Since the start of the 2008 season, when Aaron Rodgers took over as quarterback, the Packers are 21-23 in games decided by one score (eight points or less). That record includes losses to Detroit and New England in 2010, when Rodgers was out with a concussion, and a victory in the 2011 finale, when Rodgers was given the day off against Detroit.
Contrast that to the Packers' record in games decided by nine-plus points. The Packers are a veritable juggernaut with a record of 37-8. That includes a 24-3 record over the last three seasons, though two of the losses came in the 2011 and 2012 playoffs.
Whether it's offense, defense, special teams or some combination of the three, Green Bay simply hasn't made enough key plays in key moments.
It was a total, all-phases failure against the 49ers on Sunday. After Green Bay took a 28-24 lead with what looked like a signature drive by Rodgers and Co., the defense practically gave Colin Kaepernick and Co. an escort to the end zone. The special teams put the offense in a deep hole by forgetting to block on the ensuing kickoff. The offense meekly went three-and-out. And the defense finished the late-game meltdown by allowing the Niners to convert a third down and a fourth down on the clinching drive.
The Packers have had their shining moments late in close games. Green Bay went 4-4 in 2012, including a 28-27 win over New Orleans in which Rodgers hit Jordy Nelson for the winning touchdown midway through the fourth quarter. During the 15-1 run in 2011, Green Bay went 6-1 in one-score games, highlighted by a Week 1 shootout over New Orleans and Rodgers driving the Packers to a last-play field goal at the Giants in Week 13.
In 2010, the Packers went a mediocre 7-6 in close games, but their six-game dash to the championship included a 10-3 win over Chicago to get into the playoffs, an end-zone interception by Tramon Williams to beat Philadelphia, a late interception by Sam Shields to beat Chicago and a clutch drive by Rodgers and clinching pass breakup by Williams to edge Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl.
Those moments, however, have been too few for a team that typically doesn't kill itself through self-inflicted wounds. According to Scott Kacsmar at his Captain Comeback blog, Rodgers is a jaw-dropping 0-19 in fourth-quarter comeback situations against teams with records of .500 or better. And a big-play defense has gone silent against top opponents. During Dom Capers' run as defensive coordinator, the Packers are first in interceptions and third in takeaways. In the three calendar-year losses to the 49ers, the Packers' only takeaway was Shields' pick-six in the playoff game. In the two games against Kaepernick, the defense has three sacks and allowed 18-of-31 conversions on third down.
The Packers' results in games decided by one score or less:
Game 1: San Francisco 34, Green Bay 28.
Game 1: San Francisco 30, Green Bay 22.
Game 3: Seattle 14, Green Bay 12.
Game 4: Green Bay 28, New Orleans 27.
Game 5: Indianapolis 30, Green Bay 27.
Game 10: Green Bay 24, Detroit 20.
Game 13: Green Bay 27, Detroit 20.
Game 14: Green Bay 21, Chicago 13.
Game 16: Minnesota 37, Green Bay 34.
(Other games: 8-2.)
Game 1: Green Bay 42, New Orleans 34.
Game 2: Green Bay 30, Carolina 23.
Game 7: Green Bay 33, Minnesota 27.
Game 8: Green Bay 45, San Diego 38.
Game 12: Green Bay 38, N.Y. Giants 35.
Game 14: Kansas City 19, Green Bay 14.
Game 17: Green Bay 45, Detroit 41.
(Other games: 9-1.)
Game 1: Green Bay 27, Philadelphia 20.
Game 3: Chicago 20, Green Bay 17.
Game 4: Green Bay 28, Detroit 26.
Game 5: Washington 16, Green Bay 13.
Game 6: Miami 23, Green Bay 20.
Game 7: Green Bay 28, Minnesota 24.
Game 11: Atlanta 20, Green Bay 17.
Game 13: Detroit 7, Green Bay 3.
Game 14: New England 31, Green Bay 27.
Game 16: Green Bay 10, Chicago 3.
Game 17: Green Bay 21, Philadelphia 16.
Game 19: Green Bay 21, Chicago 14.
Game 20: Green Bay 31, Pittsburgh 25.
(Other games 7-0.)
Game 1: Green Bay 21, Chicago 15.
Game 2: Cincinnati 31, Green Bay 24.
Game 4: Minnesota 30, Green Bay 23.
Game 10: Green Bay 30, San Francisco 24.
Game 13: Green Bay 21, Chicago 14.
Game 14: Pittsburgh 37, Green Bay 36.
Game 17: Arizona 51, Green Bay 45.
(Other games: 8-2.)
Game 1: Green Bay 24, Minnesota 19.
Game 5: Atlanta 27, Green Bay 24.
Game 8: Tennessee 19, Green Bay 16.
Game 9: Minnesota 28, Green Bay 27.
Game 12: Carolina 35, Green Bay 31.
Game 13: Houston 24, Green Bay 21.
Game 14: Jacksonville 20, Green Bay 16.
Game 15: Chicago 20, Green Bay 17.
(Other games: 5-3.)
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.