Green Bay’s coach Mike McCarthy learns dangers of playing it too safe

Jay Asser 20/01/2015
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
Safety first: Head coach Mike McCarthy of the Green Bay Packers looks on while taking on the Seattle Seahawks.

Championship Sunday had plenty to offer, from a crazy comeback to a dominant blowout. Here are two takeaways from this weekend before we move on to the final game of the season:

– #Quiz360: WIN a six-month Target Gym membership

– Miraculous fightback sees Seahawks claim overtime win 

Green Bay Packers’ coach Mike McCarthy put on a tour de force on how not to coach in a big game.

If you’re coaching the Packers and trying to knock off the Seattle Seahawks at their vaunted CenturyLink Field, wouldn’t you want to take some risks? Instead, McCarthy played not to lose rather than playing to win.

On their second possession, Green Bay got down to Seattle’s one-yard line, but couldn’t punch it in on second or third down.

Tramon Williams #38 of the Green Bay Packers and Jermaine Kearse #15 of the Seattle Seahawks go after a pass.

Rather than forcing the Seahawks defence to stop the Packers a third consecutive play or putting the ball in the hands of arguably the game’s best quarterback, 
McCarthy decided to kick a field goal and settle for three.

Faced with the same fourth-and-short at the goal line situation on their next drive, McCarthy took three points again.

Compare that to the field goal fake Seattle coach Pete Carroll dialled up that resulted in a touchdown. That move also came partly from a place of desperation as the Seahawks trailed 16-0 at the time, but when your season is on the line, you might as well go all-out.

McCarthy’s conservative calls weren’t the sole reason Green Bay lost, but as bad as they looked at the time, they look even worse in hindsight.

Patriots emptying chamber
Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots reacts on the sideline in the second half against the Indianapolis Colts.

Speaking of not playing it safe, the New England Patriots have been full of surprises in the playoffs.

After using a four lineman look and a double-pass to great effect in their victory over the Baltimore Ravens last week, New England continued to confuse the defence by using lineman as eligible receivers against the Indianapolis Colts.

Nothing out of the ordinary happened on the first 10 plays in which offensive tackle Cameron Fleming reported as eligible. But on the 11th play, after lulling the Colts to sleep, tackle Nate Solder reported as eligible and snuck off the line to catch a pass and take it for a 16-yard touchdown.

It was the first catch of Solder’s career and took everyone outside of the Patriots by surprise. But that’s the sort of urgency coach Bill Belichick and the entire team are showing right now.

Belichick and Tom Brady head to their sixth Super Bowl, but who knows how many more they’ll see. There’s no point storing anything in the arsenal. Let it all fly.

Most popular

Related Sections

Miraculous fightback sees Seattle Seahawks claim overtime win against Green Bay

Jay Asser 20/01/2015
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
Luke Willson #82 of the Seattle Seahawks celebrates after scoring on a two point conversion during the fourth quarter against the Green Bay.

With five minutes remaining and a trip to the Super Bowl on the line, the result of the NFC Championship looked all but decided. Instead, the Seattle Seahawks staged an improbable comeback to revive their title defence hopes.

The Green Bay Packers had Seattle on the ropes at various points in the game, including a 16-0 lead at  half-time and a 19-7 lead with possession at the 5:04 mark in the fourth quarter.

– #Quiz360: WIN a six-month Target Gym membership

– A nation baffled as tinkering with the NFL laws starts to ruin the spectacle

But the final minutes were all the Seahawks needed to claw back and win in overtime to secure a return to the Super Bowl.

Quarterback Russell Wilson, who had been intercepted four times in a stagnant offensive effort, connected with wide receiver Jermaine Kearse on a long 35-yard pass for the walk-off touchdown in extra time.

Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks passes the ball against the Green Bay Packers during the 2015 NFC Championship game.

“Just making the plays at the end and keep believing,” said Wilson. “There was no doubt…we had no doubt as a team.”

Seattle used just 1:43 on their drive to pull it back to 19-14 in the fourth quarter, which was capped by Wilson’s 1-yard score. After getting the ball back, they again struck quickly in 44 seconds with running back Marshawn Lynch scampering for a 24-yard touchdown, followed by a two-point conversion to put the Seahawks up for the first time all game at 22-19.

“It takes everybody and everybody had to contribute to get that done,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “It was so much heart, so much belief today. Somehow, somehow we pulled it out.”

While Seattle fought back impressively, the Packers had plenty of opportunities to seal the win. After intercepting Wilson with nearly five minutes left in regulation, Green Bay ran three straight times for a total of minus-four yards and were forced to punt.

Even after the Seahawks made it a one-score contest, Green Bay just needed to recover the onside kick and tick off as much of the clock as possible.
But Steven Hauschka’s kick bounced high and off the hands of Packers tight end Brandon Bostick before being corralled by Seattle.

Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers later drove down the field to set up the tying field goal, but never saw the ball again as the Seahawks won the toss in overtime and capitalised.

“It’s going to be a missed opportunity that I’ll probably think about for the rest of my career,” said Rodgers. “We were the better team, we played well enough to win. We can’t blame anybody but ourselves.”

Cornerback Tramon Williams added: “It’s not a surprise what happened, but we should have won the game, no doubt about it.”

The Seahawks will head to Glendale, Arizona, looking to become the first team to repeat as Super Bowl champions since the New England Patriots in 2005.

Most popular

Related Sections

A nation baffled as tinkering with the NFL laws starts to ruin the spectacle

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
When is a catch not a catch: Dallas wide receiver Dez Bryant (r) grabs hold of the ball, the play later to be ruled incomplete.

Madness off the field, chaos on it. You could spend all year and next debating the tiresome, seemingly never ending nonsense which has polluted the NFL this season.

– #Quiz360: WIN a six-month Target Gym membership

– NFL round-up: Tom Brady bringing his best, Peyton Manning struggles

This week alone disgraced former New England Patriots tight-end Aaron Hernandez was gearing himself up for a murder trial which could see him spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Yet the head-scratching events which stunned a nation at the end of an enthralling play-off clash between the Green Bay Packers and the Dallas Cowboys last Sunday are equally hard to fathom.

There were four minutes left with the home side ahead by five points when Tony Romo’s propeller like pass flew towards Cowboys star Dez Bryant.

He rose majestically, caught the ball and lunged for the goal line. As he crashed to the turf, the ball appeared to squirm ever so slightly out of his grasp yet remained under control.

It looked good. It still does.

A catch was the call only for Packers coach Mike McCarthy to challenge the decision. TV replays have been used in the NFL for the past 29 years although the drama of watching it unfold is pure American grandiose.

You are suddenly whisked to the replay centre in New York which looks like a spaceship with the largest amount of screens known to man. Nothing is unseen.

The call was overturned, Dallas hearts were broken, Green Bay ran out eventual winners. 

According to the fantastically unfathomable ever-changing NFL rulebook – there have been SIX regulation changes this season alone – it was an incomplete pass.

In this case, the law really is an ass. Some players understand it. Some don’t. The fans though?

“They have made the game so difficult to officiate,” said former official Jim Daopoulos.

Of course, controversy is nothing new. Ask Green Bay fans if they’re still hurting from the now infamous ‘Fail Mary’ play of September 2012 which helped end a labour lockout of regular officials.

It should be noted that of the 40,000 plays which took place in the 2014 regular season, officials were graded as correct nearly 96 per cent of the time. That’s an impressive tally of less than one incorrect call per game.

Tony Romo.

Yet for those of you with a degree in astrophysics, please devour this: Rule 8, Section 1. Article 3: A pass is completed when he secures control of the ball with his hands or arms, touches the ground with both feet or any other body part (other than his hands), and maintains control long enough to allow him to perform “any act common to the game,” which includes having the ball long enough to “pitch it, pass it, advance with it, or avoid or ward off an opponent.”

Stay with me here. 

The officials, with the weight of billion-dollar franchises weighing on their straining shoulders, also had to take Rule 8, Section 1, Article 3, Item 1 into account. You know, the one which stresses about maintaining control “throughout the process of contacting the ground.”  

After watching the replay, the referee concluded Bryant had lost it at the very last moment. Yet to the man on the street, it was fine.

A catch which looked like a catch was ruled otherwise. Cue hysteria in Dallas and around the country. 

Aaron Hernandez.

“JUSTICE” screamed the New York Post the following morning, clearly delighted the Cowboys got payback after being on the end of a fortuitous call the weekend before.

Bryant wasn’t having it though. “I had possession of the ball coming down,” he moaned. “One, two, reach. Damn, that’s possession.”

Referee Gene Steratore, rulebook in hand, countered: “He must maintain possession of that football throughout the entire process of the catch. In our judgement he maintained possession but continued to fall and never had another act common to the game – and by the time he lands and the ball hits the ground, it comes loose.”

While soccer had long been castigated for its refusal to embrace technology, the NFL have used it for years. Replays are now part of the game. However has their intrusive nature damaged the dramatic beauty of sporting drama?

In this case, the answer has to be yes. Rules and common sense need to become friends once more.

Most popular

Related Sections