By Doug Russell Special to Published Jan 16, 2012 at 11:00 AM

GREEN BAY – The Packers coronation as the first back-to-back champions since the 2003-04 New England Patriots came to a screeching thud Sunday evening at Lambeau Field, with the New York Giants dominating nearly every phase of their NFC Divisional game, 37-20.

"We just turned the ball over too many times to win," Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers explained afterward. "You've got to give them credit, they played well on defense. We had a lot of chances to execute and we didn't do it. We put our defense in a tough spot and that's why our season is over."

Rodgers was not his characteristically sharp self on the field, completing 26 of 46 passes for just 264 yards, but was also severely hurt by several dropped balls. Rodgers only threw one interception on his final pass of the season, a desperation heave on third-and-16 that was picked off by New York's Deon Grant.

Couple that with three lost fumbles (there should have been a fourth if not for a terrible mistake by referee Bill Leavy in the first quarter) and it was a long, frustrating day for the defending Super Bowl champions.

So, for the final time during the 2011 NFL season, I present to you my weekly look at the Green Bay Packers: The good, the bad and the ugly.

The Good

Not much to choose from here. The post-game pizza in the press box was a delightful treat. One of those baked-to-perfection, just crisp enough, just doughy enough to hit the spot kind of pie. It was a nice touch.

Oh, and I suppose the blocked field goal than Brad Jones had in the second quarter. That was good.

The Packers won't lose in the Super Bowl. I mean, getting there and losing just leaves everyone dejected and flat, right? No worry of that happening now.

Oh, and the New York Giants. They were good. Very, very good. The Packers certainly helped the Giants along in their quest to advance to the NFC Championship Game, but the Giants came out with a plan of attack and they executed.

The Bad

Oh, goodness, where do we begin here?

So many things went so disastrously wrong for the Packers on Sunday it is hard to pinpoint exactly where this game was lost.

For starters, the case of the dropsies began on a play that was actually reversed in favor of Green Bay. When Randall Cobb put the ball on the ground just 6:27 into the game, you got your first inkling that this might not be a very fired up Green Bay Packers team. But, the call did get reversed on a Mike McCarthy challenge. Eventually the Packers would get a field goal out of that possession.

From there, it was just a thorough domination by a better team on this particular Sunday. The Giants said they wanted a rematch; they took advantage of that opportunity.

"We did not play very well today," McCarthy admitted after the game. "I think that is stating the obvious."

The Packers were soundly dominated in every phase of the game, yet still only trailed by three points until the final play of the first half. In a play that gave Wisconsin Badgers fans flashback nightmares, Eli Manning's "Hail Mary" pass landed in the hands of Hakeem Nicks 37 yards away.

"It's obviously a play you practice on both sides of the ball," McCarthy said afterward. "The defensive call was the right call. It's about making plays. It's about big play opportunities in big games. It was a big play for the Giants."

The Nicks catch is what will make the highlight reel, but it was only made possible by shoddy tackling on Ahmad Bradshaw's 23-yard run into Packers territory to give Manning a much closer shot at it.

Speaking of shoddy tackling, Charlie Peprah's attempted tackle on Nicks on New York's first touchdown was a sorry excuse for a NFL play. Peprah thought he could just hit the 6-1 208-pound Nicks and he would crumple to the turf. Instead, Nicks simply bounced outside and scampered down the field for an easy six points.

Offensively, the Packers did little right on Sunday. Ball security was the chief culprit. "We hurt ourselves – turnovers, drops, everyone knows what happened," according to wide receiver Jordy Nelson. "Give New York credit for making those plays, but it wasn't up to our standards."

The Giants certainly did take advantage of the many Green Bay mistakes, most notably the three lost fumbles and numerous dropped passes. "They (weren't) on their game but that's not my fault," according to New York defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. "We knew what we had to do and we came in and played some great football."

To be sure, there will be much discussed and dissected over the next couple of weeks as to what went wrong Sunday. Did the Packers come in overconfident? Was Rodgers just rusty from having not played in three weeks?

Did Green Bay simply lack the hunger that was so prevalent one year ago when they had to win both of their final two games just to squeak in to the playoffs as the No. 6 seed? Were they missing the calming influence of offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, who was away from the team this week (but returned in time for the game) dealing with his family's tragedy?

It is possible all of these things had something to do with a performance that left everyone with a bad taste in their mouth, as well as the reality of an entire off-season of "what could have been's?"

"It's not a matter of potential – it's the body of work," running back Ryan Grant said. "We had a lot of expectations, I'd definitely say. We expect to go out there and play at a high level. It's true confidence. It's what we put out and how we work. We just didn't get it done. I didn't get it done."

The Ugly

The thud that ended such a promising Packers season certainly qualifies as ugly. With expectations so high, Green Bay extended a dubious streak that they ironically started back fourteen years ago. Since their playoff win in the NFC Championship Game at San Francisco on Jan. 11, 1998, no NFC team has won a single playoff game the season after winning the Super Bowl.

"You win a championship, have kind of the top of the mountain and you forget how bad this feeling is," Rodgers told reporters after the game. "After the 2009 season when we lost to Arizona, it sucks. This team, this organization, this fan base, expects championships. We had a championship-caliber regular season and didn't play well tonight."

In a twist of irony, the NFC Championship Game will return to Candlestick Park next week for the first time since Green Bay's 23-10 victory that early 1998 day. In addition, the 49ers can become the 11th different franchise in 11 straight years to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl with a win over New York. The only teams other than San Francisco to not advance to the Super Bowl during that time are the Cowboys, Redskins, Lions and Vikings.

Also ugly: The blown non-fumble call on Greg Jennings late in the first quarter. It is one thing to miss a call on first look. That is a mistake but certainly a forgivable one.

What is inexcusable is taking a second (and third, and fourth and fifth) look at it on replay and still getting it wrong. It was just an awful, terrible, mind-numbing decision that left everyone in the country stunned as to what referee Bill Leavy was watching. He will certainly be hearing from his bosses in New York about this one tomorrow.

So, thus ends the 2011 football season in Green Bay. To be sure, there will be some changes made during the off-season, notably on the defensive side of the ball. To have been playing with fire all year long and to get away with it because of the rocket right arm of the likely NFL MVP only emphasizes that you cannot rely on one player to win a Super Bowl. The deficiencies on defense that have been pointed out by some and pooh-poohed by others were glaring for all the world to see on Sunday.

Defenses may or may not win championships anymore in today's NFL. But you simply cannot enter a game – any game – with statistically the worst defense in football and expect to win. Because human beings are just that, human, if someone has an off-day, there is no safety net to aid in a bail out. For as great as Aaron Rodgers is, and for as great of a regular season he had, Sunday he simply was not good enough to overcome everyone else's mistakes.

"Oh, it's real," Rodgers concluded. "We got beat by a better team tonight. That's the reality of this league ... You just know that it's going to be a new team next year, so that's probably the most disappointing thing, to stand in there knowing that it's probably your last time together with these guys."

Doug Russell Special to

Doug Russell has been covering Milwaukee and Wisconsin sports for over 20 years on radio, television, magazines, and now at

Over the course of his career, the Edward R. Murrow Award winner and Emmy nominee has covered the Packers in Super Bowls XXXI, XXXII and XLV, traveled to Pasadena with the Badgers for Rose Bowls, been to the Final Four with Marquette, and saw first-hand the entire Brewers playoff runs in 2008 and 2011. Doug has also covered The Masters, several PGA Championships, MLB All-Star Games, and Kentucky Derbys; the Davis Cup, the U.S. Open, and the Sugar Bowl, along with NCAA football and basketball conference championships, and for that matter just about anything else that involves a field (or court, or rink) of play.

Doug was a sports reporter and host at WTMJ-AM radio from 1996-2000, before taking his radio skills to national syndication at Sporting News Radio from 2000-2007. From 2007-2011, he hosted his own morning radio sports show back here in Milwaukee, before returning to the national scene at Yahoo! Sports Radio last July. Doug's written work has also been featured in The Sporting News, Milwaukee Magazine, Inside Wisconsin Sports, and Brewers GameDay.

Doug and his wife, Erika, split their time between their residences in Pewaukee and Houston, TX.