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The Old Dog Learns Some New Tricks

On Sunday evening, we watched Mike McCarthy coach his 191st game as the Green Bay Packers’ head man. Taking into account the portion of last season that he turned play calling over to Tom Clements, it was also about the 180th time McCarthy did the offensive play calling.

It was certainly one of McCarthy’s best turns ever at play calling. In my mind, the creativity of McCarthy’s play selection was easily the best performance of his career. Congrats to Big Mike!

Let’s go straight to the critical time in the game, with just under eight minutes left to play. The Packers started a drive from their own 25, with the aim being to extend their narrow three-point lead, and keep the clock running while doing so.

At the 6:16 mark, the Packers faced a familiar 3rd-and-1. Unlike the many other times they’ve been in this situation on the year, Aaron Rodgers faked a handoff to Ty Montgomery just behind the left tackle, and strolled around the left side, untouched, for 13 easy yards. It left broadcaster Al Michaels exclaiming: “What a call! What a call!” It’s a play run fairly often – and effectively – by other mobile quarterbacks, including Russell Wilson, Cam Newton, Colin Kaepernick, Dak Prescott, and Tyrod Taylor.

The play kept the time-consuming march going. On the ninth play of the drive, Green Bay faced a 2nd-and-1 with 3:50 remaining. In a formation I don’t think we’ve ever seen before, the Packers had Jared Cook behind left tackle David Bakhtiari and left guard Lane Taylor, then joined by Jordy Nelson, who came in motion and reset next to Cook, and with Ty Montgomery three yards behind them. It was a pure power run formation, and the four blockers (Cook especially) drove back the Lions allowing Montgomery to plunge straight ahead for four yards.

The play that followed was from the Lions’ 21-yard line, and with 3:03 to go. The obvious and conservative play would be to run the ball, use up time, and kick a short field goal giving Green Bay a two-score lead. It didn’t happen. Instead, Rodgers play-faked to Montgomery going left, and threw a quick and safe toss to Jordy Nelson on the right, for five important yards.

After a superb tackle-breaking run by Montgomery, the Packers found themselves with a 1st-and goal from the 9-yard line – again an obvious run play with the clock nearing two minutes and Detroit down to one timeout. But the Packers, aided by a strong scouting report, had other ideas. As Rodgers later explained it, the plan was for a short slant pass to Davante Adams, but defender Nevin Lawson lined up tight on him, so Rodgers signaled Adams to do a fade route. Adams faked the slant, and quickly got behind the 5’9” cornerback – the perfectly-lofted touchdown throw by Rodgers gave Lawson no chance.

Now with a 12-point lead, the Packers lined up for a two-point attempt. Near-wide-out receiver Geronimo Allison vacated the left goal-line area, leaving far-wide-out Adams to do his patented quick slant toward the middle. The ball arrived low and just behind the line of scrimmage, allowing Adams to simply dive across the goal line. This play had clearly been planned and practiced to get exactly those two needed yards.

In this one drive and the ensuing extra point, I count five plays that were either things we haven’t seen before or that were highly unexpected due to the score and time left in the game. It’s a Mike McCarthy I’ve never seen before, but I’d love to see again.

Will the success that Green Bay had with its inventive fourth-quarter play calling lead to more of the same in the playoffs?

With the injury situation becoming even worse on the defensive side of the ball, we all know the Packers will need to keep scoring 30 to 40 points if they are to keep advancing. Meanwhile, the competition will keep becoming tougher. Based on the win at Detroit, more creative play calling might be just the ticket.

Rob Born

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



  1. Chad Lundberg January 3, 2017

    Unfortunately, we’ve seen this before. I remember seeing just how well he coached and play called the game against Tom Brady and the Patriots. That was a masterful performance. But like always, it’s just a matter of time before MM decides to go back to his old ways.

    And even if somehow he doesn’t, these corners scare the hell out of me.

  2. TyKo Steamboat January 3, 2017

    of course when the Packers win it’s all because of Rogers but when they lose it’s because of McCarthy. I guess it’s McCarthy’s fault that Ryan Grant decides to fumble in a home playoff game to the giants in 2011 rewind two years ago on a fluky play in Arizona, offense was humming that game he’s also an excellent offensive Coordinator and gets no credit for it
    Double standard the entitled Packer fans have created. When asked who should be the head coach they have no clue. I guess, what? Matt Patricia? Give me a break
    Also no Packers coach will ever have the record against the Chicago Bears that fat Mike has. Fat Mike also lost his starting quarterback in 2013 to a collarbone injury & still won the division
    Division Title, after division title, after division title & a legitimate shot to win the Super Bowl every year, not to mention already has a Super Bowl victory
    Don’t forget it’s also Mike McCarthy’s fault that a backup tight end couldn’t catch an onside kick.
    Any smart Packers fan will tell you that Mike McCarthy has nothing to do with preparation, right? Maybe it’s Mike McCarthy’s fault that Aaron Rodgers had such a shitty attitude for the first 10 games this NFL season.
    Hogwash. Fat Mike deserves respect

    1. Empacador January 3, 2017

      Yes, I said Matt Patricia. And if you read the comments when I said that you would know the logic I used to arrive at that conclusion. If the Packers shit the bed again this playoffs, can’t wait for you to be here early and often crowing about how great McCarthy is.

      Let me ask you this. If you had 1 game without Rodgers or 1 game without McCarthy, who would be more likely to deliver a win? Rodgers, hands down and it isn’t even close. Packers 6-2 with Rodgers, 2-5-1 when it was only McCarthy. You remember that awesome 2013 season right? Where the 49ers made McCarthy their bitch yet again. Thompson has some executive of the year awards, and Rodgers has some MVP awards. How is it the great Mike McCarthy has never been recognized as Coach of the Year in his entire career?

      Do McCarthy fanatics secretly have a bunch of participation banners plastered all over the walls in their homes? Because you guys act like just getting to the playoffs is the shit. Why you don’t want to see them more successful and are content with the status quo I have no idea.

    2. Please January 3, 2017

      Legitimate chance of winning a Super Bowl year after year? That’s pure fantasy. The North is a terrible division so congrats for collecting those caps and t-shirts but only the truly die hard fans believe they are contending to win the big game each year. Lions, tigers (I mean Vikings) and bears two times a year…oh my…year after year. If I recall Mike Sherman did pretty well too in the rugged North division. SPOILER ALERT: They will not make it to the Super Bowl again this year. Football is a sport where most of the time the best team wins…especially in the playoffs. The Packers are not nearly one of the best teams. Enjoy the playoff games but the season will end in typical McCarthy fashion before the Super Bowl. Happy New Year!

      1. Kato January 3, 2017

        McCarthy builds this team?

  3. Empacador January 3, 2017

    When McCarthy delivers on his promise of multiple championships, perhaps then I’ll cut him some slack. Until then he is just Rex Ryan, but with a Super Bowl victory.

  4. Icebowling January 3, 2017

    Wow! Tough crowd here.

  5. Kato January 3, 2017

    Wow, I am so glad that McCarthy at least has control of this team. At least the packers don’t have their receivers partying in Miami the week of their first playoff game. Thank god I watch THE NFL, not just the packers enough to know that McCarthy is better than at least 80% of the head coaches in this league. I still think Capers and TT need to go, but McCarthy needs to stay. I forgot though, Aaron Rodgers is the only reason they win games, he plays every position on the field. Fuck he kicks field goals too!

  6. gort January 3, 2017

    The NFL is a “what have you done lately” league. The play calling certainly helped win the game at Detroit, but also certainly helped lose the game at Tennessee. The Titans opened the game with a surprise on sides kickoff. Had they recovered it then the Titans surely would have laid claim to an early momentum swing. Didn’t happen because an alert Joe Thomas did his job and covered the ball at about midfield. Momentum back to Green Bay. The Packers offense, led by poor play calling, did a quick 3 and out. At that point, I knew the game was lost. If Mike falls back into the bad habits that were everywhere during the middle of the season we will see another early exit. If not, who knows what may happen.