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Packers' Season Ends; Questions About Aaron Rodgers' Future Begin

Former Cal star unable to move Green Bay after game-opening TD drive in loss to 49ers

Was Green Bay's 13-10 loss to the 49ers in Saturday's divisional playoff game Aaron Rodgers' last game as a member of the Packers?  Was it his last game as a pro football player?

The former Cal star was outstanding in the Packers' first possession of the game resulting in Green Bay's only touchdown, but the rest of his performance was not MVP-worthy amid the cold, snowy conditions at Green Bay's Lambeau Field.

The MVP voting ended a week ago, so Rodgers remains the favorite to win his second straight MVP and fourth overall. But that matters little to Rodger, who was trying to reach the NFC championship game for the fourth straight year.

Instead Rodgers is now 0-4 in postseason games against the 49ers, the team he grew up adoring and the team he wanted to draft him in 2005. 

Rodgers'  run of 16 consecutive postseason games with at least one touchdown pass ended. The last time he failed to throw a scoring pass in a playoff game was 2011, but the Packers went on to win the Super Bowl that year.  Rodgers' bid for a second Super Bowl ring this season ended, and there is no guarantee he will get another chance to do it with the Packers.

He requested a trade from the Packers in the offseason, and his restructured contract signed before the start of this season gives him an out to leave Green Bay for another team after this season.  Rodgers, 38, also did not dismiss the idea that he might retire from football after this season, although that seems like the least likely of his three options:

---Retire

---Leave the Packers for another team

---Stay with the Packers.

Staying with the Packers seems like the most likely outcome, but you can never tell with Rodgers. Whether the sour ending to this season will affect his decision remains to be seen. But if this was Rodgers' last game as a Packer, his final performance will not be remembered fondly by Green Bay fans.

He was not ready to commit to anything after the game when asked about his future:

"I did not think we'd  be talking about this after this game," he said, "but, you know, I'm gonna take some time and have conversations with the folks around here, and then take some time away and make a decision, obviously before free agency or anything kind of gets going on that front. But it's fresh right now, shcoking for sure . . . I haven't really let the moment sink in yet."

Free agency begins March 16, so Rodgers expects to make a decision before then. He said he plans to talk to Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst "in the next week or so and get a little more clarity, and think about my own future and how much longer I want to keep doing this."

That last sentence indicates Rodgers is considering retirement.

Rodgers suggested his decision on whether stay with the Packers may depend of which key Green Bay players are re-signed for next season since so many will be free agents or could be salary-cap victims. If many of them don't come back, Rodgers probably won't either.

"I don't want to be part of a rebuild if I'm going to keep playing," he said, adding later, "I think this thing is definitely going to look different moving forward in Green Bay -- a lot of decisions, a lot of guys with opportunities."

Rodgers did say his relationship with Gutekunst has grown "a lot," which is significant because his differences with Gutekunst were a major reason Rodgers requested a trade in the offseason.

Here is Rodgers' entire post-game press conference:

So the only former Cal player still alive in the postseason is not Rodgers, but 49ers center Alex Mack, who was acquired by San Francisco in the offseason after he was released by the Falcons.

It was the 49ers' special teams that earned them a berth in next Sunday's NFC championship game against either the Buccaneers or Rams, who face each other Sunday.

Three special teams plays doomed Green Bay and Rodgers.  

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1. The 49ers blocked a 39-yard Mason Crosby field-goal attempt on the final play of the first half that kept the Packers' lead at 7-0.

2. A blocked punt that San Francisco's Talanoa Hufanga returned 6 yards for a game-tying touchdown with 4:41 left in the game.

3. Robbie Gould's 45-yard field goal on the final play of the game, which was the only time San Francisco had the lead.

So Rodgers will not get another chance to face off with Tom Brady, who would have to win his game against the Rams to continue his march to an eighth Super Bowl title.

Rodgers' numbers were decent. He was 4-for-5 for 54 yards on the Packers' first drive, a dominating series that resulted in a 7-0 lead. But that was the Packers' only touchdown as Rodgers finished 20-for-29 for 225 yards, no interceptions and no touchdowns and a 91.9 passer rating. His passer rating was much better than Jimmy Garoppolo's 57.1 passer rating for the game, but Garoppolo was the one smiling after the game.

This from Matt Schneidman of The Athletic:

And Stephen A. Smith:

The biggest disappointment is that after that game-opening scoring drive, which looked remarkably easy, Rodgers was able to generate only three more points, letting the 49ers hang around until that blocked punt for a touchdown changed everything.

Rodgers had thrown 20 touchdown passes with no interceptions over his previous seven games this season, but for only the third time this season and just the fourth time over the past two seasons he did not have a touchdown pass on Saturday. He was also sacked five times by the 49ers, the only time this season he's been sacked more than three times in a game. 

He said after the game that he felt that some of his past Packers teams might have needed a break or two to go on and win a Super Bowl.  He was more confident about this season's Packers squad heading into the postseason:

"You just felt like this was a team that could really win it and didn't need a bunch of things to go their way," Rodgers said. "We just needed to make the plays."

But it didn't happen, and Rodgers was part of the reason.

"I definitely take my fair share of the blame for tonight," he said.

Two Rodgers' highlights from Saturday:

A long pass to Aaron Jones late in the second quarter:

Rodgers to Davante Adams in the third quarter

Here is the blocked punt that changed the game with less than five minutes left:

Cover photo of Aaron Rodgers by Jeffrey Becker, USA TODAY Sports

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Follow Jake Curtis of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jakecurtis53

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