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Repeated Negative Happenings Can Get in Your Head

In scanning a great many of Packer fans’ disparaging comments following the Saturday night giveaway, the one that hits home with me is that by the middle of the third quarter you knew what the outcome of the Packers-Niners game was going to be. That’s exactly how I felt, simply because we’ve been down this road before.

We’ve seen repeated failures to win the NFCCG, we’ve seen the pattern of San Francisco out-playing and out-coaching the Pack, and we’ve seen the tendency to string a bunch of three-and-out offensive drives just when the Pack was in a position to put a game out of reach.

In non-psychological lingo, after a while these memories and patterns tend to get into your head, whether it be in the heads of the fans, the players, or the coaches. Once it happens, it causes the brain to believe that what has happened before is about to happen again. These worries become self-fulfilling prophecies.

This appears to have happened to Green Bay on Saturday. What makes it especially frustrating is that the team came out extremely ready to play this game, and the intensity of the defense in the first half was spectacular. It was only as the half was about to end that things started to unravel, and the thoughts of past losses started to set in.

After that fine first 11-play drive, the Packers went fumble, punt, punt, punt, and blocked field goal. The first confidence-shaker was the fumble by veteran Marcedes Lewis. This was a pass that shouldn’t have been thrown, as the Big Dog had his back to the defender, and was going to take a blind-side hit as he turned to head upfield. It was the same type of blindside tackle that caused Aaron Jones to fumble in last year’s conference championship. It was an ideal opportunity for a punch-out, and the Niners defenders are well versed at such skills – plus it wasn’t going to result in any meaningful yardage anyway.

Jan 22, 2022; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) warms up before playing the San Francisco 49ers during a NFC Divisional playoff football game at Lambeau Field. Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The defense, however, prevented this turnover from lighting up the Niners. Better yet, with 1:05 remaining in the half, and San Francisco at the Green Bay 9-yard line, Garoppolo, was intercepted by Amos Otis. Next, with forty seconds left, a Niners’ defensive miscommunication allowed Aaron Jones to get ten yards behind the secondary, resulting in a 75 yard completion.

The Packers then squandered this gift by Rodgers getting sacked (and fumbling), then getting the ensuing field goal kick blocked. In so doing, as the teams left the field the momentum had swung back to the Niners.

But… none of this would have happened had Rodgers, who had broken from the pocket and was under no defensive pressure, thrown a half-decent pass to the wide, wide open Jones. Jones had to leap and pirouette to catch the ball, thus losing his forward velocity. It was a fine catch, but it would have resulted in a touchdown had the throw been better.

Despite the Pack’s sloppy play, the defense kept getting the ball back for the Packers offense to put the game away. Instead, here’s what the Packers did offensively in the second half: punt, field goal, blocked punt/touchdown, and punt. It was midway through this slump that I suspect most fans, like me, saw the writing on the wall. Psychological forces come into play, and especially so in win-or-go-home games, as much as does physical play.

Jan 22, 2022; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur (center) looks on from the sidelines in the first half against the San Francisco 49ers during a NFC Divisional playoff football game at Lambeau Field. Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

You can try to credit San Francisco with better defense, point to the loss of A.J. Dillon due to a fractured rib, or blame the weather, but what I saw is Matt LaFleur becoming utterly predictable with his play calls, and Rodgers having a complete loss of trust in all his receivers other than Adams – and sub-consciously in himself. As the second half proceeded, we saw those all-too-familiar facial gestures by Rodgers, indicating the fates were against him – by then his head was consumed with the inevitability of losing, not the pursuit of winning.

Time and again Rodgers tried to spot Adams in the open despite the Niners by now assigning two defenders to him. Finally, with 3:40 to go and on a third and 11, Rodgers threw a desperation deep pass toward Adams, who was covered, front and back, by defenders. Adams has never possessed the speed to make this a smart play, and the game situation didn’t necessitate a home run ball. Making things worse, Allen Lazard was open for a big gain at the time. This play epitomized the direction the game had taken.

By the way, how can you tell, besides the facial and body language, when negative thoughts are spinning around in Rodgers skull? I’ve noted that Aaron has a tendency to start throwing low and short to his receivers. His throwing motion reflects his uncertainty, hesitation, and lack of confidence. On Saturday Rodgers threw three or four balls almost into the ground. Fortunately, his receivers made some nice finger-tip catches. When your head isn’t right, the tendency is to tighten up physically and to aim your passes instead of releasing the ball smoothly and with purpose.

This same uncertainty and hesitancy also causes Rodgers to get sacked more than usual. On the season, Aaron never took more than three sacks in a game. Of the five sacks he suffered on Saturday, I’d say that three of them were due to a lack of confidence in his throws, not due to the San Francisco pass rush.

I think this is another example of the head of Aaron Rodgers, and presumably of play caller La Fleur too, getting all crowded with memories of past failures – especially in the playoffs and especially against this team. They panicked, choked, lost their confidence – call it what you will. Trying not to lose is a poor substitute for trying to win.

Aaron is not up there with the Bills’ Jim Kelly, who lost in four straight Super Bowls from 1991 through 1994, but he lost his big chance to expel the demons from his head on Saturday night. It’s a chance that he might never get again.

Rob Born

Smart drafters don’t select the best available players, they fill a team’s positions of greatest need.



  1. Russ January 25, 2022

    I simply don’t know why the special teams coach wasn’t let go or someone please give this guy some help. This was a trend all season long. I think he was simply over his head.

  2. Tom M January 25, 2022

    I vividly remember Brett Favre’s last game as a Packer. Also a playoff loss at home in the cold against the NY Giants. Favre look old and cold in that game. He looked like he was done. Rodgers looked the same way. He looked like a man that had wrapped up the only thing that truly mattered to him. The MVP award. And this playoff game was just a necessary evil. Do I think he’ll retire? Not at all. But he’s done in Green Bay. You just knew he wasn’t going to rally the troops, pick up first downs, and score points in the second half. He’s never been that kind of QB. And you always face adversity in the playoffs. Everyone in America knew the ball was always going to Davante Adams whether he was open or not. Most the time he wasn’t. Even when Lazard was wide open. Those that criticize MLF’s game plan are clueless. Matt LaFleur would never game plan Adams with 10,12,15 targets. That’s all on Rodgers. We won’t truly see LaFleur’s offense unit Rodgers is gone. Aaron always ran a bastardized version of it. Now he’ll run it in Denver. Patrick Mahomes will embarrass the old man.

  3. Killer January 26, 2022

    Rob Born!

    A brilliant article this time. Honesty and observational accuracy instead of lemonade bubbles as you sometimes do.

    I particularly enjoyed this line from you:
    “As the second half proceeded, we saw those all-too-familiar facial gestures by Rodgers, indicating the fates were against him – by then his head was consumed with the inevitability of losing, not the pursuit of winning.”
    So true!
    Everything on Rodgers was spot on. Someone needs to be honest about him. Lord knows he cannot be honest about himself. The latest is him claiming that the only reason people rooted against the Packers — the ONLY reason!!! — was his “stand” on taking the vaccine.
    Holy Alternate History, Batman! First, many people do not take the vaccine and there are players who have not on both sides. Aaron’s “stand” was him punking out and lying about it and trying to deceive everyone and then spouting a bunch of false information about vaccines and alternate cures. Almost certainly, Aaron literally got people killed with his terrible advice. He isn’t a doctor and does not even play one on TV, yet tells people to do the opposite of what doctors advise. Incredible!
    The truth is Aaron was hated long before this year and he earned that hate. Many also hated the Packers long before now due to their arrogant insulting low-IQ fan base. Yet here Aaron goes making it ALL about himself. Aaron is one of the worst non-criminal humans to ever play a sport. We’re not even all that sure about the “non-criminal” part.
    A really interesting quote that no one seems to have paid attention to was Aaron after the game saying it was unexpected and he did not expect to feel this way and have to think about his future until after the NFC conference championship game. !!! He fully expected to lose the NFCCCG no matter who the opponent was! He PLANNED on it!!!!!!
    As a Vikings fan I hope Aaron stays in Green Bay another year. A huge suck on their salary cap, a sapping of their spirit, and a guaranteed loss in the playoffs, short of the Super Bowl.
    Rob, you made another comment that is quite true:
    “Aaron is not up there with the Bills’ Jim Kelly, who lost in four straight Super Bowls from 1991 through 1994.”
    You’re right, Aaron is not as good as Jim Kelly and should be ranked behind Kelly. Kelly got his team to 4 Super Bowls and Aaron has fallen well short of that.

  4. James Anderson January 26, 2022

    Jealous Viking fan. They wished they had Aaron Rodgers and then he would be thier hero. The worst VANS in the nfl ARE THE Viking fans, not the Packer fans. J.R.Andrson

  5. Tom M January 26, 2022

    This just in. It’s being reported in Denver that Rodgers and Adams would “love” to play together in Denver. While Aaron told us using his PR firm, some refer to it as the Pat McAfee podcast, that he’s using this time to pause and reflect. Saying he’s sure what his future holds. Sure Erin, you’d never deceive or mislead us. That whole COVID vaccination thing was just a big misunderstanding. We can all have a good chuckle over that now, right girls? In the same article it was reported Nathaniel Hackett had a 8 hour interview with the Broncos GM and is now the leading candidate for the Denver head coaching job. You don’t spend 8 hrs on someone you don’t have a hard on for. I’m sure they spent the majority of the time on how best to deal with their soon to be diva QB.

  6. Killer January 26, 2022

    One hilarious element to Rodgers losing to the San Francisco 49ers, added spice, added irony, is Aaron’s pissing and moaning about his culture getting cancelled. His culture, his precious little culture. The guy has no culture. A man who overnight abandons his entire family, even his doting grandfather, when in his early 30s and at the height of his success (and no way did every single person in his entire family all at once overnight do him wrong) has no culture to lose or have cancelled anyway.
    Also, saying your “culture is cancelled” because a few people don’t like you or don’t agree with you is mentally and spiritually weak and meaningless. It just isn’t a thing. If you have true culture, no one can cancel it. Your strength is from within, not from the outside world. But, of course, only if you are morally a strong person who does right for its own sake instead being engaged perpetually in the pursuit of pure selfishness.
    At any rate, cancelled culture is a silly non-thing but, even so, it is truly amusing that the 49ers booted — or cancelled — Aaron’s culture-deficient ass out of the playoffs. Why? It is only the right-wingers who piss and moan about fictitious cancel culture — all while fast and furiously cancelling other people’s culture IF such a thing existed — and, of course, ironically, San Fran is known as the most liberal city in America. The libs canceled Aaron’s tiny little culture! It does not get any more poetic than that.

  7. Ferris January 26, 2022

    Some people and their long posts really need something else in their lives. Not saying who.

  8. Killer January 26, 2022

  9. PF4L January 26, 2022

    January 26, 2022
    Everything on Rodgers was spot on. Someone needs to be honest about him.
    So i’ll start…
    He has won more Super Bowls by himself than the entire viking franchise have won in 55 years.
    That’s one of the main reasons us viking fans loathe the man in every comment we make here.
    The vikings can’t do something for over a half century, that Rodgers accomplished in his 3rd season starting in the NFL.
    I absolutely hate that SOB. Because i hate, a winner,
    Rodgers has won more Super Bowls than the vikings and Lions have in 110 seasons.
    I hope to God he dies in hell!!
    Because that’s where i live, in hell.

  10. PF4L January 26, 2022

    Monty summed it up best years ago….

  11. Deepsky January 26, 2022

    Look, it’s not Rodgers’s fault. All Rodgers needs to win in the playoffs is a defense that holds the opponent to -50 yards in the first half, hold the opponent to zero QB rating, instead of the gaudy 10 QB rating they let Garapolo have. And having two running backs in the top 20 for yards per carry, how can anyone win with that? If they were top 5 running backs, man then we would see Rodgers greatness. And having the best receiver in the league, who can win with only one Pro Bowl receiver? He needs another top receiver, then he wouldn’t be forced to throw to a double covered Adams. Only weak quarterbacks throw to wide open receivers running short routes anyways. You see, it’s not Rodgers fault the team loses. It’s everyone around him that’s holding him back.

  12. PF4L January 27, 2022

    Rodgers needs to learn how to play QB in the NFL.
    Maybe one of you fine gentleman can go up and work with him.
    Maybe then….he’d finally know what he was doing

  13. Arch Stanton January 27, 2022

    Green Bay offense scores 10 points. Not so hot. San Fran offense scores 6 points. Worse than Packers. Packers defense gives up 6 points. Pretty darn good. San Fran defense gives up 10 points. Also pretty good. Green Bay not so special teams gets a punt blocked that results in a touchdown for San Fran and also get a FG attempt blocked taking 3 points off the board. San Fran special teams does its job resulting in no negative plays for them.

    This is all Aaron Rodgers fault that the Pack lost the game. Why hasn’t he been cut from the team already.

    As a wise man has said on here, it takes all three phases of the game to win championships. When’s the last time the Pack has had that?

    Oh, it’s Rodgers fault. Cut the man right now.

  14. Mitch Anthony January 27, 2022

    All the best to Nathaniel Hackett on his future as head coach of the Denver Broncos.

    Why does Drayton’s key fob still work on the employee entrance at 1265 Lombardi Av.?

  15. Tom M January 27, 2022

    The ailment of the stars in the heavens continues to coincide with the age of Aquarius! The naming of Nathaniel Hackett, Denver Broncos new head coach, makes the trade of Aaron Rodgers a done deal. It’s all over now but the crying ladies. The new Bronco Messiah will insist on his faithful disciple Davante Adams to assist him in delivering regular season miracles! Playoffs, not so much. Brian Gutekunst, some will call him Judas, will happily franchise tag Adams and send him to Denver for Jerry Jeudy or perhaps the TE Noah Fant. Then use the bounty of draft picks for Rodgers, along with his core young players to build for the future. Clueless Packer fans will have none of it. Predicting an apocalyptic future and a return to the 70’s and 80’s. While the media fuss and fawns over the impending Rodgers vs Mahomes and Rodgers vs Herbert match ups in the AFC west causing a ratings bonanza. Back in Packer land chicken little will proclaim the sky is falling. I can’t wait!

  16. Kato January 30, 2022

    Ok Arch, tell me what he did to win the game, at the NFLs most important position?

  17. Arch Stanton January 31, 2022

    Easy, he lead the offense to a TD on the opening drive. If ST had done it’s job that is all that was needed. San Fran offense didn’t score any points. Their ST scored all of them. If you want to blame Rodgers for the loss, I could as easily point to the defense for not stopping SF on their last drive that set up the ST field goal to win the game.

  18. PF4L February 6, 2022

    I think Big Shoulder Tom is right…..
    The Packers will get some draft picks, a blue chip player or two.
    Jordan Love gets to display his skills and….show us why Rodgers was scared of Jordan Love breathing down his neck, as Tommi once (or 13 times) told us. Isn’t that right Princess?
    (I couldn’t even type that with a straight face :)
    The Packers have gone 39-10 the last 3 seasons.
    I look forward to Jordan Love matching, or….beating that.
    The future looks bright for the Packers and Packer Nation…ain’t that right Goober?