Another playoff game that comes down to the final possession. Another defeat for the team with the more colorful helmet. Those two things (well more the helmet thing since Cincy couldn’t stay in it until the end) are the recurring themes of the weekend. The San Francisco 49ers silenced the crowd at Lambeau Field with a last second field goal, and ended the Green Bay Packers’ season for the second straight year. The Packers were banged up, and barely made the playoffs, but looked poised for a run after getting Aaron Rodgers back at the end of the season. The 49ers, who came close to winning the Super Bowl against the Baltimore Ravens last year, will move on to play the Carolina Panthers in Carolina next week. This is quickly becoming one of the best rivalries in the NFC, and brings me back to my earliest years as a football fan when the Niners and Packers, then led by Steve Young and Brett Favre, were perennial powerhouses in the league.
It didn’t get quite as cold as the Ice Bowl tonight, but when you’re dealing with subzero windchill factors, cold is cold enough. It took Green Bay until the 2nd quarter to get anything going on offense, but their patchwork defense that was without the injured Clay Matthews was able to hold the 49ers’ offense to a pair of field goals. The running game was important for both teams to maintain rhythm and to keep things moving forward. San Francisco’s veteran ball carrier Frank Gore and Green Bay’s rookie runner Eddie Lacy both shouldered heavy loads in this game. Every yard was important in this game, and none of them came easily.
The game featured two excellent quarterbacks who have both started Super Bowls. Colin Kaepernick was born in Wisconsin and went to high school in California. His childhood dream was to be a QB for either the Packers or 49ers. Aaron Rodgers is a California native and a University of California alumnus who grew up rooting for the 49ers. Rodgers could have been drafted by his hometown Niners, but they selected Alex Smith instead. Rodgers sat on the bench for three seasons backing up Brett Favre before finally getting his chance in 2008. Kaepernick go his chance in the middle of the 2012 season when Alex Smith got hurt, and played well enough to start in the playoffs and Super Bowl, allowing the 49ers to trade Smith to Kansas City.
One thing I really liked about this game was that the officials weren’t calling pass interference on every incident of contact. This is football. Football is supposed to be a physical game played in the elements, and that’s exactly what we got. The thermometer is hovering right around zero, and there are guys with short sleeves going out there and hitting each other. That is the best of what football has to offer.
The game could have gone either way. One turnover one way or another, or the Packers put something together in the 1st quarter, and we might have a different outcome. That’s why they play the game, and that’s why you can’t script it. Three of the four games this weekend came down to the final minute. Next week, we get four more games, all outdoors, where we get to go through it again. Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, and Cam Newton are all sitting at home waiting for their postseason to start. Football heats up as soon as the weather cools down, and there’s still a lot more to enjoy.