The youngest team in the NFL had the number one seed in the N.F.C. on the ropes for a short time in the second half but failed to capitalize on opportunities and ultimately lost a playoff game they could have won. Four plays made the difference in a battle that went back and forth for the whole game.
Packers vs 49ers Analysis
The Four Game Changer Plays
- LaFleur’s decision to do a push-tush quarterback sneak on 4th and one on the first quarter.
- Darnell Savage dropping a sure pick six.
- Love’s interception with a seven-point lead.
- The missed field goal of Anders Carlson.
The Green Bay Packers played the vaunted San Francisco team equal for three quarters. Jordan Love led the offense to three long drives in their first three possessions but posted only six points on the scoreboard. The offensive line opened holes for Aaron Jones, he rushed 108 yards.
Multiple times Jones was hit at the line of scrimmage and powered for first downs. But on 4th and one at the 49er fourteen-yard line LaFleur decided to try and bully the best defense in the NFL for one yard.
The tush-push is the only play the Packers could run where the 49ers would know what the play was before the snap. Love’s attempt was ruled short, his offensive line getting little to no push against the Pro-Bowlers on San Francisco’s defense.
You can argue that taking the points with a lead was the wisest choice. But even if you do decide to go for it the play call was inexcusable.
Savage’s drop happened early. It would have required San Francisco to play from behind by more than a score. But in a game where the weather was impacting ball security, drops like that happen.
Mistakes Were Made
Unfortunately, they happened to the Packers not the 49ers. The 49ers were able to intercept Jordan Love twice in the second half. The two picks spoiled what was otherwise a good showing for Love, especially in the first three quarters.
The Packers struggles to get the ball in the end zone in the first half led to a 7-6 one-point deficit at half. But the third quarter was kinder with smart play calling from LaFleur and accurate passes from Love. Two drives led to two touchdowns.
Love didn’t hit any long bombs, instead relying on 49er Ambry Thomas for a couple of pass interference penalties, the second one bailed the Packers out of a 3rd and 15 for a 41-yard penalty. Thomas looked like he might be the San Francisco goat for the loss after Love found Bo Melton for the touchdown, but the Packers let him off the hook.
After Keisean Nixon gave every Packer fan heart palpitations with his 73-yard kickoff return that ended with a fumble and fantastic recovery by linebacker Eric Wilson, Love made some key throws lifting the Packers back on top. The Packers went up seven points with 5:23 left in the third.
The Packer defense then stood tall, forcing a punt with Brock Purdy looking unsure and inaccurate. But that is when Jordan Love gave San Francisco a gift interception that the 49ers turned into three points. The Packers finished poorly. Their last four possessions were interception, three and out punt, missed 41-yard field goal by Carlson and an interception.
Packers vs 49ers Defense
While the difference in linebacker play between the two teams was obvious, favoring the 49ers, the Packer defense did enough to win the game. The offense sputtered in the 4th quarter and could not close out the 49ers. Zach Tom was taken off the field and his replacement, Yosh Nijman, struggled against Nick Bosa.
The offense left the defense on the field too long and the 49ers took advantage of missed tackles by Darnell Savage and poor diagnosis from Quay Walker. The 49ers were able to score ten unanswered points in the 4th quarter and the Packer offense could not rise to that challenge.
This team should be proud of how far they came as a team in 2023. The playoff experience should be good for next year’s team and Jordan Love has played well enough to lead this team for years to come.
But this one hurt. Love and the offense will have to improve and must play better next year.
The learning year is over. Expectations will be back to a Super Bowl trip in 2024-5.