The Packers carried a 24-12 lead into the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons only to fall 25-24. These things happen, especially with young teams, and especially when those young teams are missing as many pieces as the Packers were on Sunday.
But people have been quick to point out that the Packers also had a problem closing games in Aaron Rodgers’ first year as starter. That’s broadly true; the Packers did lose 10 games in 2008 went an astounding 1-7 in one-score games that season. But those Packers usually lost pretty convincingly, and in the majority of their losses were actually trailing heading into the final period.
In fact, the Packers only took a lead into the fourth quarter in three of their ten losses and never led by more than six points going into the final frame.
However, even looking at those games, it’s easy to see where the “Packers blew leads in 2008” narrative comes from.
The Packers’ first loss in this category came in Week 10, when the Packers led the Vikings 24-21 going into the fourth quarter. A Mason Crosby field goal with just under six minutes left gave the Packers a 27-21 lead, but the Packers’ surrendered a 69-yard touchdown drive on the Vikings’ next possession. Aaron Rodgers put the Packers in position to win, but Crosby missed a 52-yard field goal as time expired.
Things went from bad to worse from a narrative perspective from that point on. The Packers followed up their loss to the Vikings with a 37-3 beatdown on the Bears, moving them to 5-5 on the season. But the Saints quashed any momentum the Packers may have had the next week, serving the Packers a 51-29 loss. The Packers trailed 45-21 going into the fourth quarter in that one.
In Week 13, the Packers and Panthers were tied at 21 going into the fourth quarter, and although the Packers went up 31-28 with two minutes to go, a big kickoff return and two big plays put the Panthers in front 35-31. Aaron Rodgers threw an interception on the Packers’ next drive and that was that.
In Week 14, the Packers trailed the Texans 13-7 after three quarters but scored twice to tie the game at 21. The Packers actually advanced the ball to the Texans’ 22 with about three minutes to go, but a holding penalty and a sack pushed them out of field goal range. Though a Packers’ punt pinned them deep, the Texans drove from their own three-yard line to the Green Bay 22 in just over a minute to kick the game-winning field goal.
And then the bottom dropped out.
In back-to-back weeks, the Packers did, in fact, lose after leading heading into the final quarter. In Week 15, the Packers were up 13-7 on the Jacksonville Jaguars only to give up touchdown drives off 66 and 80 yards in the final quarter.
Then, against the Chicago Bears, the Packers carried a 14-10 lead into the fourth quarter and went up 17-10 early in the fourth thanks to a Mason Crosby field goal. But despite forcing an interception on the Bears’ next drive, the Packers couldn’t get anything going on their next possession. A Devin Hester punt return gave the Bears good field position, which they turned into seven points — but still left time for the Packers to rally. They nearly did. Aaron Rodgers drove the Packers to the Bears’ 20-yard line, but Mason Crosby’s game-winning field goal attempt was blocked, and the Bears took the first possession in overtime down for a game-winning field goal of their own, completing the comeback.
In summary, it’s not quite true that the Packers blew leads in 2008 the same way they did on Sunday. In fact, in two of the three games where they did surrender a fourth-quarter lead, the Packers were actually in position to win, only to miss game-winning field goals.
Does that actually say anything about the way the Packers lost on Sunday? Not really, no. But in terms of the overarching stories of the 2008 and 2023 Packers, it’s good to keep in mind the different and agonizing ways that teams can lose.