Stunned Packers head into offseason after collapse; receiver Randall Cobb hopes to return

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GREEN BAY, Wisconsin — Safety Micah Hyde stayed away from watching TV.

Receiver Randall Cobb felt as if he was having nightmares.

Offensive lineman Josh Sitton wished his team hadn't even made the playoffs.

Before the Green Bay Packers can move on to their offseason routines, they must first get over a stunning collapse to the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC title game.

This loss will sting for a while after coming agonizingly close to advancing to the Super Bowl.

"It's going to be tough," Sitton said Monday as players cleared out lockers at Lambeau Field. "And when it's the last one it's very difficult to get over, you feel like it's a waste of seven, eight months.

"What's the point of getting this far?" the Pro Bowl guard added. "I'd have rather not even made the playoffs."

The 2014 season was highlighted by an MVP-caliber year for quarterback Aaron Rodgers and a fourth straight NFC North title. Strong starts on offense led to blowout wins in October and November; tweaks at midseason made the defense stronger against the run.

In the end, the Packers (13-5) just couldn't finish in a 28-22 loss to the Seahawks.

Green Bay led 16-0 at halftime, and 19-7 with 10:53 left in the game. They still led by five with 2:09 left even after quarterback Russell Wilson's 1-yard touchdown run.

An onside kick slipped through the hands of Green Bay's Brandon Bostick and Seattle regained possession.

But there were plenty of other plays that contributed to the meltdown.

The Packers twice had to settle for short field goals after getting stopped in the first quarter near the goal line following Seattle turnovers. Special teams allowed a touchdown pass on a fake field goal in the third quarter.

The offense went three-and-out on two straight drives with less than 7 minutes left in the game.

"Literally one of 10 plays you can pick that if we get it, we win the game," Sitton said. "It's frustrating when you should have won the game and you're the better team and I thought we were the better team all day except for 3 minutes."

Here are some takeaways as the Packers head into the offseason:

COBB: Among potential free agents, Cobb by far had the biggest season. The fourth-year receiver finished with career bests of 91 catches in the regular season for 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns.

The 5-foot-10 Cobb turned into an elusive threat in the red zone and consistently made tough catches over the middle. He finished with 15 receptions for 178 yards and a score in the postseason.

"I didn't really get much sleep last night. It felt like a nightmare whenever I did fall asleep. ... For us to be done with the season," Cobb said Monday before pausing a couple of seconds to collect his thoughts, "it's kind of blindsiding."

Cobb wants to stay. Besides Jordy Nelson, the Packers don't have any other veterans at receiver for Rodgers going into 2015.

CORNERBACK: The secondary could see some changes if the Packers don't re-sign veteran cornerback Tramon Williams. The contracts of Davon House, who played well against taller receivers, and special teams ace Jarrett Bush are also expiring. Sam Shields and Casey Hayward are veteran cornerbacks under contract through next year or beyond.

RODGERS: The quarterback, who turned 31 in December, is in his prime. He has talked often about how legacies are shaped in the postseason.

Slowed by a left calf injury late in the season, Rodgers seems as if he'll go into the offseason as motivated as ever.

"Think about it and stay with it and move on and start getting ready for the offseason program," Rodgers said on Sunday. "This one's going to hurt for a while because of the close proximity of feeling that feeling when the clock hits zero and you're ahead. We gave it away."

OFFENSIVE LINE: The play of the front five was one of the biggest success stories in Green Bay. The group, which included rookie center Corey Linsley, improved as the season went on in spite of lingering injuries to guards Sitton and T.J. Lang.

Linsley and left tackle David Bakhtiari are emerging anchors to go with the veteran guards. Right tackle Bryan Bulaga is due to become a free agent.

LINEBACKER: A move giving Clay Matthews more snaps at inside linebacker at midseason helped improve what had been a league-worst run defense and sparked the unit's second-half resurgence. It is unclear if coach Mike McCarthy views Matthews as a permanent fix at inside linebacker, or if he wants to return the long-haired veteran to his more customary role rushing from the outside.


AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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