Anders Carlson desperately wanted another shot, but a Jordan Love interception on the final drive of Saturday night’s loss to thehost San Francisco 49ers in the NFC divisional round meant the Green Bay Packers kicker would have a 41-yard missed field goal in the fourth quarter to think about as he enters the offseason.
Had it gone through the uprights, the kick would have given the Packers a seven-point lead with 6:18 left — and Christian McCaffrey’s subsequent touchdown for San Francisco with 1:07 to play would have only tied the score at 24.
Instead, it was enough for the 49ers to pull out a 24-21 victory at a rain-soaked Levi’s Stadium that ended the Packers’ season in Santa Clara, California.
«I felt like we had plenty of opportunities to kind of put the game out of reach and unfortunately just didn’t do enough,» Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. «And it’s never one play, ‘cause I’m sure a lot of it’s going to come down to the missed field goal, but there were plenty of opportunities. You can go back in the first half and have three red zone opportunities and have six points. There’s a lot of plays out there that it just, if one plays goes different, then probably have a different result right now.»
The results for Carlson, a rookie out of Auburn, often had been the same. It was his 13th missed kick (field goal or extra point) this campaign, including the playoffs. That was the most in the NFL and three more misses than any other kicker this season.
For a moment, it looked like Carlson might get a shot to tie the score late. The Packers picked up one first down and needed about 20 to 25 more yards to get into range for Carlson when Love threw his second interception of the game on a deep throw across the field that linebacker Dre Greenlaw picked off.
Love, who had thrown only one interception in his previous nine games to go along with 21 touchdowns, said he probably could have lived to fight another play rather than throwing deep for Christian Watson on that final pass.
«Looking back on it, yeah, throw it away,» said Love, who finished 21 of 34 for 194 yards and two touchdowns with the pair of picks. «I don’t know if I had an opportunity to be able to run, maybe get out of bounds. But force it across the middle late, which is a mortal sin, and it cost us. So, it’s something I’ll look at, but that’s an area right there where I’ll be able to look at, grow from and get better in the future.»
Carlson said he was hoping to have another kick.
«Obviously, didn’t pan out the way we wanted it to,» he said. «After each kick, just staying ready for the next one, and there wasn’t another one.»
All season, the Packers insisted they would stick with Carlson amid his struggles because of the talent that led general manager Brian Gutekunst to use a sixth-round pick on him. Carlson missed kicks in 10 of the Packers’ final 12 games, including the postseason.
When asked what happened to Carlson, LaFleur said: «I don’t know. I think if we had the answer, we would have fixed it, right? So, certainly just got to work on the consistency. We’ve seen him do it. We know what he’s capable [of], but you’ve got to be consistent in order to last in this league.»
Carlson, the younger brother of Las Vegas Raiders kicker Daniel Carlson, said wind wasn’t a factor on his final kick that missed wide left.
«No, I mean, the flag showed right to left, and I played it right to left,» Carlson said. «I just need to have a better hit next time.»
The Packers drafted Carlson to replace franchise scoring leader Mason Crosby. They opted not to re-sign Crosby for what would have been his 17th season in Green Bay. Crosby was out of the league for most of the season until the New York Giants signed him late.
Gutekunst will have to decide whether to bring in competition for Carlson this offseason.
Carlson said there wasn’t a common denominator in his misses this season but admitted he has been «inconsistent.» Including the playoffs, Carlson was 29-of-36 on field goals and 41-of-47 on extra points.
«I think there’s a lot to learn,» Carlson said. «For me, it’s tough to see these guys because I know how much they put in. I just want to put them in the best position as possible. Just thinking about them and working for them.»