2019 NFC Championship Game - That’s What Cheese Said

This 2019 Packers team was as close-knit as they come, and if you ask the players, the window is still wide open for a run in 2020 and beyond. 

It wasn’t the ending anyone wanted, as Green Bay’s season ended abruptly in Santa Clara with a 37-20 loss to the 49ers. 

It was a tough outing all around, with the Packers down 27 at halftime. Once again, turnovers and a lack of execution told the story early. Mistakes that hadn’t happened all season crept up in the NFC Championship Game, and the team couldn’t find the solution in time to get within two scores of San Francisco. 

“I think we’re really close. I think we’re just a little more consistent performance away from consistently playing with these guys,” Rodgers said post-game. 

Head Coach Matt LaFleur called the 49ers the “gold standard in the NFC” and said they were the better, faster, and more physical team on Sunday. 

“You know how hard it is to get to this point, it’s extremely difficult, and we had a lot of things go our way,” said LaFleur. “We won a lot of tight ball games this year, we stayed really healthy, and, you know, I thought we had a chance to get that done. When we come up short, it’s disappointing.”

California proved to be too much for the Packers this season, with three of the team’s four losses coming in double-digit fashion on the west coast. 

“I’ve said this before. We’ve gotta get one of these at home. It’s a different ball game,” Rodgers said.

What will it take for the Packers to host an NFC Championship Game at Lambeau Field? Well, the team feels they’re close, and Rodgers made sure to give credit to Brian Gutekunst and his staff for going “all-in” this past offseason to build a competitive roster. 

“The one thing that is constant in this game, as you all know, is change, and I know there’ll be some changes this offseason,” Rodgers said of the roster. “But the exciting thing is that I really have a lot of faith and trust in Brian and his staff. And I think Matt deserves a lot of credit for the way we performed week in and week out.”

“I wouldn’t say this was our most talented team, but neither was 2010, we just found a way. And we found a way a lot this year.”

The Packers certainly did find a way, labeled as a team “winning ugly” but still winning all season long, sweeping the NFC North for the first time since 2011, and having the winningest first-year head coach in Packers history. 

“To win 14 games is no small feat,” veteran tight end Marcedes Lewis said, acknowledging that next year the standard will be different now, given LaFleur’s success in year one. 

“I think he did an amazing job of leaning on the veterans, but holding the standard up for the young guys, too,” added Lewis on LaFleur’s first season. “This is one of the closest teams that I’ve been on.”

That sense of closeness was shared by every player in the locker room and was a common theme in each interview after Sunday’s game. Despite the tough loss, this 2019 Packers team always stuck together, and that’s something none of the players took for granted. 

“It was a special, special group. I can say it ten times over, it was probably the greatest group of guys I’ve ever been a part of,” said inside linebacker Blake Martinez who becomes a free agent this offseason. “So it’s definitely tough to say goodbye ‘cause obviously it’s not going to be the same next year. It never is, so yeah, it’s tough.”

“The camaraderie that this team had starting last April, and what we were able to build in such a short period of time with a lot of new pieces will always be special,” kicker Mason Crosby said, another of the team’s free agents. “This locker room, the way guys just played for each other and like I said, came together so quickly. The chemistry that we had, I’ll definitely remember this team forever.”

While it’s hard to look ahead to next season given all of the uncertainty in the locker room entering the offseason, the players remain optimistic that 2019 was no fluke. 

“The window is open for us. That’s the exciting thing. It doesn’t make this feeling any easier, but that is very exciting moving forward,” said Rodgers, acknowledging again that this team doesn’t need a rebuild, just a retooling.

Still, with optimism for the future, a loss in the NFC Championship Game never gets easier, especially with Rodgers pointing out that he has more years behind him now than left in front of him in his career. 

“It definitely hurts, I’d say a little more than early in the career. Just ‘cause you realize just how difficult it is to get to this spot, and with all the changes this offseason and all the installation of a new system, new program, to get to this point, you felt like it was something special because it just didn’t really make sense.

“It just kind of felt like it was meant to be almost,” Rodgers said, pointing out that most people didn’t even have them pegged to win the division, let alone a home playoff game. 

Green Bay’s offseason has now officially begun, and guard Billy Turner offered up some words of encouragement for fans; “Stay with us, man. Next year’s going to be better.” 

If you ask Aaron Rodgers, the window for this team is still wide open, and he thinks the Packers are “going to be on the right side of one of these real soon.”

If nothing else, the quarterback will always remember the 2019 season fondly given the way it made him feel about football. “This one will always be special because it became fun again.”

Packers fans, it’s now time to embrace the offseason, look ahead to free agency and the NFL Draft, and get ready for what the team is confident will be an even better 2020.

 

Maggie Loney is a writer for Cheesehead TV and podcasts for the Pack-A-Day Podcast and Pack's What She Said. Find her on Twitter at @MaggieJLoney.

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Comments (14)

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GBPDAN1's picture

January 21, 2020 at 07:31 pm

After years of drafting D players high in the draft and supplementing the D more than the offense in FA, we still find ourselves needing D players because the yards this D gave up this years is problematic. The NFC championship game exposed this issue immensely.

Getting mauled and run over is devastating. Other teams will now take this approach and keep running at us. We need more D line help, overhaul the ILB position and need some tacklers in the secondary. This is unfortunate because the offense needs attention,too, as in more playmakers at WR and TE.

Giving Graham and Lawry big money was a mistake, but other than that, BG has been doing a pretty good job. 14-4 is a great season, but the goal is a SB with AR. GB needs to keep the ball rolling and fill the voids left on the roster this off season. Go Cheifs in the SB! And, Go Pack always!!!

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CAG123's picture

January 21, 2020 at 03:38 pm

Even with all the doom and gloom and “the sky is falling” mentality some seem to have I’m taking this season for what it is. I counted every win hoping just to get past what they had the year before and the year before that and once they got to 8 I was like “hey we won’t have a losing season”! Everything else was just gravy. Some are trying to make it seem like the Packers slipped and fell into 14 wins but I’ll take everything they did this year over what the Cowboys did with their top rated offense and 8-8 record, The Bucs, or even the Chargers when they went 8-8 with a top 5 def and off those years ago was it pretty? Hell no but it’s better than losing. It’s crazy how some are forgetting the state of this roster JUST last year and Gute is still sifting through the junk and still has holes to fill. Some people want to go cheap on the QB yeah okay but take a look at those SB winners from the past 15 years besides Philly and tell me what you see. If some of you are this bent out of shape over a 14 win season that included a division title I can only imagine the field day y’all would have if this team fell on its ass with a 5-6 win season. There’s some weird people on here.

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GBPDAN1's picture

January 21, 2020 at 09:29 pm

Hi CAG. I hope some of your comments wasn't based on my post (I thought maybe because I'm the only post ahead of you). I like your post and I just wanted to clarify that all I was aiming at is what I feel the team needs to do to take the next step. It most certainly didn't mean that I'm not happy with the progress the team has made. 2019 was a fun ride with a sad ending .

To help fix that sad ending, we can't give up 275 yards rushing in a championship game, or to power run teams in the regular season. This flaw is devastating. I , and I'm sure most, would like to see the Packers win another SB with Rodgers. Rodgers needs a couple of more elite weapons and the run D needs to be fixed. I trust BG.

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CAG123's picture

January 21, 2020 at 10:26 pm

Oh no I was referring to folks that have pretty much hit the panic button.

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BoCallahan's picture

January 21, 2020 at 04:27 pm

I’m looking forward to the draft to see what Gute will do! I enjoy the offseason and all the maneuvering.

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Lare's picture

January 21, 2020 at 06:22 pm

That sense of closeness was shared by every player in the locker room and was a common theme in each interview after Sunday’s game.

“It was a special, special group. I can say it ten times over, it was probably the greatest group of guys I’ve ever been a part of,”

“This is one of the closest teams that I’ve been on.”

“This one will always be special because it became fun again.”

“I’m confident that Gutekunst is going to continue to add to this squad,” Rodgers said at the podium following the Packers’ 37-20 loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. “That part is very exciting. It’s a lot different feel than three years ago.”.
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Not exactly ringing endorsements for McCarthy & Thompson.

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Houndog's picture

January 22, 2020 at 10:00 am

"Not exactly ringing endorsements for McCarthy & Thompson".
You can't really lay too much of this on McCarthy, but here's TT's last six first round picks.
Derek Sherrod
Nick Perry
Datone Jones
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
Damarius Randall
Kenny Clark
Some just couldn't play, some couldn't adjust to new positions, and some had attitude problems. With only Clark remaining that's a hell of a hole for Gutekunst to fill in a short amount of time.
If we're hoping to get AR another ring the time is getting shorter every day, let's hope Gute is on top of it.

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stockholder's picture

January 21, 2020 at 05:19 pm

Ya gotta Love positive remarks. Loving Football again. Winning was No small feat. Common themes of Love for each other. Praise is easy. Looking back is easy. Very Humble! But the reality is the 49ers took it all away. We got Killed, What Honor? There was No Respect. Anybody that is not a packer fan is laughing at us. How Gute responds to "Wasted" is wait and see. My hope is his plan goes all in again.

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Lphill's picture

January 21, 2020 at 05:32 pm

Why did the Packers onside kick so early in the 4 th qtr? Why give them field position when it was a 2 score difference? That was a rookie head coach mistake.

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Doug Niemczynski's picture

January 21, 2020 at 09:01 pm

Panic

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WisconsinStrong's picture

January 21, 2020 at 10:45 pm

Great summary of key takeaways as we transition through our collective heartbreak, Maggie. And, for those who haven't quite figured it out yet, let's be thankful: it wasn't fun just for Aaron again; it was fun for all true fans to see our team come together as they haven't in years and to play their hearts out for one another and for all.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

January 22, 2020 at 01:23 am

This was a nice article. I liked the comments the players made. Makes me even more hopeful for next season.

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edp1959's picture

January 22, 2020 at 06:02 am

Let's see if they are serious and change direction of this ship or keep it on the same path. Offense needs weapons, TE and WR along with OL.

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Philarod's picture

January 22, 2020 at 06:42 am

In retrospect, it would've taken some magic and some luck to have won on Sunday, and it just wasn't there. The Packers figure to be one of 4 or 5 true contenders to win the NFC next year. Most people agree as to where the Packers need to upgrade, and it will be hard to fill all those needs, including: a run-stopper on the DL, at least one LB, possibly a safety, at least one OL, a real TE and a receiver...our receivers and TE are way too slow, and just not good enough. That's a lot to ask for, but Gute has been doing a good job so far, so...

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