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:
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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.
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
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.
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