GREEN BAY—Randall Cobb had one tackle to break, and he definitely felt he should have broken it.
With just under seven minutes left in Sunday’s NFC wild-card playoff game and the Packers trailing by three points, Cobb snagged a 25-yard pass from quarterback Aaron Rodgers but was tripped up at the 9-yard line by 49ers rookie safety Eric Reid.
The big play made it first-and-goal, but when the Packers couldn’t punch it in and had to settle for a game-tying field goal, all Cobb was thinking about as he watched the 49ers drive the other way for a walk-off field goal was that tackle at the 9.
“If I score on that last drive, that forces them to have to go down and score and puts our defense in a better position,” Cobb said after the heartbreaking and season-ending 23-20 loss. “I take blame for putting my defense in that position.”
Cobb had just two catches in the game, but both were big, gaining 51 yards The other was earlier, a 26-yarder on fourth-and-2 to keep a go-ahead TD drive alive. He wasn’t just being the good teammate with those words about his second catch, however.
“I’ve got to get better at breaking tackles,” he continued. “If I want to be a great player, not just a good player, I have to do more, I have to be more. I’m going to let this pain I feel right now fuel me to come back stronger and better next season.”
Cobb’s not the only Packers offensive player with a regret or two. Fellow receiver James Jones had two chances for difficult catches on deep balls in the second half but couldn’t quite corral them.
The first one came on third-and-8 from the Green Bay 46 early in the third quarter. Rodgers scrambled and then fired long down the middle to Jones, who went up between two defenders and was the first to touch the ball, but it caromed away and the Packers had to punt.
Then in the fourth quarter, Jones was one-on-one with cornerback Tramaine Brock on a back-shoulder throw deep down the sideline but came up empty again, though the Packers still eventually scored a TD on that drive.
“We just didn’t make enough plays, myself included,” Jones said. “I left plays out there, plays that I normally make. You’ve got to make those plays. I didn’t make them for my team. When you get in the playoffs, every play counts.”
Slow start: The Packers offense went three-and-out on its first three drives but might have gotten going sooner had the defense been able to come up with an early turnover it almost had.
On San Francisco’s opening offensive possession, which ultimately ended with a field goal, rookie cornerback Micah Hyde stripped receiver Michael Crabtree after a 12-yard reception right along the Packers sideline. Safety M.D. Jennings had a chance to recover it, but the ball bounced off his hands and went out of bounds at the Green Bay 39-yard line.
“That’s kind of the game, especially in playoff football – it’s a game of inches,” linebacker A.J. Hawk said.
It did take a turnover for the offense to finally seize some momentum. With the 49ers looking to build on an early 6-0 lead in the second quarter, cornerback Tramon Williams intercepted a deep ball intended for tight end Vernon Davis. On the return, Williams saw himself one-on-one with 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick and dropped his pads to lay a hit on Kaepernick as he made the tackle.
“You don’t get a chance to hit quarterbacks too often, so I saw a perfect opportunity in front of me,” Williams said. “Kaepernick, he’s a tough competitor. We did need a spark at that point.”
The offense converted that turnover into a 70-yard TD drive and then added a field goal before halftime as well.
Full support: Asked whether they thought Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers should remain in charge of the Packers defense after a steady fall in the league rankings the second half of the regular season, multiple Packers defenders stood behind their veteran coach.
“Of course, 100 percent,” Hawk said.
The 49ers finished Sunday’s game with 381 yards of total offense, a far cry from the last two defeats to San Francisco (579 in last year’s playoffs, 494 in Week 1 this season).
“Absolutely, I think Dom did a great job,” veteran defensive lineman Ryan Pickett said. “We had good calls. Their guy (Kaepernick) broke tackles. We had too many missed tackles if you ask me. That was our problem on defense.”
Uncertain futures: Among several players eligible for free agency, the Packers have three mainstays on defense they will be making contract decisions on in the next few months.
Cornerback Sam Shields’ situation could be complicated if the knee injury that knocked him out of Sunday’s game turns out to be serious. There was no update on Shields after the game, and he wasn’t available to reporters in the locker room.
Defensive linemen B.J. Raji and Pickett have also finished the final year of their current contracts, but neither was interested in talking about his future after the game. Raji declined to comment multiple times, and Pickett didn’t get into it either.
“I’m not thinking about my future now,” Pickett said. “I’ll do that next week. It just hurts losing to the San Francisco 49ers.”
More hype than bite: For all the hype about the Arctic cold coming to Green Bay on Sunday, the game was played in warmer temperatures than anticipated.
Kickoff temperature was 5 degrees with a wind chill of minus 10, and it was still above zero in the second half, when earlier forecasts predicted a plunge below zero and dangerous wind chills coming.
Those were still expected late Sunday night, but players said afterward the cold didn’t have the impact on the game many thought it would.
“I don’t think much at all,” said receiver Jordy Nelson, who decided not to wear sleeves when it didn’t feel as bad out as he thought it might. “We’ve played in cold games the last couple weeks, and I didn’t think it was as cold out there as everyone was predicting. I think it was just another December-January game in Green Bay that we deal with every year.”
The kickoff temp of 5 made this the ninth-coldest game in Packers history. Complete game coverage