The Green Bay Packers were rudely excused from the 2012-13 NFL playoffs by the San Francisco 49ers Saturday night, falling by the final of 45-31 to a superior football team on both sides of the ball in San Francisco.
Assigning the blame for such a performance is usually a tedious task, but Saturday night's disappointment for the Packers has a few obvious scapegoats.
In the following slides, we'll give a rundown of who is most to blame for the Packers' playoff exit in San Francisco.
The Packers' defensive coordinator came to San Francisco with a game plan that was woefully underprepared to handle a multi-dimensional threat like 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The result was the worst defensive performance in the playoff history of franchise.
Kaepernick, who was making his first career playoff start, combined for over 400 offensive yards while also breaking the playoff record for rushing yards by a quarterback. In all, the 49ers went over the 300-yard mark on the ground.
This kind of defensive breakdown is no stranger in playoff losses for the Packers.
Defenses under Capers have now surrendered 51, 37 and 45 points in the last three playoff defeats, but this most recent failure was the worst of the bunch and could lead to changes in the makeup of the Packers' defensive coaching staff for 2013.
You don't want to place all the blame on Ross, an inexperienced player who was thrown into one of the more difficult situations for a young returner. Randall Cobb, despite battling the flu, likely should have been handling both punts and kicks Saturday night.
However, the muffed punt from Ross in the first quarter turned what should have been a 14-7 game with the Packers taking over into a brand new 14-14 game. He was immediately replaced by Cobb on both returns.
Maybe the Packers still lose without the misfielded punt Saturday night, but there's no doubt that the mistake was a turning point early on.
The Packers offense is not without fault for Saturday's performance.
On the first possession of each half, Green Bay's highly touted offense went three-and-out and was forced to punt.
The first opportunity came with the score tied at seven in the first quarter, while the second came with Green Bay down three points to start the third. Drives producing points in either scenario could have shifted the balance of this game considerably.
Instead, the Packers traded game-changing opportunities for punts, and the 49ers made it hurt down the stretch.
Rodgers' numbers weren't particularly bad, but he wasn't perfect like the defense needed him to be—and a first-half interception was one of the worst decisions of his playoff career.
On 3rd-and-7 from Green Bay's 26-yard line, Rodgers heaved a deep ball down the middle of the field that was easily intercepted by 49ers cornerback Tarell Brown. The ensuing return set up San Francisco in Green Bay territory.
Eight plays later, the 49ers were in the end zone.
Rodgers wasn't a main reason why the Packers lost, but his interception in the first half was a huge mistake. He needed a perfect performance to bail out a historically bad defense.