Time will afford the opportunity to understand how Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers offense managed to score just 10 points in a do-or-die playoff game at Lambeau Field, but no time is needed to understand how four massive special teams mistakes helped play a pivotal role in ending the 2021 season for the Packers on Saturday night against the San Francisco 49ers.
Three plays created a 13-point swing in favor of the 49ers, who won the game 13-10. And the fourth was just icing on the cake.
The first: Mason Crosby’s 39-yard field goal is blocked with no time remaining in the first half.
Tyler Lancaster, the blocker on the left side of the field goal protection unit, failed to block anyone, and Jimmie Ward burst through an opening and blocked the kick, costing the Packers three points after a 75-yard catch-and-run from Aaron Jones set up the opportunity. The Packers, up 7-0, missed out on the chance to go into halftime up 10-0.
The second: Deebo Samuel returns the opening kickoff of the second half 45 yards to midfield.
The 49ers then drove 39 yards in 10 plays to set up their first points, a Robbie Gould field goal. Without the long return, a 39-yard drive would not have netted points.
The third: Corey Bojorquez’s punt is blocked and returned for a touchdown.
The block and score came with just under five minutes to go and the Packers holding onto a 10-3 lead. Just like that, the game was tied and the 49ers took control. On the block, long snapper Steve Wirtell missed his assignment and created the opening. The blocked punt hung in the air for several seconds, but once it fell to the ground, the 49ers found it and returned it for the game-tying and game-shifting touchdown.
The fourth: The Packers had 10 players on the field for Gould’s game-winner.
It’s tough to block a field goal with only 10 players. Would the 11th player have made a difference? Probably not. But the Packers did block a field goal earlier in the season. This all came after a timeout. How…