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Cheese Curds, 1/21: How far can Packers’ defense take them in 2019?

Aaron Rodgers knows Patrick Mahomes’ pain all too well. Can Mike Pettine help the Packers’ defense avoid a similar fate in the future?

Divisional Round - Green Bay Packers v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

One stop. It felt like that’s all that the Kansas City Chiefs would have needed in the final eight minutes of regulation or overtime in order to get a victory over the New England Patriots and advance to Super Bowl LIII.

Either that or a win of the overtime coin toss.

They didn’t get either one, allowing the Patriots to score touchdowns on each of their final three non-kneel down drives, including the opening series of overtime. That final drive featured three stunning third-and-ten conversions, as Tom Brady picked apart the middle of the field with receivers being open on slants over the middle.

As Patrick Mahomes sat helpless on the bench, it was all too reminiscent of many of the Green Bay Packers’ recent playoff defeats. Aaron Rodgers has been in that position before, from the 2015 Divisional Playoffs in Arizona to the 2014 NFC Championship in Seattle. In both of those games, the Packers took it to overtime thanks to stunning late-game drives that Rodgers engineered. In both contests, the other team won the coin toss and scored a touchdown on the opening possession of extra time.

It has become a nauseating refrain for fans of the Packers that they need a defense to help complement Aaron Rodgers, but in a way, seeing another team go through a similar painful struggle to Green Bay’s makes it more acute. All the Packers needed in those games was one stop and a chance to put the ball in their all-world quarterbacks hands. The Chiefs needed the same thing. And now it falls to Mike Pettine for another year to find a way to devise the big stops in the regular season to help get the Packers back to the playoffs, and to do it in the postseason as well.

‘Sky’s the limit’ for Packers’ young defensive nucleus |
The Packers' 2016 draft class is looking like a pretty darn good one. Kenny Clark is absolutely worthy of a first-round pick, and will get his fifth-year contract option. Kyler Fackrell had double-digit sacks, Blake Martinez was a top NFL tackler again, and Dean Lowry was a solid starting lineman by the end of the year. That's a group to build around, and when you add a budding star like Jaire Alexander into the mix, it's a pretty good-looking core.

Former Packers S Morgan Burnett requests release from Steelers | Packers Wire
Burnett reportedly was not happy about being "out of position" as a dime linebacker in 2018. The Packers could theoretically have some interest in bringing him back, but he would probably want assurances that he would be playing safety. Still, Pettine could use Josh Jones in the linebacker role and keep Burnett at strong safety.

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Although the frustrations with Mark Murphy leading the coaching search remain, at least one thing is clear: Gutekunst was 100% on the LaFleur hire, a good sign for the two young men’s ability to work together moving forward.

Mike Shanahan knew he had something special in his young assistants - ESPN
Three of Shanahan's assistant coaches in Washington are head coaches now, and one of them (Sean McVay) is going to the Super Bowl. Shanahan spoke glowingly about all of them over the weekend, and is clearly happy for their success.

Patrick Mahomes watches OT from sideline in loss -
Here's a look at the end of the AFC Championship, including a quote from the presumptive league MVP.

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The Rams opened up as one-point favorites, but early betting swung towards New England, who are now favored by two- to two-and-a-half points.

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Deer hunters in Wisconsin should have some appreciation for what this elderly lady was able to pull off over the weekend.