Green Bay Packers

Green Bay's Special Teams Wild Ride Was On Full Display In San Francisco

Photo Credit: Mark Hoffman via USA TODAY Sports

Thrillseekers — why spend your money on expensive trips to bungee jump, skydive, slackline, or ride roller coasters when you could just watch the Green Bay Packers’ special teams unit from the comfort of your own home?

Even under Rich Bisaccia, who was meant to fix the group, Green Bay’s third phase is still a wild ride, which continued into the team’s final game of the 2023 season.

With the offense unable to finish in the red zone and the Packers defense being the Packers defense, special teams actually carried the team early on in their Divisional Round matchup. But that performance will be lost thanks to their biggest gaffe of the game — Anders Carlson‘s missed 41-yard field goal attempt that could have let the game go to overtime. Let’s look at the final performance and take an early look at what this group needs to change in 2024.

In a familiar tale for Packers fans, especially in the playoffs: The offense was fantastic, moving the ball between the 20s but needed to settle for field goals in the red zone.

Carlson obviously had a shaky rookie season, as expected, missing at least one kick in nine of his last 11 games. But when the Packers needed points, Carlson showed the moment wasn’t too big for him (at the beginning of the game), making two 29-yard field goal attempts. Even with some truly bad snaps, Carlson showed his resilience and put Green Bay on the board.

And when Jake Moody, the San Francisco 49ers’ rookie kicker, had a chance to put points on the board before the end of the first half, Colby Wooden came up big by blocking the attempt. It was Green Bay’s first postseason blocked field goal since 2015. Nice stuff!

Later, first-team All-Pro Keisean Nixon had a thrilling 73-yard kick return that put the Packers offense in great field position. But on that same run, Nixon fumbled the ball and was saved by special teams ace Eric Wilson, who sped to recover the ball. Disaster averted!

But Packers fans will remember the biggest blunder of the night — a 41-yarder that hooked way left. Success there would have forced the Niners to get a touchdown just to put the game into overtime, and it would have impacted how their offense played on that final drive. Of course, San Francisco got that touchdown (because of course they would). Instead of overtime, the No. 1-seeded 49ers won by four.

Had Carlson made that kick, special teams would have been the hero of the game. Overall, they did much more good than bad against the 49ers. But the group fell short when it truly mattered. A story all too familiar.

Matt LaFleur had a similar opinion, stating in his season-ending media availability, “I thought, for the most part, this past game we did a pretty good job, but there’s one play that will get highlighted. I think the culture in that phase and the mindset is where it needs to be.”

That culture and mindset is what Bisaccia’s leadership has most consistently been praised for. But the results haven’t lived up to the hype.

After improving special teams in his first season with the team, Bisaccia’s group regressed in his second, finishing 29th on Rick Gosselin’s annual rankings. Despite the team’s lone All-Pro being their kick returner, missed kicks, poor coverage, and being the most penalized team (19 penalties for 178 yards) kept the group at the bottom of the league.

If the Packers retain Bisaccia, they need more from his group in 2024.

Carlson’s season is a big part of their rankings and issues. After starting the season hot, Carlson became wildly inconsistent, leading the league in missed extra points and only going 4/9 on field goals in the 40-49 yard range. Carlson clearly has the leg strength to succeed in the NFL, but he needs to work on accuracy. We’ll explore Carlson in greater depth this offseason, but it was always a bad gamble to bet on an inconsistent rookie kicker in the team’s biggest game of the year. The team definitely needs to bring in kicker competition this offseason.

Carlson wasn’t helped by Matt Orzech‘s poor snaps, the lone veteran specialist on the team. Carlson had to deal with some awful snap attempts in Santa Clara, and it wasn’t exactly a new issue. Once again, the Packers must find a better option at long snapper.

The Packers should find a way to re-sign Nixon, who also provides value on defense. Nixon disguised some of the we-fences’ other issues in 2022 and did enough to earn a second All-Pro.

Otherwise, Bisaccia needs to find new dedicated teamers who can live up to his expectations and provide a more disciplined product in 2024. Penalties were a problem all season long, which is inexcusable for the league’s highest-paid defensive coordinator.

All eyes will be on the defense, with Joe Barry’s status still unclear as of this writing. But special teams was just as bad in 2023. The final game against the 49ers should be both the highs and lows of life in the Bisaccia era. It should show the team what is and isn’t working as they build their 2024 team.

Green Bay Packers
The Packers Need to Trade Up To Avoid Missing Out On First-Round Talent
By Garrison Anderson - Apr 18, 2024
Green Bay Packers
Peter Schrager Mocks Intriguing Outlier Amarius Mims To the Packers
By Matt Hendershott - Apr 18, 2024
Green Bay Packers

Pump the Brakes On the Kenny Clark Trade Rumors

Photo Credit: Mark Hoffman via USA TODAY Sports

Brian Gutekunst is no stranger to executing big trades, having completed deals that sent Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams, and Rasul Douglas out of town in the past […]

Continue Reading