GREEN BAY, Wis. – The player the Green Bay Packers might have missed most this season darted in and out of the locker room Monday as his teammates packed up their belongings.
Receiver Jordy Nelson figures to be back in the fall after missing the 2015 season because of a right knee injury.
After a 6-0 start, the Packers limped through the final 10 games of the regular season with a 4-6 record. The offense struggled for long stretches, and Green Bay's four-year reign atop the NFC North was ended by the Vikings.
Still, by the end of this season, the injury-riddled Packers (11-7) had forged a grind-it-out mentality that relied just as much on defense as on quarterback Aaron Rodgers' right arm.
"The goal is not always to come out here and score 100 points every game and a million yards," receiver James Jones said Monday. "The only goal is to win the game. And we did that pretty often this year. Came up short."
The 26-20 loss in overtime Saturday night at Arizona in the NFC divisional playoffs left Green Bay stunned after having stormed back with Rodgers' two long completions to backup Jeff Janis to tie the score at the end of regulation.
Janis finished with seven catches for 145 yards and two scores, including the 41-yard touchdown on a desperation pass from Rodgers.
Then the defense gave up two big plays to Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald, including the 5-yard TD off a shovel pass that gave Arizona the victory and ended Green Bay's season.
Up to that point, coordinator Dom Capers' defense held the high-scoring Cardinals to 20 points, 10 below their season average.
Tackle B.J. Raji said he thought the team had a "great nucleus in place," which includes an effective line; a young but promising secondary; and Clay Matthews back to lead the linebacker corps.
Other key takeaways from the 2015 season and things to watch in the offseason for the Packers:
Rodgers' targets: By the second quarter of the Cardinals game, the Packers were without their top four projected receivers at the start of training camp because of injuries, with Randall Cobb joining the already sidelined Davante Adams, Ty Montgomery and Nelson.
Jones' veteran presence helped settle the receiving corps after he signed the week of the season opener. But the offense really started having issues after a blowout loss in Denver in Week 8, and defenses started playing more press coverage.
Jones signed a one-year deal, so it's unclear if he will return. Second-year players Jared Abbrederis and Janis had confidence-building outings late in the year.
If Nelson comes back at 100 percent and the raw Janis takes another step forward in his development, the Packers would have two receivers to open up the field.
Where's Clay? Matthews made his first Pro Bowl playing primarily inside linebacker. But his strength remains rushing the passer, and how the Packers view Matthews moving forward might affect what moves they make in the offseason.
"We're obviously a lot better with him playing the outside position," coach Mike McCarthy said.
Pressure on Lacy: Running back Eddie Lacy failed to go over 1,000 yards for the first time in his three-year career, and his struggles played a key part in the offensive problems. In an exit interview, McCarthy said Lacy had a lot of work to do after not having a "good enough" offseason last year.
"I had a chance to talk to Eddie today and that was pretty much the majority of our whole conversation," McCarthy said. "So he has to get it done because he cannot play at the weight that he played at this year."