screens to Samuel.

J.P. Acosta: The Niners defense has been playing lights-out since that opening drive. Forcing Rodgers to find someone else to beat them with instead of Davante Adams.

Vince Verhei: Agreed. San Francisco's offensive struggles seem largely self-inflicted, while the Packers look like they're playing against a defense with 13 people on the field sometimes.

Bryan Knowles: I am feeling more and more "hey, put Trey Lance in," Scott. That's the third pass that should have been intercepted from Jimmy G. Packers are 1-for-3.

Scott Spratt: Three possible pick-sixes is enough for me. Get Jimmy Garoppolo out of there and just run every play with Trey Lance at quarterback.

J.P. Acosta: Trent Williams clearly limping is not great for the offense either.

Rivers McCown: The last six quarters of 49ers football that I have watched have me thinking they have a magical ability to make the entire game dumb. It's gotta be related to Jimmy G.

Vince Verhei: Packers still lead 7-3 at the end of three, but they're in field goal range.

Remember a few hours ago when I said Tennessee needed a third receiving option? Right now, Green Bay Packers not named Davante Adams or Aaron Jones have exactly one catch for zero yards … and that one catch was a lost fumble.

Aaron Schatz: Hey, look, Rodgers found Allen Lazard. There is another wide receiver on this team! Who would have thought. Then he takes a sack, so field goal. 10-3 Packers.

Scott Spratt: That was near-pick-six No. 4, I think.

Bryan Knowles: Alright, conservative Kyle Shanahan, it's fourth-and-1 from the Packers 19. Seven minutes left. Can I entice you to go for it one freaking time?

He did! And it didn't work! Well, I'd rather go down swinging.

Scott Spratt: I blame the play call, Bryan. When you have Trent Williams eligible, you have to throw him the ball.

Aaron Schatz: I think that was built off that earlier play with Williams in motion. This time, instead of following Williams to the right, they switched it up and went up the middle. It didn't work.

Vince Verhei: It's worth mentioning that they were in position to go for it there because they finally hit a big pass downfield, a post route to Kittle. But then the fourth-down run got stuffed, and the Packers have the ball and just over six minutes to go. They can put this away without scoring if they can just eat all that clock.

Tremendous run defense by Green Bay tonight. Neither Eli Mitchell nor Deebo Samuel has a 10-yard run. (Kyle Juszczyk, of all people, does.)

Rivers McCown: Kind of feel like if Mitchell takes it outside that run looks a lot better. Who knows if he converts it or not but he had blockers.

Bryan Knowles: Brilliant play by the 49ers there. Have your injury-replacement cornerback hurt, tempting Aaron Rodgers to throw it to Davante Adams against Josh Norman, and draw the incomplete pass. 5D-Chess.

Vince Verhei: Or, the Packers could go three-and-out, including an incompletion that stops the clock.

Blocked punt. Touchdown. Tie game.

Scott Spratt: Packers special teams *chef's kiss*,

Bryan Knowles: Just before that punt, my wife made me put on the 49ers scarf my brother crocheted for me. I did not take that into account in my game preview.

J.P. Acosta: My coach used to always say, "they call it special for a reason."

Carl Yedor: And THERE is the moment of chaos.

Vince Verhei: The dots on the blocked punt, where the ball hung in the air forever, are hysterical.

Bryan Knowles: The Packers go three-and-out again, and this game is going to end with Jimmy Garoppolo throwing a pick-six, isn't it?

Scott Spratt: The 49ers shouldn't throw another pass, Bryan.

Bryan Knowles: Just today, or ever? Because I can get behind either.

Scott Spratt: Naturally, the 49ers went immediately to an empty backfield. But it worked. That 10-yard Kittle slant has been there all night.

Vince Verhei: 49ers are driving after the two-minute warning and Troy Aikman is encouraging them to try for the home run shot. No! Do no such thing! Kick this field goal with zeroes on the clock and don't give Rodgers the ball back! Ah, now Aikman has thought more about it and is saying the same thing.

Scott Spratt: Amazing run by Samuel, but Kyle Shanahan let way too much time come off the clock after the first down. It seems super unlikely that Robbie Gould can make this from outside of 40 yards.

Vince Verhei: Oh, my god. Deebo runs for the first down on third-and-long, but then the 49ers let the clock run, then run again, then call their second timeout. This is going to be 40-plus yards. This is missable, and they easily could have played for one more first down.

Well, they got away with it, but Samuel got that first down with a minute to go, and the next time they snapped the ball there were 20 seconds left.

Bryan Knowles: Vince, you have no idea how loud I was yelling for the 49ers to just kick the field goal. I saw nothing good happening there if they had continued playing football.

My blood pressure STILL might not go down by the NFC Championship Game.

Scott Spratt: And with the 49ers upset, the Buccaneers have homefield advantage in the NFC. Glad to see that for T.B. Guy was due for a nice break like this.

Bryan Knowles: In the game preview, I wrote neither of these teams want the game to be decided on special teams. I stand by it.

No idea who will be healthy for next week, with Deebo, Kittle, and Williams all limping off as the game ended, and with Garoppolo's arm falling apart as we watch. That sounds like a problem for the future, though.

Tom Gower: The Green Bay Packers only had 10 players on the field for the game-winning field goal attempt. Coming out of a timeout. I can't believe it, and I simultaneously am not at all surprised.

Carl Yedor: What a wild finish. San Francisco couldn't do anything on offense all game long, and when they did get down to the red zone, they bogged down and could not punch it in. Green Bay bungled a few key moments, and the 49ers were able to ice the game with a lengthy field goal in the adverse conditions. Let the offseason Aaron Rodgers rumor mill commence.

Aaron Schatz: I really did think the Packers were a lot better than this. They were the better team when you didn't consider the Jordan Love games. On the other hand, I kept saying all year, it matters that the Packers didn't really beat up on their opponents, which they didn't do until a late-season Week 17 game against Minnesota. And their special teams were a problem all year.

Tom Gower: I harped on Kansas City's two-man pass game all season, but the Green Bay pass game was Davante Adams and everybody else does just enough. And today, it was Davante Adams and Aaron Jones (mostly checkdowns, I thought, aside from the 75-yard blown coverage wheel route at the end of the first half), and, well, nothing. The fumble by Marcedes Lewis was the only catch by a player other than Adams or Jones in the first three quarters, and the only one in the fourth quarter was Allen Lazard's 6-yard grab before the field goal attempt to go up 10-3. I don't know if there were plays to be made to other players, or if Rodgers was too locked in on particular options, or if he fell in love with particular things. But this reminded me a bit of some of the Sean McVay Rams playoff games, where they are short passes and deep shots and not enough in the middle of the field, where I feel like a lot of the best quarterbacks are able to make the most hay. And if you look at Rodgers' pass chart on Next Gen Stats, he only had three attempts between 10 and 20 yards downfield.

Yeah, maybe the weather was a bit of a factor in that, but that's a Titans-esque stat, and, as above, that's not a compliment. The special teams will be the focus of much of the postgame coverage, but the offense's inability to move the ball is why the game was close enough for the special teams screwups to matter.


100 comments, Last at 24 Jan 2022, 2:04pm

#1 by Behemoth // Jan 23, 2022 - 2:03am

FOMBC 1, Green Bay Packers 0

Points: 0

#10 by Joey-Harringto… // Jan 23, 2022 - 8:33am

In reply to by Behemoth

Yea, I was just thinking that Aaron must be feeing smug this morning about all the shit he’s gotten on Twitter about DVOA not rating the Packers and Titans that highly.

Points: 0

#46 by Tutenkharnage // Jan 23, 2022 - 12:02pm

They did get an illegal forward pass on a kickoff return that helped propel them to a Super Bowl. So that's somethin'.

Points: 0

#51 by Joey-Harringto… // Jan 23, 2022 - 12:34pm

I love that you saved that receipt for 22 years.

Points: 0

#60 by Tutenkharnage // Jan 23, 2022 - 1:11pm

This list of receipts is literally all we've got! :)

Also, I was the only guy among my circle of friends saying "Hang on, we've still got to cover the kickoff" while the rest of them were celebrating our imminent trip to the next round.

Points: 0

#73 by Joey-Harringto… // Jan 23, 2022 - 2:27pm

“This list of receipts is literally all we've got! :)”

I’m a Lions fan, I totally get it.  Ever since the picked up PI flag from the 2014 WC round against Dallas, most Lions fans I know celebrate whenever the Cowboys get eliminated from the playoffs.  Like to the point we were rooting for the Packers when they played Dallas in the 2014 and 2016 Divisional rounds. 

I’m happy for you guys (I have close family members who are huge BIlls fans) that you have more to root for than just schadenfreude.  

Points: 0

#88 by jonsilver // Jan 23, 2022 - 4:38pm

Yes, but this year, it's not nothing...(I just saw Brady get picked...Stafford and LA up 20-3 at the half...of course, in this one, both rooting against Brady and rooting hard for Stafford)...

Points: 0

#52 by Joey-Harringto… // Jan 23, 2022 - 12:37pm

You know who else to gets to take a victory lap…Mike Brown, for all the people who gave him shit for taking Chase over Sewell.  Don’t get me wrong, Sewell was awesome in last 13 games, and I’m glad he’s on my team, but WR>LT as far as positional value, and I doubt the Bengals are here without Chase.

Points: 0

#67 by Pat // Jan 23, 2022 - 1:56pm

"but WR>LT as far as positional value,"

Not really...? LT/WR basically get paid the same (Hopkins's contract screws things at the moment, so we'll see) and LT have longer careers overall.

I mean, I agree the Bengals wouldn't be here without Chase but that just says more about how marginal they are offensively. That OL's a real issue.

Points: 0

#70 by Joey-Harringto… // Jan 23, 2022 - 2:12pm

I meant more as impact on the field, not cap hit.  One great LT playing with 4 bums doesn’t help as much as one great WR (even if the rest of the pass-catchers are unimpressive….see the Calvin Johnson Lions, and to a lesser extent, this year’s Packers).  

Chase Stuart wrote about this, but using a different argument:


Points: 0

#76 by Pat // Jan 23, 2022 - 2:47pm

I mean, I can argue that position X is awesome all day long, but at the end of the day, money talks, and *historically* LTs earn roughly equal. That's been equalizing a bit recently.

You could also make the argument that given longevity it's easier to get an LT in free agency. That's fair, too.

Points: 0

#81 by dank067 // Jan 23, 2022 - 3:01pm

I think that even if you accept the premise that the value of a WR > LT - which I do mostly agree with - there's also a question of how talent is distributed and where players can be found. I saw a brief analysis by over the cap once that broke down which rounds that the highest-paid veteran players at each position group were drafted. Obviously 1st round picks are most likely to be the highest-paid players at all position groups, but WR was the position where that was least true, and I think WR was also the position group where the most 3rd day picks became highly-paid veterans. Offensive tackle, by contrast, is one of the positions which is sorted pretty efficiently in the draft, where the best players are in fact mostly found in the 1st round. That doesn't mean they shouldn't have drafted Chase over Sewell - I'm sure they're happy with their pick! - but it's just something I've been turning around in my head since it was a "debate" last year.

Points: 0

#85 by ImNewAroundThe… // Jan 23, 2022 - 4:14pm

I think this also distorts what the goal should be. Sometimes teams worry too much about the FAR future. Look just at the rookie contract. The Bengals have Chase for FOUR MORE YEARS. And THEN three tags. 

Maybe you worry about it for QBs but the rest, don't get ahead of yourself. The connection with Burrow would pay dividends right away, or you know he's not it pretty quickly. Thankfully for him it's worked since day one and they're still going. 

Points: 0

#2 by ahmadrashad // Jan 23, 2022 - 2:32am

Yes, it was a tipped pass in a 50/50 game, but I bet a lot of NFL people are real happy to see Burrow in there as a 'contender'. For a long time in the 2010s, the QB position was dominated by old boring guys and the zoomers started losing interest. NFL needs at least some of these young Heisman/#1 picks to be dominant quarterbacks right away . Whatever happens, Burrow hype to the max next year. 

Points: 0

#3 by mehllageman56 // Jan 23, 2022 - 2:53am

No, next week after the Bengals lose, Colin Cowherd will switch from Aaron Rodgers only throws to Adams and that's why he loses, to Burrow only throws to Chase and that's why he lost.

Who are zoomers?

Points: 0

#4 by Bryan Knowles // Jan 23, 2022 - 3:05am

A nickname for the generation after Millennials; basically anyone born in the mid '90s or later.  You know, the kids these days with their Xboxes and their smart phones and their music. 

Points: 0

#5 by bravehoptoad // Jan 23, 2022 - 3:13am

If I were a betting man--and at the moment, I'm glad I'm not--I would have lost my shirt betting the over on the SF-GB game.  With SF's weakness against the pass and GB's weakness against the run, an over-under of a mere 47.5 would be a cinch to beat, I was thinking.


Points: 0

#68 by Pat // Jan 23, 2022 - 2:00pm

With Bakhtiari out? Really? Once he was declared out the under would've been a gimme.

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#97 by Spanosian Magn… // Jan 23, 2022 - 7:18pm

...not at all, though? Bakhtiari basically didn't play this year. Him being ruled out just reverts to baseline expectation (whether one should bet the over on that is a different discussion).

Points: 0

#100 by Pat // Jan 24, 2022 - 2:04pm

Him being ruled out just reverts to baseline expectation (whether one should bet the over on that is a different discussion).

Bakhtiari was baked-in to the over - they had him listed as questionable, and he did play some in week 18. So yeah, "baseline expectation" for me would have been under the line.

Points: 0

#6 by KnotMe // Jan 23, 2022 - 5:36am

Titans actually got 10 sacks but lost one to a penalty 

Points: 0

#7 by Run dmc // Jan 23, 2022 - 6:50am

Titans are who we thought they were.

Love Vrabel but did he lose the game by sticking with Henry when Foreman was clearly the better back today? Henry's long carry of the day was 9 yards. Foreman, taking away his 45 yarder(!), averaged 7 yards on this 3 other carries. Foreman gained more yards on 4 carries than Henry did on 20.

None of MacPherson's kicks were gimmes? 38 yards is an extra point (with a false start). The way most kickers are today missing a 45 yarders seems like, if not a shock, a big disappointment. Mac is now 17 for 17 from under 40 (regular season and playoffs) and 49 of 51 on PATs. Randy Bullock was also perfect from under 40 this year.

Unlike passing stats .. where we recalibrate greatness, in part, because of rules changes, kickers are just getting better. Can you imagine Justin Tucker transported to the 60s with the Goal Posts on the goal line and the ball not being returned back to the Line of Scrimmage after a missed kick?

I went to bed with the Pack up 7-0 .. figured it wasn't going to be much of a game. Since I'm a Chiefs' fan I was sort of rooting for a "State Farm" Super Bowl ... so I'm glad I went to bed early. Man two really low scoring games with upsets. Hopefully we will get high scoring chalk today.

Burrow took several bad sacks cost the Bengals at least 2 FGs, maybe even 3. Hard to argue with success but the best of the best QBs don't seem to get sacked that much. I'm thinking mostly of Manning and Brady both of whom are not mobile but out think the pass rush.

Burrow and Tannehill were 1 and 2 in total sacks this year. Burrow and Wilson were tied for Sack Yards. I am happy to see Patrick Mahomes well down toward the bottom (ie. best) in both categories.

I haven't broken it down by attempt but Brady (3%) had 1/3 the sack rate of Burrow (10%). Mahomes was surprisingly good at 4% and his yards lost was also very low .. so he appears to have gotten out of the habit of scrambling back 20 yards to try to make a big play.

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#19 by Bob Smith // Jan 23, 2022 - 9:43am

Run dmc-you are right about passing stats and rule changes, but also keep in mind that QB's are throwing more passes per game than ever and more total passes per career than ever.

Next year at this time the top 11 QB's for Total Career Pass Attempts will all have played games in the 2000's except for 1 guy --Marino.

Right now, the top 43 QB's for Pass Attempts Per Game all played games in the 2000's except for 1 guy--Marino. 

So we have to expect that their other numbers will go up also, and they have.


Points: 0

#8 by PackerPete // Jan 23, 2022 - 7:07am

The writer at the Dallas Morning Star has ranked the Packers special teams in the bottom three each year for a decade. What a way to lose.

With Big Bob Tonyan's early season injury, the Packers tight ends have been trash as receivers all season. Mercedes Lewis has been steadily unspectacular all year and his fumble on the Packers' second drive killed a chance for a double digit lead out of the gate. Deguara dropped a pass over the middle that would have converted a third down on a subsequent drive.

Aaron Jones made a huge mistake by not running along the sidelines and getting out of bounds, costing a critical time out. Just dumb football. 

It's hard to tell what coverages are on TV and most analysts never get around to discussing it. It appeared to me that the Niners were consistently in man-to-man with Adams doubled all game and Cobb occasionally. I thought Cobb's return might have a big impact in converting two or three first downs but he never got a ray of daylight between himself and defenders. It's a sad situation when your #2 WR, Lazard, is best known for his blocking ability. Adams excepted, the WR unit is very pedestrian. Literally.

I expected a tough game and saw one, but I didn't expect the Packers to serve up the W to the Niners on a platter. It's back to Winter and the Great Speculation begins, with the specter of another Dark Ages flitting in the shadows (Jerry Tagge, Randy Wright, Scott Campbell, Scott Hunter...). Without resigning Rodgers, Adams walks. The Packers are already $40 million over the cap. There will be no discounted Rodgers Rate - can't see him taking $25 mil a year like Brady - and Adams wants to be the highest paid WR. Jaire Alexander is also due and he's a top three CB. Aaron Jones's contract becomes unaffordable after next season. This team will look completely different next year after an off season of trying to keep this team's roster looking the same. 

The special teams coach has got to be fired if only for the mental health of Packer nation.

So this game might have been this Packer group's swan song, with the swan getting shotgunned. Long playoff runs make for shorter winters up here; this year's winter is now three weeks longer. Into hibernation now until the first tee time in April.

Points: 0

#27 by ImNewAroundThe… // Jan 23, 2022 - 10:30am

ST needs coaching. I beg them to not encounter another Rizzi and scoff at his demands. Need to pry whatever STC from under John Harbaugh to come here.

Tight ends? You mean the sus pick of Josiah Deguara isn't turning it up? Weird, maybe the internet scouts weren't wrong in their evaluation. 

There were multiple 3rd downs in which SFs coverage was almost a direct result of NOT having MVS to stretch the field. They showed a couple of them in the first half from different angles. 

WR2 being known for blocking isn't great? Well nobody told them to draft a WR a couple years ago. No one at all. 

Aaron Jones unaffordable? Say it aint so! Couldn't see that coming!

The team can and should keep Davante and Rodgers but we'll see how much they're willing to sacrifice. Do they triple down on their future "successor" or do they extend Rodgers to a lower cap hit, trade Love, cut the Smiths, etc.

Points: 0

#9 by anthonytwotimes // Jan 23, 2022 - 8:31am

... will be the league's worst division in 2022. The division winner might just be 7-10

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#61 by Tutenkharnage // Jan 23, 2022 - 1:17pm

... then I'll be counting on the Bills to sweep the NFC North next year. (Of course, I thought they couldn't do worse than 2-2 against the AFC South this year, and they went 1-3. Football, amirite?)

Points: 0

#11 by oaktoon // Jan 23, 2022 - 8:52am

DVOA hit it right with GB... In a weird way, of course. Their defense was very good last night. The offense was pitiful. And the special teams worse than advertised. LaFleur has huge responsibility for the latter-- i cannot remember a big game like this where both a FG and a punt were blocked-- and the latter occurring in the game's final 5 minutes with a touchdown lead. Rodgers last 9 plays were:  2nd and goal from the 4-- false start penalty. Then a 1 YD pass to Aaron Jones. Then a sack...FG  (thank god that one wasnt blocked) After the heroic 4th down stand by the defense-- with a chance to kill the game with a decent drive-- it was:   2 yard run... INC pass ( a desperate attempt to thread a ball to Adams deep on the sideline with a SF blitz coming)... and another sack... Then with the game now tied because of the blocked punt it was... Scramble and throw away but a lineman 20 yards downfield for a penalty...a nothing 4 yd pass to Adams... a pass to cobb that a) would only have gained 3 yards and b) might have been a pick 6...and then, in his last act as a GB Packer on 3rd and 11-- and he admmited later he probably had Lazard open for a first down, Aaron Bleeping Rodgers heaves the ball 50 yards downfield toward a double-covered Devante Adams.


Pathetic.  I surrender...

Points: 0

#58 by TomC // Jan 23, 2022 - 1:02pm

Good on you for showing up and taking the lumps. I don't consider this loss a true FOMBC one, because (in my opinion) the Packer fan pushback on their DVOA was, while voluminous, largely polite and rational.

(I did relish watching Rodgers lose for all sorts of reasons I am not allowed to discuss on these boards, but I wasn't rooting against GB because of the fans here.)

Points: 0

#99 by LyleNM // Jan 24, 2022 - 11:50am

Credit to you, oaktoon. Most commenters would not show up to admit their errors. No, not errors - blind spots. Lots of us want to see only the best out of our favorite teams but too often ignore what might be the reality. And that's how we end up with divisive comment sections. Better luck to the Packers in the future.

But just remember, the best Aaron in football is Mr. Schatz!

Points: 0

#12 by jheidelberg // Jan 23, 2022 - 8:53am

Aaron Schatz: Right decision by Mike Vrabel to go for two after a penalty brought the two-point conversion to the 1-yard line.

That's what I felt watching the game live.  The result of the conversion and the game could not have been more damning of the 2 point try, but it's the process, not the result, so does the EDJ sports model agree with the process of going for the 2 point conversion?  


Points: 0

#23 by takeleavebelieve // Jan 23, 2022 - 10:00am

I’d also be interest in that. I seem to recall reading that the league converts 4th and 1 at something like 70-75%, so in terms of expected points, it’s the correct call. What I’m not sure about is whether leading 8-6 vs 7-6 is relevant enough to take the risk, though. 

Points: 0

#43 by RickD // Jan 23, 2022 - 11:43am

Early in the game, you should only care about expected points, because the future of the game is far too long to make any more complicated probability calculations.  

Points: 0

#96 by takeleavebelieve // Jan 23, 2022 - 6:49pm

Hard disagree. In fact, this is exactly the purpose of probability models. The models consider far more outcomes than a human being ever possibly could, let alone in the 60ish seconds that Vrabel had to make the decision. 

Points: 0

#13 by Will Allen // Jan 23, 2022 - 9:06am

Usually, hideous special teams is indicative of an unathletic roster, or at least one with very little depth. I have no idea how what appears to be an otherwise competently coached team, with a good roster, can be so indescribably disorganized on special teams. It can't all be in the special teams coach. How does La Fluer not get this at least patched up a little by January? I really don't get it.

Points: 0

#15 by jheidelberg // Jan 23, 2022 - 9:15am

Ironically, punting was the only one of the five factors that was positive.  Clearly not anymore once you factor in this game.

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#18 by Will Allen // Jan 23, 2022 - 9:41am

Season on the line, coming out of a time out, 10 guys on the field, just screams Ted Cottrell-level(you young'uns might not get the reference) disorganization, and the blocked punt does, too. People just don't know what they should be doing, which just doesn't jibe with what else can be observed.

Points: 0

#26 by Mike B. In Va // Jan 23, 2022 - 10:23am

Corey Bojorquez had a great punt distance and average for Buffalo last year, yet sucked as a holder and was way too close to getting ordinary punts blocked. Sound familiar, Green Bay fans?

Points: 0

#98 by DisplacedPackerFan // Jan 23, 2022 - 8:00pm

And it's been going on for nearly 2 decades now. Seriously. Ever since Thompson took over as GM in 05 special teams have been awful. There were a few years where a stellar individual talent got them up to average or slightly better, but the mistakes, the not enough players on the field, the crappy lane disciple, the poor decisions on fair catching or taking the ball out of the endzone, it's never stopped. I made at least 2 huge posts with details earlier this year that I could link if anyone cares. But yes it is baffling. Even subtracting HoF QB level play the team has still generally had at least NFL average talent (despite the Sherman drafts trying their best to undo that and I'm not so sure about the Gutekunst drafts either but at least there have been solid FA grabs with him). Some of that talent eval is based on a QB like Matt Flynn going 4-4 as a starter over 3 different seasons. Jordan Love still keeping them in games (interestingly they lost the KC game with him starting in nearly the same way they lost this playoff game). They aren't good but it's not like they have ever been bereft of talent all over. A top 16 QB could have still taken most of those rosters to the playoffs a reasonable amount of times.

So yes it's been baffling. Under McCarthy it was just another point towards the issues he manifests everywhere else. He's not the worst coach but the consensus on him is not great. LaFleur certainly seemed to be better at many things but the ST still suck and while he's claimed to have given it attention no results. Sure if your specialists have issues you can only do so much but the problem has clearly been deeper than the specialists for years and years and years.

Points: 0

#14 by Will Allen // Jan 23, 2022 - 9:12am

Also, can you imagine how awful Garrapolo's decision making would be, if he was stuck on a bad, poorly coached, roster?

Points: 0

#55 by TomC // Jan 23, 2022 - 12:48pm

Or [Bears QB] on the Bears. There was a real push at the end of the Cutler era for the Bears to trade for JG. Can you imagine the carnage?

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#44 by bravehoptoad // Jan 23, 2022 - 11:54am

Don't know...the best I've ever seen Garoppolo look was those last five games of 2017, when he was forced into playing before he'd learned much of Shanahan's system.  He looked loose and confident and was showing off that lightning release.  Then he had the off season to ingest the dictionary-sized tome that is Shanahan's offense and he's never looked the same since.  I could see him doing better in a simpler system.

Points: 0

#16 by ishalev // Jan 23, 2022 - 9:21am

Throwing three interceptions in a playoff have used to earn your a bit more negative press. One way to describe the game is that Burrow played with maturity, eating the ball over and over instead of putting it up for grabs. Tannehill, on the other hand, committed the turnovers that gave the game to Cincinnati. 

Points: 0

#47 by Run dmc // Jan 23, 2022 - 12:07pm

I don't think anyone thinks Tannehill is a particularly good QB - so when the team wins it's King Henry or what a monster AJ Brown - so when they lose he takes less of the blame. Burrow clearly out played him but I think Burrow needs to shoulder at least some of the blame for all those sacks.

I would be interested if F.O. has any idea of how much responsibility a sack is of the QB vs. OL/DL play vs. Receiver's vs DB play?

The best I could say about Tannehill is he's a relatively good system QB. Obviously he had a lousy game against Cincy.



Points: 0

#54 by Joey-Harringto… // Jan 23, 2022 - 12:45pm

Yea, people tend to overreact to one bad game (especially one that ends your season), and a lot of Titans fans are talking about moving on from Tannenhill.  I remember 49ers fans wondering if they should trade Montana after he dropped a stinkbomb in the ‘87 Divisional round.  No, I’m not comparing Tannenhill to Montana, but he’s at least solidly above-average, and getting a clear upgrade over him will not be easy at the position the Titans will be drafting.

Points: 0

#63 by Tutenkharnage // Jan 23, 2022 - 1:24pm

His cap hit next year balloons to $38.6M (from this year's $11.1M), but his dead-cap hit would be $57.4M, so they'd lose almost $20M in cap space by cutting him. They won't do it.

Points: 0

#17 by jheidelberg // Jan 23, 2022 - 9:38am

Does he become the worst QB to make the SB twice in a three year period?  That may be the perception if he does, but in reality, FO numbers (DVOA/DYAR) put him around 10th overall for passing for the 3 year period 2019-2021. Rushing does bring him down some.

As I always say the 10th best QB is the 10th most valuable player in the league, so is it really a shock if SF makes it to the SB again?

The 49ers fell apart without Jimmy G. in 2020 (3-7 when he did not play, 3-3 when he did).

Now am I saying that Jimmy G. helped win last night?  Absolutely not.

He helped the Packers win, but the Packers did not take the win.


Points: 0

#20 by Will Allen // Jan 23, 2022 - 9:49am

G proves that passing DVOA is frequently team accomplishment. Put him on a team with a mediocre offensive coordinator, that can't block? He might not be Nathan Peterman, but he's gettin' there.

Points: 0

#24 by Bob Smith // Jan 23, 2022 - 10:07am

Good points. After watching those games last night It's easy to see why often times the weather is also factored into some stats.

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#25 by Chuckc // Jan 23, 2022 - 10:19am

At times, it seems like he sees only the receiver and not the defense. Or he just thinks his arm is stronger than it is. Like he throws those floaters and expects them to get there a lot faster than they actually do.

It's surprising to say but he actually got lucky last night that he didn't have more interceptions. And the one he did throw was 50% on Kittle for drifting in the end zone rather than coming back to the ball. And Jimmy still wasn't the biggest problem. The bigger issue last night was the OL getting beat in both the pass and run games.

Points: 0

#30 by Will Allen // Jan 23, 2022 - 10:34am

Oh, G was definitely lucky last night; reminded me of Case Keenum starting for the Vikings. Ol' Case dodged falling anvils all season, until the 2nd half of the Div. round, then went into the abyss in the Conf. championship. I really need to have the Rams beat the Bucs today, so I don't have to worry about G delivering Brady into yet one more Super Bowl; I'm fine with with either West Coast team getting in.

Points: 0

#56 by TomC // Jan 23, 2022 - 12:51pm

Or he just thinks his arm is stronger than it is. Like he throws those floaters and expects them to get there a lot faster than they actually do.

Yeah, this. That red zone pick was one that Mitch T. did over and over with the Bears: Recognize the open receiver a second late, deliver the ball anyway because you think your arm is way better than it is, express shock and dismay at the easy interception.

Points: 0

#79 by bravehoptoad // Jan 23, 2022 - 2:55pm

To be fair, Jimmy G is also working with a sprained throwing shoulder and a bone chip in his throwing thumb that requires it to be shot up with pain killers so that he can't much feel that digit.  Not surprising that he doesn't really know what his arm can do.

Points: 0

#80 by Chuckc // Jan 23, 2022 - 2:57pm

That would be a valid defense if he hadn't been doing the same thing all year

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#82 by bravehoptoad // Jan 23, 2022 - 3:03pm

Yeah, I haven't seen him throwing those weird slow floaters all year. 

Points: 0

#39 by ahmadrashad // Jan 23, 2022 - 11:24am

Assume that anything short of the Owl, they are trading him after the season. Hopefully none of the teams I root for are giving up a conditional 1st round pick for this guy. 

Points: 0

#57 by TomC // Jan 23, 2022 - 12:53pm

Props for both your excellent username and your attempt to get us to start calling it "the Owl" (I assume you are referring to the Superb one).

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#91 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 23, 2022 - 5:28pm

Earl Morrall

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#22 by ImNewAroundThe… // Jan 23, 2022 - 9:58am

1. Rest starters. When given a free game in week 18, don't give a flying f about some maybe shouting rust. Turns out you can be rusty even if they do play! Or in reality, it's not a thing because they aren't vehicles or coming off a decade hiatus playing football. Take the ENTIRE game to evaluate those with less reps and prepare THEM just in case they're needed in the playoffs. Yes some may have pressured Lafleur into playing them but he's gotta pull them as soon as their records are accomplished. Even in the middle of a drive. It's up to him to stress the importance that there's a non zero chance of them getting hurt...like MVS and Bak.

2. Don't turn down a coach you think is it because of money. You are a multi billion dollar organization. There is no reason for you to hard cap yourself in the ONE area that doesn't have a salary cap. Abuse that edge. Darren Rizzi worth whatever he was asking for.

3. This one every team can work on but, stop wasting timeouts. 1st and 3rd quarter timeouts need to be completely off the table. Oh, you think your team isn't set? So did Zac Taylor yesterday on their last INT but the refs didn't see him. Lucky they were blind otherwise TN would still have the ball. Forced them into a FG attempt (that of course of was blocked because of 2 above) instead of another shot or two at the EZ in the first half. And of course they would've been helpful on the last SF drive to stop them.

All other stuff is out of their control or farther reaching than just yesterday (Jordan Love trade up cough cough, 1st AND 4th rounder have contributed to the playoffs exactly ZERO times, NOT ideal but COMPLETELY avoidable)

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#48 by Tutenkharnage // Jan 23, 2022 - 12:11pm

From what I've heard, the Packers used Week 18 to try to ease him back into the lineup; as far as I know, he wasn't 100% healthy heading into the Lions game only to get hurt and become unavailable this week. Is that not the case? If he was gimpy, I think there's an argument for trying him out there in Week 18, if only so you don't find out he can't go on the day of your first playoff game.

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#49 by ImNewAroundThe… // Jan 23, 2022 - 12:20pm

And was determined the weeks leading up to the game. Not playing week 18 doesn't hurt them in any way other than you dont see him play. But he's on his 3rd contract, they didn't need to. Essentially ease him back in practice, not when the try hardo knee cap biting lions are trying to boost their stats.

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#64 by Tutenkharnage // Jan 23, 2022 - 1:26pm

I said at the time that Detroit was the wrong team to go padding stats against, and I know you wanted them to rest everyone they could. Just not the right opponent, since they were almost certain to come out firing hard all game for their coach.

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#66 by ImNewAroundThe… // Jan 23, 2022 - 1:35pm

In reply to by Tutenkharnage

than what's best for the team, even in those situations. As I pointed out long before, the Lions did the same thing in the last week of 2017. "Just" got Rodgers concussed...again. Despite Detroit already being eliminated and it too being a meaningless game for GB. 

Those guys aren't really taking a break for anyone or anything. They want to pad their careers sacks, etc. 

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#69 by Joey-Harringto… // Jan 23, 2022 - 2:01pm

“As I pointed out long before, the Lions did the same thing in the last week of 2017.  Just" got Rodgers concussed...again. Despite Detroit already being eliminated and it too being a meaningless game for GB.“

Are you sure you don’t mean 2018?  In the last week of 2017, Brett Hundley started and finished the game for GB.  2018 is when Rodgers started, got hurt, and Deshone Kizer finished the game.  

In either case, I don’t think it’s the same situation, because the Packers were also eliminated (not in a position to rest starters for the playoffs).

FWIW, I was surprised when the Packers announced Rodgers and other starters would be playing in that game.  There seems to be more evidence that rest is a good thing in football, and “rust” isn’t really a thing (other than random events).

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#86 by ImNewAroundThe… // Jan 23, 2022 - 4:19pm

You are correct. Sorry, they all run together. 

But they were in essentially the same position. Meaningless game. Except this time it can help draft position. Imagine Rodgers gets Alex Smith'd in that game (or the Jets one)...yikes. And they had JUST re-signed him a few months earlier. Gotta protect the asset. 

But of course, gotta pad them stats and what's a interim HC gonna do? Thankfully we lost that Detroit game!

But based on 2018, et al I wasn't too surprised. Just sad and stressed to see. 

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#93 by Joey-Harringto… // Jan 23, 2022 - 5:37pm

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

As soon as Rodgers went out, it sure looked like the Packers started playing like they wanted to make sure Joe Philbin didn’t get hired as the full time HC.

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#94 by ImNewAroundThe… // Jan 23, 2022 - 5:44pm

And why hes no longer in the league. But either way, I'm thankful. 

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#77 by dank067 // Jan 23, 2022 - 2:49pm

Bakhtiari has been in a cycle where he returns to practice, has a setback, returns to practice, has a setback... with a cleanup surgery in the middle that obviously didn't do the job. He hasn't been able to ease back into playing shape this whole time, so I honestly don't know if sitting out Week 18 would have really improved his odds of ultimately being able to play in the divisional round - he just isn't healthy. Hopefully he gets well in the offseason.

I wasn't super opposed to letting the starters play a little bit in Week 18, but it obviously didn't do anything for the offense. I'll take the L on that one. Health is too important.

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#87 by ImNewAroundThe… // Jan 23, 2022 - 4:27pm

Doesn't make logical sense that it would. All it did was give him a non zero chance of getting hurt again (which it looks like it did, even if not directly...like MVS).

May have been a small chance but the process still isn't great. 

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#28 by bochner // Jan 23, 2022 - 10:31am

a really bad idea.  Didn't play like an MVP on this night. An MVP QB with the ball 4 minutes to play has to be able to run out the clock.

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#29 by ImNewAroundThe… // Jan 23, 2022 - 10:33am

It's a regular season award. An MVP doesn't make Marcedes fumble and Deguara drop a TD

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#31 by Scott P. // Jan 23, 2022 - 10:39am

Take the ENTIRE game to evaluate those with less reps and prepare THEM just in case they're needed in the playoffs.

This is an ironic complaint given that all season we were told that GBs injuries were a blessing in disguise as they allowed the Packers' backups to get precious reps in-game building depth that would stand them in good stead come playoff time.

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#50 by ImNewAroundThe… // Jan 23, 2022 - 12:23pm

Ok, not sure who said that but what was said was people could come back. Unfortunately a couple did, for a meaningless game where they got hurt. And others like Zada got a sack+ because they were able to heal up.

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#53 by Scott P. // Jan 23, 2022 - 12:40pm

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

Yes, it was said the injured players would come back, and the replacements would be vets, so that GB would have two teams worth of experienced players.

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#59 by ImNewAroundThe… // Jan 23, 2022 - 1:07pm

The replacements would be vets?

Idk what that means or how it pertains to what I said lol

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#32 by bochner // Jan 23, 2022 - 10:41am

Total DVOA predicted both upsets putting lots of cash in the pockets of moneyline players.

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#33 by BigRichie // Jan 23, 2022 - 10:48am

The Niners didn't even have a 'punt block' play in. They rushed only 6, the one guy ran the snapper (my guess is he got too high? Ben Muth, any special teams blocking insight there?) back toward the punter and then got a hand on it. Don't know if I've ever seen that before.

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#34 by DoubleB // Jan 23, 2022 - 11:01am

I'm not sure what the rule is, but it looked like the SF player perfectly timed (or was early) the split second the long snapper looked up and just drove him straight back. 

Colleges usually free release the long snapper or prepare to give him help. Not sure about pro punt schemes, but GB had 8 to block 6 (really 5 as one SF player is looping around and has no intent to rush the punter).

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#37 by DoubleB // Jan 23, 2022 - 11:13am

I just watched GB's three previous punts. You absolutely have to give the LS some help. He gets jacked up and pushed back consistently. I'm sure he could be better technique wise but his first and primary job is to get the ball back to the punter. He'll never be in perfect blocking position once looking up.

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#35 by Will Allen // Jan 23, 2022 - 11:04am

For 28, maybe more, consecutive seasons, the Packers have started the season with a QB capable of MVP performance. It's such an anomaly that I don't know what to make of it. Obviously, getting to at least the Conf. Championship about a third of the time is great, and getting to the SB 3 out 9 trips to the Conf. Championship isn't terribly underperforming, especially given the toss-up nature of so many of the losses. If you had told me 30 years ago, however, that a team would get that kind of quarterbacking for 28 straight years, I would have pegged it for more than 2 Super Bowl wins.

"Winning championships is hard" is my brilliant insight today.

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#40 by mehllageman56 // Jan 23, 2022 - 11:37am

Over the Cap already has an article on the Green Bay situation: https://overthecap.com/the-future-for-aaron-rodgers-and-the-packers/

Let's just say Jason Fitzgerald doesn't know what they need to do, which is very unusual for him.

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#41 by RickD // Jan 23, 2022 - 11:40am

For all the blame being thrown at the Packers' special teams (and, by extension, at the coaching), maybe Rodgers should also bear some blame?  He had a 7-point lead with six+ minutes left and could only manage a 3-and-out.  Then he had the ball with 4:41 to go in a tie game and, again, could only manage a 3-and-out.  On 3rd and 11, he threw a ball way downfield to Adams, who was in double coverage and didn't really have a shot.  

The play-calling for Green Bay was terrible down the stretch.  I don't know how much of that's on Rodgers and how much is on the coaches, but a QB at Rodgers' level generally has the freedom to take charge of the play-calling down the stretch.  

After the super-efficient first drive that made it look like the Packers could score at will, they only got 3 more points the entire game.  That's not good enough, and that's on the offense.  The Packers' defense was superb, but they were let down not only by the special teams, but by the offense.

If I had just seen Aaron Rodgers outplayed by Jimmy G in crunch time, I wouldn't be so keen on bowing to any demands he made.  That wasn't about skill players - the 49ers pretty much only had 3 guys: Deebo, Kittle, and Mitchell, and the first two were battling injuries.


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#45 by Will Allen // Jan 23, 2022 - 12:00pm

I agree that the Packers D was far and away their only unit that played well, but they did illuminate, once again, that dbs not making very makeable plays, is the most significant "hidden" phenomena in NFL games.

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#74 by Joey-Harringto… // Jan 23, 2022 - 2:36pm

“that dbs not making very makeable plays, is the most significant "hidden" phenomena in NFL games.“

Hidden and quickly forgotten.  Today’s narrative about how the respective quarterbacks played in the other game would be very different if Janoris Jenkins doesn’t drop a what would have been a pick-six that Burrow tried to throw to him.

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#83 by dank067 // Jan 23, 2022 - 3:13pm

A lot of past 49er/Packer playoff games were invoked in the lead up to this one, but one that doesn't come up as often is the 2013 wild card game at Lambeau where Micah Hyde couldn't quite hang onto a pass that he either would have returned for a TD or at least given the Packers the ball deep in SF territory in a tie game with 4 minutes left. I always think back to that play as the example of what you're describing there.

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#84 by Will Allen // Jan 23, 2022 - 3:23pm

"Twenty most significant playoff non-plays by dbs in the Super Bowl era" would be a fun read.

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#90 by jgov // Jan 23, 2022 - 5:14pm

Asante Samuel dropping an INT right before the Helmet Catch would be #1 for sure

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#95 by PatsFan // Jan 23, 2022 - 6:35pm

He gets way too much grief for that.  It wasn't a drop.  He had to jump hard for it and barely got his hands on it.  I'm more PO'd at Harrison for not just punching the god-damned ball out.  And for Seau for refusing Harrison's pleas to audible out of that idiotic blitz.  And at Belichick for calling said idiotic blitz.

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#75 by dank067 // Jan 23, 2022 - 2:38pm

Yep... the special teams was probably most responsible for the loss, but it was a pretty miserable performance by the offense and by Rodgers. The 49ers got plenty of pressure, but the way the Packers have operated most of the season, the ball would have been getting out "on time" before it would have affected Rodgers on a lot of these plays.

Once it was clear that the 49ers were going to be bracketing Adams, the Packers needed to target other matchups, but instead they got deep into the game without even targeting another receiver (and still virtually didn't). It's weird too, because this isn't the first time a defense has played Adams this way, and the Packers were largely fine going to other options when it happened. Who knows what the issue was last night, whether it was playcalling or Rodgers just not looking elsewhere. I suspect a lot falls on Rodgers... on that 3rd and 11 at the end of the game, with max protection and no pressure to worry about, he had Lazard wide open running underneath the deep routes for what would have been a 20+ yard gain, and he lobbed it up into double coverage to Adams instead. Yeeugh. The 49ers defense obviously deserve a lot of credit too.

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#42 by Bob Smith // Jan 23, 2022 - 11:41am

Will ---------But brilliant insight it really is. I can only find 8 total QB's in the S.B. era that were able to play good enough to help their teams win 6 or more total championships-Conference and S.B.'s -and only 4 won 3 or more S.B.'s.

The 8 are Brady, Montana, Bradshaw, Staubach, P.Manning, Starr, Elway, and Aikman.

The 4 are Brady, Montana, Bradshaw, and Aikman. Even though Starr only won 2 S.B.'s, he did win 3 other League Championships.

Sorry, I thought I had this right under your post number 35.

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#62 by greybeard // Jan 23, 2022 - 1:19pm

Great job by 49ers D.

And great choke job by Aaron Rodgers. The MVP cannot throw the ball to anyone but the either one of the best best catcher in the game or a check down or broken coverage to running back. It is such a sweet thing to see him lose at the most important games. 

The weather seemed to help defenses, and hindered offenses and special teams. 49ers pass blocking was bad and they missed Jeff Wilson as an outlet and screen play receiver. Mitchell, as good as he is as a runner: though, instinctive, sees the hole, breaks tackles, is not a good pass blocker, or receiver and is not fast. Every time they sent him out of the backfield or tried a screen pass to him Jeff Wilson would have been much more useful.

49ers right tackle got abused all game. His strength is run game and he is generally pretty bad at pass protection. And when run game is not working he gets exposed. Which is what happened in this game. Depending on how the game goes next week we might see the rookie right tackle replace him.

Garappolo threw a bunch of interceptable passes, but the actual interception, I give 50% blame to him. Kittle should have come back to the QB to help. 



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#65 by Tutenkharnage // Jan 23, 2022 - 1:31pm

I imagine most of the Packers fans here are already familiar with Packers superfan Tom Grossi' and his excellent YouTube content, but if not, you can thank me later (for leading you to Tom, I mean; I'm trying to help you cope with a kindred soul, not trying to rub salt in a fresh wound):


And full credit to Tom for putting this together after his live commentary of both playoff games and his postgame postmortem and the obvious heartbreak of last night's game. That's dedication.

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#71 by Pat // Jan 23, 2022 - 2:24pm

"Maybe teams in general don't need rushing success to enjoy success on play-action. But Tannehill's play-action numbers dropped precipitously after Henry went out for the second half of this year."

I don't know why people continue to think you can study the effect of play action and rushing statistically from the results in the game. You really can't: it's a retrodictive problem.

The best way to study it is like this, where there's a *change* that forces a team to shift, and watch what happens.

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#72 by BlueStarDude // Jan 23, 2022 - 2:25pm

"The Green Bay Packers only had 10 players on the field for the game-winning field goal attempt. Coming out of a timeout."

Probably Mike McCarthy's fault.

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#78 by jheidelberg // Jan 23, 2022 - 2:54pm

Would you rather have McCarthy:  

"We had great confidence in that situation because we were just trying to get inside the 30-yard line to change the play call for the final play. So, it's the right call based on our preparation. It's a 13-second threshold is the call. So, that 14 seconds, in my view, that's the right call."

"The center can spot the ball. The receiver can spot the ball. So (the opinion) of 'you can't spot the ball' is not correct. So, the center can spot the ball. Our guys are trained to spot the ball exactly how the referee spots the ball. … Obviously, the umpire has to come in and all he has to do is touch it."

"You're in a 3, 2, 1 situation, you snap the ball. Obviously that didn't happen, right there at that point, so as far as the training of Dak getting the ball to Tyler (Biadasz), Tyler getting it down on the hashmark, that part was intact. So obviously we gotta factor in what happened there, at the end of that play because we have repped it, like I said, there's training that's gone into that situation."

—Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy justified his decision to run a quarterback draw with 14 seconds left in the game and no timeouts. The Cowboys were unable to snap the ball in time to spike it and potentially set up a shot at the end zone, losing the game once the clock expired. (NFL.com)

or Lafleur:

1st: regarding 10 men on the field

“That can't happen,” LaFleur said, per Kevn Patra of NFL.com. “It’s unacceptable. And, again, that’s on me.”

2nd: Matt LaFleur: 'I did not do enough to prepare them'

LaFleur takes responsibility, McCarthy does not.  I have seen endless press conferences of Mike Tomlin and John Harbaugh, they take responsibility.  If you want to coach in this league for decades, own it when you lose, that allows you to own it when you win.  For that matter, if you want to be in a high level position in business, take responsibility, those that make excuses are short for the business world as well.

Bottom line, I'll take LaFleur any day, as for Mike McCarthy, he may have gone from one Hall of Fame QB to another, and that will keep the W-L record in line, making for a difficult time in finding a reason to fire him.

Try googling this:

________ (fill in coaches name) takes blame for

Then compare Tomlin, Harbaugh, LaFleur, Belichick, McCarthy results.  Try some other coaches, I would be interested in results.



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