It’s hard not to look at Sunday’s loss to the Dallas Cowboys without comparing the play-calling and game-management skills of the two opposing head coaches.
The Cowboys’ opening drive was a demonstration of creative play calling and good game preparation. After a short run play, quarterback Dak Prescott executes a bootleg and play-action pass to Jason Witten, who is six yards from the nearest Packers’ defender. The next three plays were all first downs, two on runs by Ezekiel Elliott. A routine flat pass to Cole Beasley gets an easy 16 yards. A 15-yard Elliott run gets the Cowboys to Green Bay’s 8-yard line. Dallas then surprises the defense with a college-style read option, with Prescott keeping and gaining six yards. From the 2-yard line, the befuddled Packers don’t even realize they have 12 men on the field, so from one yard out, Beasley goes in motion to the left, then back to the right, then back to the left again – the motion leaves Micah Hyde trailing the play badly and it’s another easy and short toss for the touchdown.
Eight plays, four simple passes, four completions to wide-open receivers. This wasn’t due to superior players. It was due to superior play-calling.
It was also clear to most of us at this point, but not to Mike McCarthy, that the Green Bay Packers would not be able to match the Cowboys with a series of field goals.
The Packers fought back with a nine-play drive of their own, getting to a 3rd and 1 just inside the red zone. Green Bay then brought in extra linemen Jason Spriggs and Don Barclay, causing a hopelessly stacked defense. Into this mass of humanity, McCarthy called for a fullback plunge which had no chance of success. What was he thinking?
But there’s more. On 4th down and 1, the Packers were going to go for the first down, then running back Eddie Lacy was seen hobbled and heading to the sideline. Instead of calling a timeout and conjuring a play that might gain the needed yard, McCarthy rushed the kicking team onto the field and took the three points – hurried and gutless acts.
Fast forward past lost fumbles by both teams. The Packers manage another nine-play drive, this time to the Dallas 42. Needing a yard and a half for a first down, McCarthy for a second time displays his lack of confidence in his own players, and again settles for another three points.
It got worse. With one minute left in the half, punter Jacob Schum pins the Cowboys inside their 3-yard line. They run two plays up the middle, showing no signs of trying to add to the score. But wait – McCarthy calls timeouts after each play. So, on a 3rd and 1, the Cowboys come up with another surprise play – an end around by speedster receiver Lucky Whitehead – 26 easy yards. Given Green Bay’s two gift timeouts, the Cowboys now decide they might as well try to score – and two plays later – courtesy of coach McCarthy – they possess a 17-6 lead.
Even with all the terrible play calls, the Packers were still only two scores down in the third quarter and the passing game was picking up. With still around 10 minutes to go in the game, McCarthy then called three meaningless runs for a by-then limping and ineffective Eddie Lacy. We’ve all seen many times when coach McCarthy is in effect playing not to lose. These runs showed us a coach playing not to win.
On Sunday, the performances by Cowboys’ coach Jason Garrett and Packers’ coach Mike McCarthy offered textbook demonstrations of good and bad coaching. They, as much as the players on the field, dictated the outcome of this humiliating home-field loss.
I don’t have a problem with MM taking TOs on ‘Boys 97 yard drive- the fault lies with the defense for giving up multiple big plays. Should have had good field position with a stop then leverage a FG + drive to start second half. Not an MM apologist though; he still needs to be handed a Change of Address card.
You’re right about the D# gave up the points. But as a coach he should have seen that the personal is exhausted. The alarm should go on giving up 5 rushing-yards on first down. It should be even higher when the ‘boys already got the first down on 2nd. MM nonseless burned the TOs.
One last miscue(imo) I’d like to mention was the third FG in Q4. MM let kick a FG from being down 2 scores to… still being down 2 scores. This was an absolutely nonsense-FG.
MM has pulled that same “time out” crap more than once and it almost always costs the Pack. If our offense was moving the ball efficiently, then absolutely use the time outs. Let the clock run and go into halftime down by 4. Nooooo, MM gave the opponent a morale boost – just like the Detroit game.
The offensive play calling results in formations that are too predictable. Our offense has been out of sync for well over a year. What happened to a draw play (and not a quarterback draw) from a spread set? How about a quick slant pass from the inverted wishbone set? I am pretty much a dumbass, but I think I could put together a defensive game plan to stop a MM offense.
On the other side of the ball, we simply have no NFL caliber cornerbacks who are not injured. TT must help MM and sign somebody from a practice squad, any practice squad. Surely there is someone that is serviceable cornerback.
Same thing for the punter. Give Mortell a chance.
Same thing at halfback. WTF – WE HAVE NO HEALTHY HALFBACK ON THE 53 MAN ROSTER!
If guys are hurt, put them on IR. If Sam Shields would have been put on IR right after he got hurt, he would be eligible to return soon. More WTF.
Don’t forget empty backfield on the goal line –> Rodgers fumble.
Right? That was the worst of it in my opinion. The timeout thing isn’t really a mistake. If our defense, and specifically Gunter, didn’t suck so bad it wouldn’t have been a big deal.
McCarthy and db coach vouch for these players, they should thereby be held responsible ?
This had been in the article, then it was reported that Rodgers had audibled on the play, so we pulled that segment so as not to unfairly ding the coach. Maybe more will come out on who screwed up the key play of the game – a first down and one yard to go!
We all have bad days
Packers coaches and players
at a high percentage
at the same time.
could b concentration issues
lack of enjoyment
criticism effecting effort
They just need to be (PLAYING)=normally associated with pleasure and enjoyment
Listen up pack, Have Fun
McCarthy wasted championships and division titles, let him have fun in Pittsburgh ?
This entire article is right on. He was outcoached by a bottom tier NFL coach..the ginger idiot. Ginger used to set the standard for coaching stupidity. It’s an embarrassment. Both McCarthy and Rodgers must have listened to talk radio IN THE PAST when people USED to say McCarthy was one of the best play callers ever and Rodgers is the greatest. Mike needs to dust off some 2010 plays because what they run now EVERYONE knows what is coming. Rodgers needs someone to tell him he sucks over and over and over, tell him he’s gay, tell him he’s nothing and get the chip back on his shoulder to prove he is good. Olivia must suck his dick and tell him he’s great too and now unfortunately he believes it.
The time outs at the end of the half is what winning teams do. Pin a team deep, stop them, call time outs, get the ball back with great field position, and score before the half, field goal or TD. This creates momentum at the end of the half and you get the second half kick off down by 1 or up by 3. The players on the field failed in this instance not MM. MM has things to be criticized for before and during the game. I do not believe the decisions to kick first half field goals in a close game, and the end of the half flop by the D are caused by MM mismanagement.
Would someone please tell us when was the last time that calling time outs on defense after the 2 minute warning before halftime actually led to points (for Green Bay)? I agree that winning teams do that, but I am not so certain that the current Packers can produce the points and therefore the momentum swing.
The theory of the strategy is great, but so is the theory of warp drive.
In the playoff game against Washington seven games ago. Washington was up 11 to 10. Green Bay had the Redskins at there 20 with approx 2:30 till half. Called there last 2 timeouts stopped the redskins, made them punt from deep in there territory and got good field position on a good punt return. Green Bay took the ball in for a TD just seconds before the end of the half. Green Bay went up 17 to 11. Basically game over after that. It is not just theory, it is what winning teams do. Can this current team do it. Not sure but it is sound fundamental football strategy.
With a bad punt you get the ball in fieldgoal range. With a good punt, you just need 20 yds to get in fieldgoal range. I liked the decision to use timeouts there. You can’t call the game expecting your players to shit the bed. That’s no way to play.
My thinking was that the Cowboys clearly had shown big play ability, while the Packers of 2015-16 have not. I was screaming for those timeouts not to be called – we should have felt fortunate to be four points down, and with a chance to regroup at halftime
Rob, I really like your articles. Your articles add a lot to this site. MM has a lot to answer for. One of those in my opinion is not kicking the field goal against the Vikings. One of my problems with the article is if it shows little confidence in your offense to not go for it on 4th down rather than put points on the board, then how much confidence does it show in your defense and offense to not call the timeouts when you have a team pinned deep inside their 5 yard line. You would show no confidence in either your defense and also your offense to waste the opportunity to try and get points late in the half. The failure at the end of the half should be on the players and maybe DC. The failure in my opinion was not in calling the timeouts.
Best article I have read this year, this writer has both the guts and balls to tell the truth. McCarthy and Thompson as well as Rodgers have simply wasted what should have been at least one championship against Seattle and a division title against the Vikings. I thank fans agree it’s time for them to go?
Les Steckel would out-coach the anal sphincter we have
Howard, thanks for the info. I am surprised it happened that recently.
Bob, I agree with you too and, in a different year, the fans might have booed the coach for not taking the time outs. This season “feels” different and the aggressive strategy, especially against a good team, may not be the best choice.
Bring on the Bears. Hopefully there will be a better outcome on Thursday. GO PACK GO