The Green Bay Packers look like a poorly-coached football team again, but forget about the team-record penalties and the special teams breakdowns for a second.
The Packers may have had a chance to win or tie the Chicago Bears on Monday night if it weren’t for what I would term two terrible coaching decisions by the Packers Mike McCarthy at the end of the game.
The first incident came on James Jones’ fourth-quarter fumble. The ball was clearly knocked out by Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher and recovered in bounds by defensive back Tim Jennings. Inexplicably, McCarthy decided to challenge a clear-cut play that happened right in front of him.
In fact, he didn’t even wait for word from his assistant coaches upstairs before throwing down the challenge flag. After the game, McCarthy had this response.
“I was standing right there and I had a pretty good indication of what happened. I did see the defensive back’s foot swing out of bounds, so I was just hopeful that the officials maybe saw that his foot may have hit. It was 2:18 [left to play], I had two challenges left, and that was obviously a huge play in the game that maybe we could swing our way.”
I’m not exactly sure what McCarthy thought the officials were going to see. If he didn’t see Jennings’ foot hit the ground out of bounds, I’m not sure why he thought the officials would see it on the replay. In addition, it would make sense for McCarthy to wait until he received word from someone upstairs before throwing the challenge flag so impulsively.
When the call was upheld, the Packers lost one of their timeouts. That timeout would prove itself critical after the Bears scored with four seconds left. Had the Packers had the luxury of another timeout inside the two-minute warning, they could have gotten the ball back with around 45 seconds left and had a chance to tie the score on a Mason Crosby field goal.
That brings me to the next situation — the one where the Packers gave the ball back to the Bears with two timeouts and the Bears drove to the Packers’ nine. At the time, the Bears had a 1st and goal with 1:44 on the clock and the Packers had one timeout left.
As you saw, the Packers used their one timeout, let the Bears kick a field goal and received the ensuing kickoff with four seconds on the clock.
The other possibility would have been for the Packers to let the Bears score a touchdown on first down at the nine, keep their remaining timeout, get the ball back and send their offense out with a chance to tie at around 1:30. Of course, the Packers would have had to score a touchdown, but with Aaron Rodgers that isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
In fact, Advanced NFL Stats says that scenario would have given the Packers about a 10 percent chance of winning. Instead, McCarthy chose to hope the Bears would miss a field goal, a scenario that gave the Packers a three percent chance of winning.
“I did not consider letting them score at the end. I felt that if they missed the field goal, we’d win the game. It was talked about, but that was not the decision I went with.”
That’s because you’re brilliant, Mike.
Field goals are successful about 94 percent of the time from the range Chicago ended up kicking from, according to Advanced NFL Stats. Bears kicker Robbie Gould is even better, hitting 39-of-39 between 20 and 29 yards in his career.
So, in the end, McCarthy not only cost the Packers a timeout that could have dramatically altered the game, but also played against the odds coming down the stretch.
And, the Packers got exactly what they deserved because of it — a 20-17 loss.