Ice Bowl II? It was not. Kickoff was a balmy five degrees (-10 degrees with wind chill), the seventh coldest game at kickoff in franchise history. The Wild Card Playoff did live up to all the hype, however. A record 77,525 fans watched the Packers lose on a field goal as time expired 23-20. San Francisco upended the Packers for the fourth consecutive time and advances to the NFC Divisional Round against the Carolina Panthers next Sunday at noon.
After three offensive possessions and nine plays on offense, Green Bay amassed one total yard in a dismal first quarter again hampered by injury. Sam Shields and Mike Neal each suffered game ending knee injuries. Fortunately the defense bent but did not break. A 6-0 hole after the first quarter was not as steep of a hill to climb as it could have been.
Even though the injury cart was making more trips down the field than the Packers offense during the first quarter, Green Bay was still in the game.
A 17-yard interception return by Tramon Williams got Lambeau Field rocking to start the second quarter. The pick led to a 70-yard drive capped by a five-yard touchdown strike from Aaron Rodgers to Jordy Nelson.
San Francisco would take the lead back with 2:48 left in the first half. A 42 yard quarterback sneak by Colin Kaepernick ignited the 49ers on the ensuing possession. It was one that led to a 10-yard Frank Gore touchdown run.
Mason Crosby added a 34 yard field goal as time expired in the second quarter to cut the 49ers lead to 13-10.
The teams traded punts throughout the third quarter before James Starks and Eddie Lacy got on track and carried their team down the field encouraged by boisterous chants of “Eddie, Eddie, Eddie.” The play of the game came on fourth down and two with 13 minutes left in regulation. Aaron Rogers made an escape from three 49ers defensive linemen of which Harry Houdini would have been proud. He then launched the ball 26 yards down the field to Randall Cobb setting up first and goal from the four yard line. John Kuhn then punched it in from one-yard out to make it 17-13 Packers early in the fourth quarter.
The score put Kuhn in some pretty rare air. No other active player in the NFL has scored a touchdown in five consecutive post seasons. He joins Dorsey Levens as the only other Packers player to accomplish that feat in the history of the Green Bay Packers.
A 28-yard touchdown pass from Kaepernick to Vernon Davis quieted Lambeau four plays and 63 yards later. Leading 20-17, the Niners still had to try and stop a balanced Green Bay attack.
Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, John Kuhn and Eddie Lacy knifed through a top notch defense to tie the game at 20 with a 24 yard field goal with 5:06 left in regulation.
San Francisco methodically drove the ball 65 yards down the field on the arm and legs of Collin Kaepernick expiring every last second of game clock. Phil Dawson lined up for a 33-yard game winning field goal and dismissed the Packers from the post season again.
The off-season begins with lots of questions for the coaching staff and returning players. Will defensive coordinator Dom Capers or special teams coach Shawn Slocum return? Players like B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett, James Starks, and James Jones may also have played their last game wearing the green and gold (free agency).
One thing is certain. The 2014 Green Bay Packers will look much different then the team that finished with a loss to the San Francisco 49ers Sunday night at Lambeau Field.
Side Note: Mason Crosby passed Chris Jacke as the all-time Packers scoring leader as he finished the game with a career total of 77 playoff points.