For the past two days, all I have felt is an empty pit in my stomach. As a collective, Packer fans really thought this was their year, and I did too.
Maybe this is a sign that we invest too much of our own happiness in the green and yellow. For goodness sake, the Packers have lost four NFC championship games in the past seven years. Being a Green Bay fan is just constantly getting your hopes up, only to be crushed into a pit of misery at the end of January.
However, as I start to ponder the past season and start to put the year into perspective, the joy that the Packers brought the cheeseheads far outweighed the negatives. Aaron Rodgers was the MVP at age 37, the Packers won the NFC North for the second straight year and earned the No. 1 seed in the NFC.
The time to enjoy the season’s successes will come later though. For now, here’s a few of my takeaways from Sunday’s game.
The Packers beat themselves
All season long, I always thought the only way the Packers could lose before they get to the Super Bowl is if they beat themselves.
What does that mean? Making coaching mistakes, uncharacteristic errors or mental lapses that kill momentum and costs points.
It seemed every one of those happened on Sunday. Now, let’s give credit to the Buccaneers, who definitely took advantage of these untimely errors, capitalizing with points and putting the game away.
Things like Aaron Jones’ fumbles, man defense with no safety help at the end of the first half, Aaron Rodgers and Davante not hitting on the back-shoulder throw in the endzone and kicking a field goal late in the game instead of going for it on fourth down all stick out to me right away.
And we can all talk about how the refs cost us the game with the ticky-tack pass interference call on third down, but the mistakes listed above are what truly costed the Packers that game. They beat themselves, and it sucks.
Tough game for free agents
The Packers likely don’t have the cap space to sign guys like Corey Linsley, Kevin King and Aaron Jones to long-term deals. If this is their last game, which it likely is, it’s a tough way to leave Lambeau Field.
Aaron Jones had two fumbles – the second one a fumble on the opening drive of the second half that gave the Bucs’ offense a short field to score a touchdown and put the visitors up by 18 points. Also on that play, he injured his ribs and chest area, and he never saw the field again.
For Kevin King, it seemed he was picked on all day. He missed tackles, gave up two touchdowns on poor coverage in the first half and had the pass interference at the end of the game that put an end to all hopes of a comeback.
While those two have gotten plenty of criticism in the last 48 hours – some warranted and others not so much – it just sucks to see that as the likely end to their careers in green and yellow. Both players had great moments for the Packers, and like them, we wanted to see it end much better than it did.
An abrupt end leads to an uncertain future
This seems to be the biggest takeaway. There seems to be more questions about what the organization will do now more than any time I can remember in the recent past.
How will this team get better? Will the future of MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers look like? (Spoiler alert: he’ll be back in 2021.) Will the organization sign any free agents? What position groups will management prioritize in the offseason?
These are questions Green Bay fans didn’t want to have to worry about. But now that the season is unfortunately over, these are the things that now become important.
I didn’t think I’d be sitting here writing this blog at this point. At this point last week, I thought for sure I’d be writing about how the Packers can beat the Chiefs in the Super Bowl.
It is what it is. Even if what it is isn’t fun. I’ll stick with my team forever, though. Can you say the same?——————
Gunnar Davis is a lifelong Packers fan and a recent graduate of Simpson College, where he was a 3-year letterwinner on the offensive line and graduated with a degree in multimedia communications. You can follow him on Twitter at @Gunnar57Davis.