The overarching theme behind another tough playoff loss for the Green Bay Packers will be the missed opportunities. And while there are many you can point to, the ones in the red zone hurt the most.
“We obviously didn’t do a good enough job in the red zone,” said Jordan Love after the game. “Didn’t come away with enough points down there. We started getting going a little bit later in the second half, things like that, but it was too little too late.
“Obviously the turnovers, that’s a huge part of the game, losing the turnover battle. So there’s a lot of little things you can look at, point at. But not scoring enough points in the red zone is going to be tough to win a game going against a good offense when you’re not putting up enough points like that.”
Against a stout San Francisco 49ers defense, the Packers found success moving the ball between the 20-yard lines. The Packers ended up making five red zone trips in the game but left with a touchdown on only two occasions.
Instead, the Packers would end up settling for two field goal attempts and lost a scoring chance on a turnover on downs. The late missed field goal by Anders Calrson also came on the cusp of the red zone with the Packers at the San Francisco 23-yard line.
“Give San Francisco credit,” said coach Matt LaFleur. “They made more plays in some of those critical situations down the stretch. It’s a tough football team, but I felt like we had plenty of opportunities to kind of put the game out of reach and unfortunately just didn’t do enough.”
Compared to the rest of the NFL, the Packers entered this game as a below-average red zone offense, scoring a touchdown on 53.4 percent of their visits.
Moving the ball in this part of the field is innately more difficult because there is simply less space to operate in–putting more defenders in a confined area. That then becomes even more challenging when facing an elite linebacker duo like the 49ers have in Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw.
With those two as erasers between the hash marks, the middle of the field is all but taken away. Overall, in this game, Love was just 9-for-16 on passes over the middle for 33 yards while throwing two interceptions.
LaFleur has previously mentioned that red zone success starts with a good run game. However, while Aaron Jones finished the game averaging 6.0 yards per carry, which was bolstered by a 53-yard run, that did not carry over into the red zone.
Too often, the Packers found themselves behind the sticks and in predictable passing situations. This then allows the pass rush to tee off and gives the secondary the advantage.
“It’s never one play,” added LaFleur, “‘cause I’m sure a lot of it’s going to come down to the missed field goal, but there were plenty of opportunities. You can go back in the first half and have three red zone opportunities and have six points.
“There’s a lot of plays out there that it just, if one plays goes different, then probably have a different result right now. But again, give those guys credit. I’ve got a lot of respect for the players and coaches over there.”
Along with the red zone woes that the Packers’ offense experienced, Carlson missed the aforementioned field goal, which would have at least had the game tied up in the final minute.
Love also threw a pair of interceptions and missed a wide-open Aaron Jones on a third-down pass that would have extended a drive.
“The one to Tucker,” said Love, “I missed and was a little bit behind him. He was running a crossing route and missed it. Obviously got tipped up and picked. The one to Aaron was off-schedule. He stayed on the move and we weren’t on the same page there and missed that one as well.”
In a variety of ways, the opportunity was there for the Packers to not only win this game, but win somewhat comfortably. But they were unable to strike.
“They did a good job in the red zone,” said Love. “You’ve got to give them credit. We weren’t able to finish in the end zone so give them credit for that.”