The Green Bay Packers have been fortunate to have two Hall of Fame quarterbacks play their careers back-to-back with the franchise. Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers have, as of the time of this writing, combined for six MVP Awards, 19 Pro Bowls, seven First Team All-Pro’s, and just three Super Bowl appearances. Unfortunately, the Packers have consistently fallen short in the playoffs with Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers under center. Of course, it is not completely their fault. However, there is no other franchise in the NFL that has had this high level of quarterback play for so long, yet has only two Super Bowls to show for it. With the Aaron Rodgers Era in Green Bay possibly ending, we take a look at 10 of the Packers’ worst playoff losses in the last 30 years.
10. Atlanta Falcons- Wild Card (2002): Lost 27-7 at Lambeau
From 1939-2001, the Green Bay Packers hosted 14 playoff games. They won all 14. There was a time when playing at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, in the elements, meant victory for the Packers. Then came Michael Vick and the Atlanta Falcons in 2002.
The Green Bay Packers finished the 2002 season with a 12-4 record. They hosted the 10-5-1 Falcons at Lambeau Field on Wild Card Weekend. The game, unfortunately, was never close. Michael Vick ran for 64 yards and threw for 117 more (including a touchdown). All game long, the Falcons running attack dashed the Packers defense for large gains all game long.
Brett Favre threw two interceptions and one late touchdown to make the score 24-7 in the third quarter. He also lost a fumble for a grand total of three turnovers on the day. The Falcons added a field goal later in the third to make the score 27-7.
That would be the final score, and the end of the Packers’ decades-long winning streak at home in the playoffs. Now, the mystique is gone. Including that game, the Packers are 7-7 at home in the playoffs. Lambeau Field is no longer the home field advantage that it once was.
9. St. Louis Rams- Divisional Round (2001): Lost 45-17 in St. Louis
Most of the games on this list are results of heartbreaking losses. Many games, such as the Packers’ loss to the Atlanta Falcons in the 2016 NFC Championship Game were over before they began and did not qualify. This particular game, the 2001 Divisional Game against the Packers and St. Louis Rams, however, earns a spot on our list due to truly horrendous quarterback play.
As the scored indicates, this game was nowhere near close. What put it absolutely out of reach was the fact that Brett Favre threw six interceptions, three of which were returned for touchdowns. Ahman Green and Antonio Freeman added to the turnover issue with lost fumbles as well. In all, the Packers turned the ball over eight times.
In short, it was embarrassing. The next season, the Packers would lose in the Wild Card round in the game referenced above. This loss, though, signaled that the beginning of the end had come for Brett Favre. Sure, he led the Packers into the playoffs four more times in his tenure as quarterback. However, it was clear that he no longer had what it took to come through in big games.
8. Arizona Cardinals- Divisional Round (2015): Lost 26-20 in Arizona
One of the most frustrating things that has plagued Aaron Rodgers’ playoff career has been his tendency to play hero ball. This implies that while the Packers could make big plays on the ground or with short passes, Rodgers tends to try to take matters into his own hands and make ill-advised, high-risk throws. Unlike Brett Favre, he does not throw many interceptions. However, it results in many incompletions and short drives.
This was on full display in the 2015 Divisional Round in Arizona. After the Cardinals scored first, the Packers scored 13 unanswered points and took a 13-10 lead into the fourth quarter. Eddie Lacy was averaging over seven yards per carry on the ground, but the throwing attack continued from the Packers. By the end of the game, Rodgers would have completed 24 of 44 passing attempts for just 261 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
It could have been enough to win, which is where the aforementioned heartbreak comes in. Arizona took a late 17-13 lead with just minutes left to play in regulation. They added a field goal at the two-minute warning to take extend the lead to 20-13. With two minutes to go, the Packers were out of timeouts. Rodgers was sacked by Dwight Freeney and backed up deep in their own territory.
Aaron Rodgers, on fourth and twenty, completed a 60-yard Hail Marry pass to Jeff Janis to keep the Packers’ hopes alive. Then, with five seconds on the clock, Rodgers complete another bomb, this one for 41 yards, to Janis for a game-tying touchdown. It had all the feelings of a storybook ending. However, the Cardinals marched right down the field in overtime and won the game 26-20.
7. Arizona Cardinals- Wild Card (2009): Lost 51-45 in Arizona
This particular loss stung because it nearly was one of the greatest comebacks in the history of the NFL playoffs. Obviously, the Packers had the offensive fire power to compete with any team. However, the defense absolutely imploded. What makes this even more disappointing is that just a year later, this same defense was one of the best in the NFL and helped lead the Packers to Super Bowl glory. Clearly, they were playing below their capabilities.
The Green Bay Packers fell behind early and trailed 17-0 by the end of the first quarter. Even after Aaron Rodgers rushed for a one-yard score, the Cardinals offense continued to pile on and scored 10 unanswered points. Early in the third quarter, the Packers trailed 31-10 when the offense started to mount a comeback. A Rodgers to Greg Jennings cut the deficit to 31-17. After getting the ball back, Rodgers connected with Jordy Nelson to make the score 31-24.
After Larry Fitzgerald caught a Kurt Warner touchdown pass to make the score 38-24, Green Bay added 14 unanswered points to tie the score at 38. The two teams traded touchdowns to make the score 45-45 at the end of regulation.
The Packers won the toss and received the kick in overtime. After an incomplete pass and a holding penalty, Green Bay faced second and 20. A 14-yard completion breathed hope into the Packers’ offense, but that hope was quickly taken away. On third and six, Aaron Rodgers was sacked and fumbled the ball. Karlos Dansby of Arizona returned the fumble 17 yards for the final score of the game.
6. San Francisco 49ers- Divisional Round (2021): Lost 13-10 at Lambeau
This year, the 2021 NFL season, was supposed to be the year the Green Bay Packers finally returned to Super Bowl glory. Facing salary cap hell in 2022, the Packers went all in for (possibly) one final shot at the Super Bowl in the Aaron Rodgers Era. Rodgers and Davante Adams hinted that this would be their final season as teammates in twin Instagram posts before the season began.
After cruising to the top seed in the NFC, the Packers earned the Bye Week and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. They hosted the San Francisco 49ers, who were banged up and had already lost to the Packers in Week Three of the regular season. After a promising opening drive the ended in a touchdown, Aaron Rodgers, the offense, and special teams promptly fell apart. The defense, however, was astounding and limited the 49ers to just six points (two field goals).
Special teams, however, failed in just about every facet of the game. They allowed a blocked field goal right before halftime, killing the Packers’ momentum. A blocked punt later in the contest was returned for a touchdown, tying the game at 10. Finally, on the last play of the game, the Packers’ special teams unit trotted out 10 players (they are allowed 11) to defend the 49ers final field goal attempt, which gave them a 13-10 victory on the road in Lambeau.
Aaron Rodgers and the offense could not score after the first drive of the game. Relatively healthy, they had everything going for them. However, they let the opportunity slide right on by.
5. San Francisco 49ers- Wild Card (1998): Lost 30-27 in San Francisco
The Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers have played each other nine times in the history of the NFL playoffs. With their win in the 2021 Divisional Round, San Francisco took a 5-4 advantage and are 4-0 against Aaron Rodgers. The Packers’ lone loss in the playoffs during the Brett Favre era occurred in the 1998 Wild Card round.
This particular game was a constant back-and-forth in scoring. Neither team pulled away to big leads. At the end of the first quarter, the 49ers led 7-3. The Green Bay Packers took control in the second quarter and led 17-10 at halftime. San Francisco scored 10 points in the third and led 20-17 going into the fourth quarter. After the two teams traded field goals, Brett Favre hit Antonio Freeman in the end zone to take a 27-23 lead with two minutes left in the game.
All the defense had to do was stop the 49ers offense, and the Packers would advance. Unfortunately, Steve Young hooked up with Terrell Owens for a 25-yard touchdown with eight seconds remaining to win the game 30-27. That pass, however, was not what was most heartbreaking.
Right before the game-winning touchdown, Young connected with Jerry Rice. Rice caught the ball before being hit by two Packers’ safeties. The ball came loose, a clear fumble which the Packers recovered. The referees, however, called it an incomplete pass, setting up the Young-Owens touchdown. Had the call been correct, Green Bay would have won the game.
The next season, the NFL installed a replay system that would have allowed for the Packers to challenge the call and have it overturned. However, it was too little too late for the Packers’ playoff run in 1998.
4. Philadelphia Eagles- Divisional Round (2003): Lost 20-17 at Philadelphia
Every Green Bay Packers’ fan knows this game by one phrase: fourth and 26. The Packers once again had a roster completely capable of winning a Super Bowl. However, one awful play by the defense defined an epic collapse in what to be a special run. Of course, the Packers could have won this game many times, and one play is not surely responsible. However, the fact that this play, a long fourth down, was converted is what made this loss all the more heartbreaking.
The Packers jumped out to an early lead. Brett Favre connected with Robert Ferguson twice in the first quarter to give the Packers a 14-0 advantage. However, much like in the San Francisco loss in the 2021 playoffs, the offense completely failed to score after that. Philadelphia scored a touchdown in the second, and the Packers led 14-7 at halftime. After a scoreless third quarter, the Eagles scored another touchdown in the fourth, tying the game at 14. Ryan Longwell connected on a field goal with 10 minutes remaining to give the Packers a 17-14 lead.
The disaster began coming off the two-minute warning. The Eagles had the ball on their own 42 yard line. Following an incomplete pass, Bhawoh Jue sacked Donovan McNabb for a 16 yard loss, bring up third and 26. With one minute, 18 seconds left, McNabb’s next pass was incomplete, bringing up fourth and 26. With one minute and 12 seconds to go in regulation, McNabb connected with Freddie Mitchell for 28 yards and a first down. The Eagles got the ball all the way down to the Packers’ 19-yard line before kicking the game-tying field goal with five seconds left in regulation.
The Eagles won the toss in overtime, but promptly went three-and-out. On the first Packers’ offensive play in overtime, Brett Favre threw an interception that Philadelphia returned 35 yards to great field position. After a few offensive plays, they kicked the game-winning field goal, sending the Packers home 20-17.
Obviously, a lot went wrong in this game and the loss does not fall fully on the defense. However, that fourth and 26 play will forever be remembered in Green Bay for all the wrong reasons.
3. New York Giants- NFC Championship Game (2007): Lost 23-20 at Lambeau Field
The Brett Favre Era in Green Bay came to an end in the most disappointing of ways. For years, Favre had teased retirement. Aaron Rodgers had been drafted in 2005 and everyone had a feeling he would take over as the starting quarterback in 2008. The idea of moving on from the legendary quarterback who brought the Lombardi Trophy back home to Green Bay is what made this Packers’ run all the more special, and this loss all the more disappointing.
The Giants scored on a field goal in the first quarter and led 3-0 after one. By halftime, the Packers had taken a 10-6 lead off of a Favre-Donald Driver touchdown and Mason Crosby field goal. In the third quarter, New York scored two touchdowns and the Packers added a field goal, giving the Giants a 20-17 lead heading into the fourth.
Mason Crosby hit the game-tying field goal early in the fourth, and the game remained tied at 20 until the end of regulation. Amazingly, Lawrence Tynes, the Giants’ kicker, missed a chip-in field goal as time expired. It felt as if the Packers were just meant to win the game.
It felt even more so after Green Bay won the coin toss in overtime and received the ball. The euphoria did not last long, though, as Brett Favre threw his last pass as the Packers’ quarterback: an interception that set up the Giants deep in Packers’ territory. After three quick plays, Tynes got his chance to right his wrong, and he did not miss. He kicked a 47-yard field goal and sent New York to the Super Bowl, which they won against the New England Patriots.
2. Seattle Seahawks- NFC Championship Game (2014): Lost 28-22 at Seattle
The Green Bay Packers had one of their best seasons in 2014. They also had one of the best rosters in team history, with Aaron Rodgers as the league MVP. However, the Packers’ offense once again could not muster enough points after starting off hot at the beginning of the game.
The Packers led 13-0 at the end of the first quarter. Early in the second quarter, a Mason Crosby field goal made the score 16-0 in favor of Green Bay. After that, though, all the Packers could muster were two field goals the rest of the way. Aaron Rodgers had one of the worst games of his playoff career, throwing two interceptions and just one touchdown.
The defense, for the most part, did its job. They picked off Russell Wilson four times while sacking him five times. However, with the help of a Brandon Bostik muffed onside kick, Seattle got good enough field position to put up enough points and take the lead. Mason Crosby tied the game at the end of regulation.
After losing the coin toss, though, the Packers’ defense gave up back-to-back 35-yard passes. The second of these would be the game-winning touchdown, and Seattle sent the Packers home 28-22. After being up 16 and having a dominating defense for so much of the game, it was certainly a massive heartbreak.
1. Denver Broncos- Super Bowl (1997: Lost 31-24 in San Diego
As heartbreaking as the previously listed games may be, nothing can be worse than losing the Super Bowl, at least in this writer’s opinion. The Packers were heavily favored going to the game, a game against John Elway who was 0-4 in Super Bowls up to that point. Green Bay was also the defending Super Bowl Champion. It seemed like they would be the perennial powerhouse all Packers’ fans hoped they would be.
Of course, that is not what happened. Aside from the Packers’ first touchdown, Green Bay never led in the game. Hall of Fame running back Terrell Davis proved to be too much for the otherwise dominant Green Bay defense to handle. He dashed the Packers for 157 yards and three touchdowns. Elway, too, kept the Broncos ahead with an unlikely run for a first down late in the game.
The Packers could not answer following the score that made it 31-24. Their hopes of repeating as Super Bowl Champions faded. It took some time, but the Packers were never the same under Brett Favre after that. Mike Holmgren soon left for Seattle and the team all but disbanded. It was truly the worst loss in Packers’ playoff history.
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