By Simon Evans
SEATTLE (Reuters) - Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was left baffled by his team's fourth quarter collapse as they allowed the Seattle Seahawks to rally for a 28-22 overtime win in Sunday's NFC Championship game.
Rodgers had guided his team to a 19-7 lead which vanished in a remarkable finale to the game.
"It's going to be a missed opportunity that I'm probably going to think about the rest of my career," Rodgers said.
"We were the better team today and we played well enough to win and we can't blame anybody but ourselves," he added.
"This one is going to hurt for a while. Gave it away."
There was little sign of the disaster that was about to unfold given that the Packers had been careful with ball protection and had forced turnovers on defense.
"We were confident we would win the game and we started off and had some good drives, put some things together," Rodgers said as he looked back on a fine showing through the opening three quarters.
"Defense played great, picked them off four times and forced another turnover on special teams.
"But you just can't let them complete a pass for a touchdown on a fake field goal. You can't give up an onside kick and you can't not get any first downs in the fourth quarter and expect to win.
"Putting that all together is how you lose games and opportunity. We were right on the cusp," he added.
Linebacker Clay Matthews struggled to put the defeat into words.
"I don't think you can. You come so far during the season, put in so much hard work. You are that close to getting back to the Super Bowl and you fall short in an overtime thriller.
"It's tough and to come short like that is devastating. It is hard to be optimistic right now. It was a tough loss," the long-haired linebacker lamented.
Head coach Mike McCarthy said he was proud of his team despite the crushing loss.
"I have no regrets. I don't regret anything. Hell, I expected to win the game but that's football. I am proud of the way our team played, the way they prepared and fully expected to win this game.
"And hey, we had our chance."
(Editing by John O'Brien)