Ditching the Dink and Dunk Approach Paid Off for Packers vs. Bears

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I meant to do a post on this topic earlier in the week, but work got the best of me and I also got sucked into this documentary about the White family of West Virginia on one of my free nights (I could not decide if it was sad, disgusting, fascinating, or all of the above).

Anyway, I have been thinking about the Packers approach on offense in Sunday’s win over the Bears. It initially bugged me that the Packers did not stick with the short passes that moved the chains so effectively in the first Bears game, and appeared to be working fairly well early on Sunday. The Packers also showed brief flashes of a competent run game, so I also wondered why they didn’t stick with it a bit more, especially with James Starks in the second half.

I am usually not one of those people that nitpicks at playcalling (unless it’s the fullback dive), but I do like to try and look at the big picture after each game and decide if I liked the approach or not.

In the week three loss, the Bears were content to sit back, let the Packers move down the field, and wait until drives imploded via penalties, turnovers or other miscues. Under no circumstances were they going to let the Packers start connecting on their trademark deep passes.

This is what the Bears do and they do it well. They do it well against almost every team they face, but especially against the Packers.

Early on Sunday, the Packers game plan looked similar to week three. They were moving the ball, and it seemed like only a matter of time before the yards gained through short passes and the occasional run started resulting in points scored.

Then Donald Driver fumbled and everything started looking like week three again.

Instead of sticking with the dink-and-dunk/grind-it-out approach in the second half, McCarthy went back to what the Packers do best: Chucking the ball downfield. Some people might consider that decision impatient or stubborn. Others might call it a necessary adjustment. It is probably a bit of both, but added together, it was the correct move.

How would Packers fans have survived the offseason if Sunday’s game mirrored the week three defeat? If the Packers were going to go down, it was best they went down playing to their strength instead of trying to be something they were not because of who they were up against.

McCarthy did not want a repeat of week three (and several other weeks this season) where his team dominates the stat sheet, but loses the game. He did not have the confidence that his offense could sustain drives, and I can’t say I blame him. He has seen too many fumbles and dropped passes this season to be comfortable watching his offense try to grind it out.

McCarthy’s decision paid off…this time. Both of the Packers eventual scores were set up by passes that traveled over 15 yards in the air to Greg Jennings.

But there could be a time in the near future where a similar move blows up in McCarthy’s face. Hopefully he has the ability to decide when patience is the correct move instead of going back to what he is used to.

However, if McCarthy is ever in doubt, I would much rather see him choose to play to the Packers’ strength instead of letting an opponent dictate the style.

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Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam\\\'s writing on the Packers here.

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  • Oppy

    I don’t know if I agree, but I appreciate the perspective.

    I see your logic, but at the same time, just because the Packers have had success with the deep ball, doesn’t mean that playing the small game is a weakness by any means. It is a tool that should be utilized when the situation dictates.

    To me, that is often the most maddening aspect of Packers’ play calling, and the Bears’ game could be the poster child for it: The Packers were capably moving the ball with high percentage passing, but decided to drift away from it, to go to a deep passing game- usually a strength- but on that day, the WR’s were often struggling to get open and when they did they often dropped the ball.

    You can look at it either way- is it “Sticking with what you are good at”? One could argue that what you’re good at is what you’ve done well in the past, others could claim that what you are good at is whatever is working today under current circumstances.

    For instance, while I sited the WR’s having a hard time getting open and dropping a ton of balls as a reason to shy away from the deep passing game, I’m sure some strategists would insist that those same factors are the precise reason you would stick to the long ball as opposed to dink and dunk- if your WR’s are having trouble getting open and dropping passes, why put them in a position where they have to get open and catch the ball 15 times to score on a drive, as opposed to 5 times?

    Now my head is starting to spin. :)

    In some ways, I admire McCarthy’s post season war cry of “We have established our brand of football, and we aren’t going to change that for anything”. He’s right, you shouldn’t try to be something you haven’t been all year when crunch time hits. My issue is I think the Packers have, many times been just as or more successful doing things that clearly aren’t a part of that vertical, stretch the field offense.. They just don’t stick to it.

    Wow, major run on thought here, I hope it’s somewhat decipherable. Good article, Adam

    • Adam Czech

      I agree, and I’d love nothing more than for this team to stick to more short routes and runs but you have to draw the line somewhere. How many drops, fumbles and penalties on long drives can you handle before saying enough is enough and deciding to just go back to what you know your team is good at?

    • Chad Toporski

      This is a great comment, Oppy. And I was kind of thinking along the same lines as you.

      I’m still undecided on how I feel about this issue. But I like that Adam brought it up.

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      C’mon oppy. How about an occasional commentary piece from you? I can’t convince you?

  • FireMMNow

    Adam that documentary looks great. Thanks for posting the link. I will be checking it out on Netflix soon.

    I have to disagree with you on your take of the effectiveness of going downfield. As you noted the Packers were taking the easy stuff early and it was effective until Driver fumbled and Bulaga got a holding call. But then for the second half of the 2nd quarter and first half of the 3rd quarter MM went away from the quick passing game and they stalled. For the rest of the game they start hitting the short routes which opened up the deeper passes to Jennings.

    While the deep passes did change the game, I think getting back to the short passing game in the second half opened up the deeper routes. The safety on Jennings last reception charged down on Driver on the underneath route.

    In the end, the Packers scored 10 points. MM has to do better than that in the playoffs.

    • Adam Czech

      Good point. I guess I’m not saying McCarthy completely abandoned the short game, but he defintely changed the mindset from earlier in the game.

      • Chad Toporski

        Perhaps the coach has to have as short of a memory as the players in some respects. If it’s the execution that’s the problem (dropped balls, fumbles, etc.), then is changing the play calling really the best way to go? Or should you stick with the plan and hope the execution improves?

        Tough to say.

  • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

    Of course, in hindsight, if Jennings catches those two balls, the Packers build a nice lead and it’s a whole different game. Then Starks probably gets a bunch more chances and who knows if the Bears continue with their starters?

    • FireMMNow

      Good point Al. I really felt like I was watching the lions game when Jennings dropped that. On a different note, what do you think about Bishop’s contract? I think it was a GREAT deal for the Packers. I just worry that in two years Bishop will realize the contract was a GREAT deal for the Packers.

      I understand why he signed it with the uncertainty of next season it is good to get some extra cheese in your pocket. But I thought he would really stick it to the Packers for not giving him a chance until now.

      Also, who is here and who is gone next year as far as ILBs. Chillar just signed a new deal last year, Barnett is under contract but may be overpaid, Hawk will have to re-negotiate and/or sign an extension. I like how Hawk has been playing with Bishop and it seems to help him to be making the calls. I would prefer Bishop and Hawk starting with Chillar in the dime package and Barnett will probably have to go. Your thoughts?

      • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

        All accounts I’ve heard of Bishop is that he is a “team” guy. I think it was a good deal for both sides. Remember, Bishop has never started until this year, and suddenly he goes to 5mil a year? I think it makes perfect sense.

      • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

        With the propensity of injuries at the LB position, I’d have a hard time letting anyone go except possibly Chillar. That was a bad deal.

        • FireMMNow

          Agreed on Chillar. Bishop’s contract make Chillar’s deal look really bad. I did not really understand it at the time either, but TT has been on a pretty good roll for the last 2 years so I will cut him some slack. I do not think we really got to see the real Chillar this year due to injuries either. The reason I would say Barnett might have to go is I do not think he will take a backseat to Hawk or Bishop. I want Bishop to be the leader of our D and I do not see that happening with Barnett in the mix.

  • Ron LC

    Adam, for the “dink and dunk” to pay off, I’ve got to see a whole lot more than 10 points to celebrate a pay off.

    Great approach with the article, however. It sure made me think. Many times this year the Packers got a halfway decent run on 1st down. On 2nd, Rogers goes back looking for a deep pass and gets dumped. Result failed 3rd down and a punt. It seems to me that when you have made a good 1st down move you call a play that will not negate the good effort. Keep the ball moving sown field and then, when the opportunity presents itself go for broke. Don’t put Rodgers in a position where he beomes a target. I guess what I’m trying to say is they need a balanced approach. And with a weak running game the short quick pass that moves the ball is a preferred option in many instances to the bomb.

    You sure did make me think about though.

  • PackersRS

    “I meant to do a post on this topic earlier in the week, but work got the best of me and I also got sucked into this documentary about the White family of West Virginia on one of my free nights (I could not decide if it was sad, disgusting, fascinating, or all of the above).”

    You are excused. Just don’t let it happen again.

    I didn’t see this approach. I thought that short plays were called, but it was Rodgers more often than not that chose to take the deep route. I din’t have a problem with MM’s gameplan in this game at all. I had a HUGE problem with the way the OL prepared and approached this game. Noone can convince me that the Bears simply have a much better DL than the Giants. The OL played much harder against NY IMHO.

    BTW, here’s MM mic’ed up:
    MM: Okay, Aaron. It’s 1st and goal. Let’s go right up with a FB dive. They’ll never see it coming!
    AR: But what if it doesn’t work, coach?
    MM: Don’t worry. We have 3 downs. We’ll just try that again in the next down. But, instead of Crabtree lined up next to Lee, let’s move him to the left. The D will think it’s a whole new play! They’ll never see it coming!

  • Taryn

    I will make the reference to a boxing match.

    The dink and dunk are the jabs,the run is the useless faint and the deep passes on the KO hooks,uppercuts and round houses to either KO and stun your opponent and then flurry jab him to the floor.

    The Packers have “the Punch” to put you out and the “jab-abilty” to set you up for it.The problem is fighting like the fighter who is “desperate” when we aren’t,hence the too early and telegraphed haymakers and the lazy susan jabbing when you should uppercut,hook,etc.

    The Packers just seem to read the scorecard wrong during the fight and are torn between,”are we winning by points or do we need a knockout”.

    While they muse this over,the Packers got TKO’ed 6 times.Then standing in the corner feeling numb and saying to each other “did we even get hit”?

  • Jim

    I’ve disagreed with you in the past.Lately I tend to agree with your’e train of thought and enjoy reading your’e comments.But this crazy analogy stuff doesn’t really relate to the up coming game or the Packers at all. I could spin the matchups and Packers play to fit a thousand random “analogies” that don’t have real bearing on the game or situation at hand.

    • Taryn

      Jim,I don’t keep tabs on who agrees or doesn’t with me.If you could spin analogies a 1000 ways ,BRAVO.

      I simply try to add a humor or outside the box way of looking at something.Point being,I’m not as adept to the many gifted and knowing that write here on and for JerseyAl concerning the deep aspect of the X’s and O’s.

      That’s not to say I don’t understand the game I do,but as with all team fan sites,the number of those who try to change the essence and meaning of it are rampant,I take a different approach.

      Sometimes things are easier understood by fans through analogies and make it possible for them to partake or merely get a better picture while in or contemplating joining the discussion of such.

      As for this not having any bearing on the up coming game,I completely disagree with you as after all,”IT is a REMATCH”
      Have a nice day!

      • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

        I love the analogies, taryn…

        • Taryn

          Thanks Al and to all the others who don’t mind my attempt at them.

      • Jim

        Could have sworn you were documenting my every move… But really who the hell am I to tell someone how to comment on Al’s site? I tend to only comment when I’m drunk and something erks me. Never leads to good conversation. Now, let me relate this to a Christmas party. Al’s site is the house where the party is at, the articles are presents and the comments are the Christmas cookies. Everyones having fun opening presents and eating cookies then I’m like, “hey! I don’t like THIS cookie right here!” Then everyone else is like “Who cares, it’s a good cookie, eat it and shut up.”

        • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

          Well done, Jim…

  • JimR_in_DC

    I like the analogies, Taryn.

    • Adam Czech

      I once did 1,000 words comparing an 18-game NFL schedule to pro wrestling so analogies don’t bother me :)