As I sat in MetLife Stadium and watched the NY Giants dismantle the Packers before my eyes, my neck started to hurt from shaking my head so much. Beyond the disappointing play and the result, I was especially not pleased by what I saw of the Packers game plan, play calling and decision-making.
Coach McCarthy went away from the running game after the Packers were down 17-7, opting to go to more of a spread offense. What this did, of course, was let the Giants DL know they could just single-mindedly go after Aaron Rodgers. Add to that the shaky revamped offensive line, and McCarthy almost got his quarterback killed.
Having let the Giants’ pass rush get their mojo back, one might expect that McCarthy would have tried something to slow it down. Perhaps a screen pass or two. Perhaps a draw or two. But those adjustments were just not forthcoming.
As he ignored Alex Green in the Lions game, McCarthy pretty much forgot about James Starks until the end of this game, when it didn’t matter. Starks was fairly effective against the Lions, a team playing a very similar defensive scheme to the Giants. One might have expected to see Starks as the main ball carrier Sunday night, but instead, he mostly sat and watched.
And how about that handoff to Alex Green on 2nd and 20 with seven minutes still left in the third quarter down by 21 points? White flag anyone?
McCarthy also made some questionable decisions with regards to Mason Crosby. With the score at 7-7 and only halfway through the first quarter, McCarthy sent the struggling Mason Crosby out on 4th and five to try a 55 yard field goal. First thought – iyour going to put your slumping kicker in a position where the odds are greater that he will fail?
But forgetting about Crosby’s struggles for a moment, I have to simply ask; Why? In the first quarter of a tie game? The right play that early in the game is to play field position. Let Masthay punt the ball and try to pin the Giants deep in their own end.
Then, once the whole complexion of the game had changed, with the Giants holding a three-possession 17 point lead late in the second quarter, McCarthy calls for a field goal on 4th and inches from the 11 yard line. At that point, it was pretty obvious that three points was not going to be much of a help in this game.
McCarthy has gone for it on fourth down many times previously from less favorable positions on the field in games where they needed the points much less. He did so just last week against the Lions. Sending the field goal unit out in this situation was a big confidence deflater for a team already doubting themselves. Go for it and show your team you believe they can come back and win.
But for all his faults in this particular game, at least Mike immediately fessed up after the game; “”We had a plan and we didn’t execute it very well,” McCarthy said. “We got away from it and went to some spread things. That wasn’t the answer. That was quite poor play selection on my part.”
As one of our writers here, Adam Czech pointed out to me on twitter, it seems like McCarthy has had to say that a bit too often this year. Sure, to some extent he’s protecting his players, but I don’t believe he would be quite as harsh on himself if he didn’t believe it was true.
In my mind, I keep going back to the Houston game and how well-prepared McCarthy had his team and what a fantastic game plan they devised and executed to perfection. Of course, it was one of those “backs to the wall” situations, which McCarthy has earned the reputation for thriving in.
Going back to the year or two prior to the Super Bowl season, I was fairly critical of McCarthy and his ability to “motivate” his team. Remember the whole “Come to Jesus” meeting shenanigans in 2009 after a bad loss to the Tampa Bay Bucs? The Packers ran off five straight wins after that and won seven of their last eight to make the playoffs.
In 2010, the Packers had that awful loss to the Lions where Rodgers was knocked out of the game with a concussion. They came back the next week and played fantastically, almost beating the 8-1 NE Patriots with Matt Flynn at QB. The Packers ran off six straight wins after that, with the last one being the Super Bowl Championship.
2011 was an anomaly. A year where the Packers defense was simply awful and it didn’t matter, because everything went right on offense. McCarthy and Rodgers could seemingly do no wrong – everything they touched turned to gold. It was the type of year we may never see again as Packers fans.
So that brings us back to 2012. Was this distasteful loss to the Giants the wake up call that propels them to another Super Bowl run? It certainly was an eye-opener for the players, many of whom spoke about a seeming lack of emotion after the game.
I’ve always maintained that football is a game of emotion. Emotion can take you places in football games you may not otherwise reach. It led the Packers to embarrass the Texans like the Giants just embarrassed them. We saw incredibly inspired play against the Texans and players absolutely reveling in it. We saw a coaching staff that were dead-on perfect that game.
As the players danced and celebrated with wide grins all around, I wrote at the time how I hope these players remember what it feels like to play like that and have everything you planned work so splendidly.
I hope the same holds true for Coach McCarthy.
Jersey Al Bracco is the founder and editor of AllGreenBayPackers.com, and the co-founder of Packers Talk Radio Network. He can be heard as one of the Co-Hosts on Cheesehead Radio and is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for Drafttek.com.