By Chris Havel
Special to Event USA
Play calling, decision-making, penalties and mistakes fatal in Green Bay’s 27-24 loss to Seahawks
GREEN BAY, Wis. – Ty Montgomery was sent packing for taking the football out of Aaron Rodgers’ hands late in the Packers’ two-point loss to the L.A. Rams earlier this season. Some fans and scribes are now advocating a similar fate for Mike McCarthy.
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The Packers hoped that their tired and depleted defense had a better chance of stopping Seattle’s vaunted running game than their MVP quarterback did of gaining 2 yards on fourth down.
That did not work out for two reasons:
** No. 1 – The defense was gassed and playing without Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark.
** No. 2 – The team arguably broke the green-and-gold rule: If you go down, make sure you go down swinging with Rodgers on the field.
Instead, they elected to punt with 4:11 to play, Rodgers never saw the field again and the Packers lost, 27-24, Thursday night at Seattle’s CenturyLink Field.
The Packers had the football at their own 33-yard line when they elected to punt. While it’s true a failed fourth-down attempt likely would’ve led to a Seattle field goal, I say so what?
The Seahawks didn’t need a touchdown to beat Green Bay. They merely need to gain two first downs. Field position was a moot point. The Packers should’ve gone for it on fourth down.
In fact, they should’ve anticipated it and tried at least one run before fourth down on the final possession. They were in four down territory at that point.
I’d rather take that shot on 4th and 2 as opposed to seeing Rodgers watch helplessly while the game’s final seconds slipped away. It was an ill-fated decision in a game with many other dubious decisions.
After an impressive first half, the offense slowed to a crawl. The Packers managed just three second-half points in a game they had controlled early on.
Aaron Jones was impactful early, but after a strong first half he was again relegated to “afterthought” status. The Packers had 48 offensive plays. They only rushed the football just 13 times.
That is hardly a balanced attack (only 27% rushing plays) especially in a game where they were ahead most of the time. In contrast, the Seahawks ran 35 times out of 69 plays (51%). The Packers have an excellent running back. His name is Aaron Jones. Why are they rushing on only 27% of their plays?
Memo to the team: The more Jones, the better.
The Packers’ offensive tempo and aggressiveness evaporated after the intermission. The Seahawks’ defense primarily played zone after being roughed up in the first half. With tight end Jimmy Graham out with an injury, Seattle’s focus turned to trying to snuff out Jones. It worked because Seattle’s defense is still pretty good, and because the Packers capitulated and abandoned the running game.
Another brutal error was the decision not to challenge Tyler Lockett’s 34-yard catch with 6:41 to go. Replays showed Lockett had lost control of the ball. The call would’ve been overturned. Instead, Russell Wilson hit Ed Dickson for a 15-yard touchdown to make it 27-24 Seahawks. Possibly the Packers were reluctant to challenge it because, by then, they only had one timeout left and didn’t want to risk losing it if they were wrong. Regrettably, they already wasted two previous time outs that half. That put themselves needlessly in that position.
One of the biggest differences in the game was third down success. The Seahawks had it. The Packers didn’t.
Rodgers was just 2-for-6 with four sacks on third down plays. Wilson was 7-for-10 with two touchdowns and zero sacks.
“It’s been the same stuff: Tonight, terrible on third down,” Rodgers said. “Situationally, we’ve got to score touchdowns in the red zone. We had a chance in the first quarter to go up a couple scores … didn’t. Had a chance in the fourth quarter to go up by eight – didn’t get it done … Situational football.”
Rodgers finished 21 of 30 for 332 yards, two touchdowns and a 128.8 passer rating. Davante Adams had a career night by hauling in 10 passes for 166 yards and a touchdown. Still, it wasn’t enough.
Wilson played well enough to avoid what would’ve been the first three-game losing streak of his career. He completed 21 of 31 passes for 225 yards, two touchdowns and a 110.3 rating. He was sacked three times – all by Kyler Fackrell. But he came through in the clutch enough times to win the game whereas the Packers just couldn’t quite muster that themselves. This seems a very sad refrain.
The Packers (4-5-1) are off for the next 10 days until they play the Vikings at Minnesota. According to ESPN’s FPI rating the Packers’ chances to make the playoffs dropped from 43 percent to 31 percent with the loss. Embodied in that rating must be the conclusion that Green Bay is capable of a strong stretch run that would require winning at least five of six. We all know they’ve done it before but, as Randall Cobb says, this year it “feels different”.
Rodgers was asked if there’s hope. “What am I supposed to say? Of course there’s hope,” he replied. “Of course we believe in each other. It’s going to take one galvanizing moment. Whether that’s a speech or at practice or something happens in the game, something’s got to get this thing going. I thought we had moments tonight where that was the way we were going.”
McCarthy said the Packers’ 4-5-1 record speaks for itself. “It states the obvious,” he said. “We’ve got five losses and we haven’t won on the road yet. We’ve got to finish games better, especially in the fourth quarter, and especially on the road.”
He added that the loss was disappointing. I think every Packers fan in the universe would second that opinion.
Fortunately, McCarthy has a ready solution. “I’ve got to coach better,” he said. “We’ve got to play better.”
With only six games left to play and the margin for error razor thin, they better do those two things very quickly or we will be looking ahead to 2019 rather than enjoying the playoffs. And there are many who are suggesting that in looking ahead to the 2019 season, it may be under a different head coach.