SANTA CLARA, Calif. – These playoff defeats when he is oh-so-close sting a bit more for Aaron Rodgers now, at this later stage in his career.
“It’s a little raw right now. It definitely hurts I’d say a little more than early in your career just because you realize just how difficult it is to get to this spot,” the longtime Green Bay Packers quarterback said after another season fell short of the Super Bowl. “… Then you realize I don’t have the same number of years ahead of me as I do behind me, so it’s slightly more disappointing.”
A sack and fumble one series, a muffed snap he couldn’t handle the next, then an interception that grounded Green Bay for good.
Rodgers’ latest failure in the NFC Championship Game kept him out of the Super Bowl again, the Packers’ season ending just short with an another forgettable playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers, 37-20 Sunday.
Rodgers hasn’t led the Green Bay past the conference title game since his lone Super Bowl trip — and triumph — following the 2010 season. This was his third consecutive title game loss over a six-year stretch.
Sunday, the Packers (14-4) never found an offensive rhythm and had no answers on the other side of the ball.
Rodgers made another futile return to the Bay Area, where he starred for Cal, with far less chatter these days about the 49ers passing on him in favor of Alex Smith as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 NFL draft. The 36-year-old Rodgers, born in the Northern California town of Chico, finally led a scoring drive to begin the second half when he connected with Aaron Jones on a 9-yard touchdown pass. Jones ran for a 1-yard score early in the fourth.
“It was too big a hole to climb out of,” first-year Packers coach Matt LaFleur said.
Rodgers, who was 31-for-39 for 326 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, said he remains optimistic about the Packers getting back to a Super Bowl. He believes in the team’s leadership, from the top down.
“The window’s open,” he said, “and I think we’re going to be on the right side of one of these real soon.”