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Close Games May Determine Packers’ Season

An outfit called BetLabs published some statistics on the topic of close games in June. It defines a close game as one decided by seven or fewer points.

The top three close game winning records for 2015 were achieved by Ron Rivera (Panthers) at 6-1, Bruce Arians (Cardinals) at 4-1, and Gary Kubiak (Broncos) at 9-3. One might argue from this that winning the close games is a great way to get you deep into the playoffs or even into the Super Bowl.

The coaches with the worst records in close games last year were: Tom Coughlin (Giants) in 29th place at 3-8; Jason Garrett (Cowboys) and Mike Mularkey (Titans) tied for 30th place at 2-6; and Mike Pettine (Browns) in last place at 1-5.

Of this latter group, Coughlin stepped down and Pettine was fired. Mularkey, however, went from interim to permanent coach at Tennessee, and Jason Garrett held onto his job at Dallas despite a 4-12 season record.

In 2015, Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy went 2-3 in close games, ranking 26th. Over his career in Green Bay, I’ve calculated that McCarthy has won 40 and lost 35, a winning ratio of 53 percent. For his NFL career, McCarthy has a winning percentage of just under 66 percent.

The players on the field undoubtedly make a huge difference in whether close games are won or lost, but head coaches also play prominent roles in these outcomes. It’s the head coach who decides which players will be on the field at the critical moments, what plays will be run, and – most importantly – who the go-to players will be in the game’s final moments.

For example, I took issue with the Packers choosing on the most critical play of the Vikings’ loss to isolate Davante Adams against lightning-quick Trae Waynes and to bunch, and ignore, the team’s better receivers on the opposite side of the field. Waynes jumped the route, resulting in a game-deciding interception.

Maybe McCarthy learned from that mistake. In the final minutes against New York, the coach decided to go to the receiver who had been winning his battles with the Giants’ secondary all game long. Randall Cobb came through, twice – preventing the Giants from regaining possession and marching toward a tying or winning score.

Typically, NFL teams average around seven games per year in which the winning team scores no more than seven points more than its opponent. All four Green Bay games to date fit the “close-game” definition. The Packers don’t have the offensive might at the moment to establish (or hold onto) big leads, and yet they are too solid a team to be soundly defeated.

Close game outcomes will probably define the Packers’ 2016 season. The results might also determine McCarthy’s future in Green Bay.

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Rob Born

Smart drafters don’t select the best available players, they fill a team’s positions of greatest need.

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8 Comments

  1. Cyberstag October 14, 2016

    thats just it ! MM doesn’t leatn from mistakes because he wont admit he makes them!

  2. G October 14, 2016

    Still my favorite Fat Face moment of not admitting to mistakes was after the Seattle playoff debacle a couple years ago, when they stole defeat from the jaws of victory, that he “wouldn’t do anything differently” and that he went there “to run the ball.” Classic! hey dipshit, you lost the game!!! And didn’t you go there to win the game?!?! Only a true genius could have those thoughts after such a loss.

  3. Howard October 14, 2016

    I have always said and still say that the majority of NFL games are won in the fourth quarter. The team that wins the fourth quarter usually has a statistical advantage in winning the regular season games. those percentages increase in the playoffs and Super Bowl. Sure there are some games when a team is way ahead in the fourth and plays prevent that allows the other team to score more points in the fourth, however it is clear for anyone who knows the NFL that the majority of NFL games are close going into the fourth quarter.

    I know everyone wants their team to win each week by large margins (me included) so you can sit down, relax, and enjoy a cold beer awaiting victory formation. Reality says that is not the way the NFL is set up. The NFL wants and needs close games to keep fans watching to the end. After all there are advertisement slots to fill. In the NFL teams need to learn to win close games during the regular season. During the playoffs the percentage of close games are proven to increase, so why not be prepared and trained in how to win the fourth quarter, or as I say Finish Strong.

  4. PF4L October 14, 2016

    In 2014…the Packers beat the bears by 21…beat the vikings by 32 a week later…..beat the Panthers by 21 2 weeks later….beat the bears again, by 41 points….beat the eagles a week later by 33.

    In those 5 games, the Packers had a point differential of + 148.

    I’ll take some of what they were dishin out back in 2014.

    1. Howard October 14, 2016

      I agree that it is good, but did all those blow outs and fourth quarter backslapping and ass grabbing fests with all the starters sitting on the bench prepare the team for the NFCC fourth quarter. I think that NFCC game against Seattle showed exactly what the packers had learned during the season. The fourth quarter is a time to celebrate. NOT.

  5. Nic October 14, 2016

    You failed to mention his horrendous time management skills before halftime and at the end of games.

  6. PF4L October 14, 2016

    Close games don’t bode well for this season, especially considering ease of schedule.

  7. ay hombre October 14, 2016

    First comment beat me. Maybe McCarthy will learn? Fuck no man! He doesn’t learn!!