SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Aaron Rodgers never had a chance.
The 36-year-old star quarterback and the Packers were ambushed 37-20 by a superior 49ers team in Sunday’s NFC Championship game at Levi’s Stadium.
Rodgers’ attempt to advance to the second Super Bowl of his career — his first since the 2010 season, when the Packers beat the Steelers 31-25 — was dashed almost before it began, with Green Bay falling behind the 49ers 27-0 by halftime.
Sunday marked Rodgers’ third NFC Championship game appearance since that Super Bowl victory in 2011, and it was his third consecutive loss, adding to the losses in Seattle and Atlanta.
Rodgers was seeking a second Super Bowl ring, which would have tied him with Bart Starr and given him one more than Brett Favre in the lore of Green Bay’s greatest quarterbacks.
He, too, was seeking to join elite company as one of six quarterbacks to win multiple MVP awards and go to multiple Super Bowls. Joe Montana, his boyhood idol, Favre, whom he succeeded in Green Bay, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Kurt Warner are on that celebrated list.
There was hope for Rodgers and the Packers entering Sunday’s game despite the fact that they’d lost 37-8 to the 49ers on Nov. 24. Since that loss, the Packers had won six in a row, their final five regular-season games and last week’s playoff win over Seattle.
But this game went very much the same way that Nov. 24 meeting went. On that day, Rodgers, who threw 26 TDs to only four INTs this season, was held to only 104 passing yards and a personal-low 3.2 yards per pass attempt and 2.8 yards per play overall.
Still, though, the 49ers were expecting the Rodgers who’s been great and clutch for most of his career when he returned to Levi’s on Sunday.
“He can make a throw in any situation,’’ 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said before the game. “He’s never out of the game.’’
Rodgers, who finished 30 of 36 for 310 yards with two TDs and one INT, did rally the Packers from the 27-0 halftime deficit to within 34-20 with 8:13 remaining in the game on scoring passes to running back Aaron Jones (who also scored on a run) and tight end Jace Sternberger.
But it would be too little too late for the Packers star, who’s now 4-6 against his former favorite team, but more importantly, 0-3 in the playoffs.
Rodgers now is 10-8 in the playoffs and still stuck on one Super Bowl appearance and victory. He’ll be 37 next season with the window slowly closing.