All year long, the Green Bay Packers' special teams unit was a glaring weakness.
Their coverage units were a disaster, as they ranked dead last in opponent punt-return average and seventh-to-last in opponent kick-return average. They were one of two teams that allowed a punt return touchdown all season. Their kickoff unit had the league's eighth-lowest touchback rate. They converted field goals at the second-lowest rate in the NFL. The Packers finished the season with the league's worst special teams unit, according to Football Outsiders, where they ranked 32nd in DVOA.
In their NFC divisional round 13-10 loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Saturday night, the Packers' special teams issues reared their ugly head once again.
Green Bay had a chance to extend its lead at the tail end of the first half, only to see Mason Crosby's 39-yard field goal get blocked by Jimmie Ward. And somehow, that was was just the start of things.
The 49ers put Deebo Samuel back deep to return the opening kickoff of the second half. The Packers promptly yielded a 45-yard return, which set up San Francisco's first scoring drive of the game. (They had already yielded a 32-yard kick return to JaMycal Hasty earlier in the game.)
Nursing a 10-3 lead late in the fourth quarter, the Packers lined up to punt after going three-and-out. Issue was, nobody blocked 49ers defensive lineman Jordan Willis, who broke through the line and blocked the kick. Talanoa Hufanga scooped up the ball with nobody near him, and took it into the end zone for a game-tying touchdown.
And finally, after the Packers were once again forced to punt on their final possession and the defense let the Niners march down the field for an attempt at a game-winning kick, the Packers had only 10 men on the field for that play. Gould made the kick with relative ease.
"That can't happen," Packers coach Matt LaFleur said after the game. "It's unacceptable. Again, that's on me."
Making even one of these mistakes can cost you a playoff game. Making all four of them is practically unimaginable. But the Packers did it, and because they did, they're going home early once again.