The Packers’ 27-24 loss to the Seattle Seahawks was a nearly perfect microcosm of the Rodgers-McCarthy era in Green Bay. It saw Rodgers put together a masterful performance that — like many times before — wasn’t enough for a win.
Rodgers wasn’t blameless. He finished with 332 passing yards and two touchdowns, but when the Packers needed just a couple yards to convert a crucial third down in the fourth quarter, Rodgers threw at his receiver’s feet.
The game wasn’t decided by that play, though. It was lost because a series of mistakes by McCarthy allowed the Seahawks to rally for a game-winning touchdown and wind out the rest of the clock.
Why didn’t McCarthy challenge Tyler Lockett’s catch?
Seattle was down 24-20 in the fourth quarter when Russell Wilson connected with Tyler Lockett for a huge 34-yard gain. The play set up the Seahawks in the red zone, but a replay showed the diving grab for Lockett may not have been a catch at all:
A challenge may not have been as easy as the tweet indicates, though. The NFL’s new catch rules don’t require a player to complete the process of the catch the way they did when Dez Bryant famously “dropped” a pass against the Packers.
But it was definitely close. Former NFL head of officiating and FOX rules expert Mike Pereira thought it was incomplete.
“I’ll tell you what, I think the ball turns over and hits the ground,” Pereira said. “This, to me, if challenged, would be reversed to an incomplete pass.”
At such a crucial moment, it would’ve made sense to take a closer look, right?
“We talked about it briefly, but it was late,” McCarthy explained after the game. “We didn’t have a look at it.”
What? The Seahawks didn’t rush down the field and quick snap against the Packers. Green Bay even had a little extra time, because defensive lineman Kenny Clark was injured on the play.
The likelier reason McCarthy hesitated to challenge was because he was down to one timeout. The first two of the second half were lost because the Packers had some substitution snafus that forced Rodgers to avoid delay of game penalties.
“The first one we had a specific play on, we wanted guys in a certain spot and the play kind of came in late,” Rodgers said. “We made a sub it seemed like, and I just figured that was an important spot. If we get a first down there we’re moving the sticks, and we’re scoring, so it was a good time to take it.
“The second one unfortunately was after the long play to Davante [Adams] where I felt like we had time. There was maybe a late sub. As we broke the huddle I just felt like it wasn’t worth it to try and run something up there for a yard and have second-and-10. Instead, we took a timeout.”
Risking the final timeout to potentially nullify a 34-yard gain for the Seahawks would’ve been smart. Instead, McCarthy didn’t and Wilson connected with Ed Dickson three plays later for what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown.
Why didn’t the Packers go for it on fourth down?
Rodgers is usually the man down the stretch, but a poor throw to Marquez Valdes-Scantling left the Packers with a fourth down on their own 33-yard line with 4:20 left in the game. Green Bay needed 2 yards to move the chains, but opted to punt instead of rely on Rodgers to keep the drive moving.
The Packers never got the ball back.
Seattle picked up two first downs, and that was enough to kneel out the remaining clock for the win.
After the game, McCarthy explained that his precious final timeout factored into the decision to trust a defense that had just given up a 75-yard touchdown drive over trusting Rodgers:
Mike McCarthy said he "definitely" considered going for it on fourth-and-2 but with a timeout plus the 2-minute warning he said "we played the numbers." https://t.co/ffR2lM4rpL pic.twitter.com/mKglW69PuW— Rob Demovsky (@RobDemovsky) November 16, 2018
Playing the numbers meant hoping the Packers defense could hold so Rodgers could get one more shot to drive the final with little time remaining and win the game. But it probably would’ve been a much more worthwhile risk to just let the offense try to move the ball a couple yards on fourth down — especially since field position no longer mattered much.
If the Packers didn’t get the first down, they would’ve been in the same situation: in desperate need of a stop. If they got it, the Seahawks would’ve presumably kicked a field goal to try to take a six-point lead. That still gives the Packers a chance.
Considering two of the Packers’ four wins this year came when Rodgers led game-winning drives in primetime, it’d be a pretty good chance too.
No matter how you slice it, punting was a bad call.
Where was Aaron Jones?
The Packers opened the game with three rushes for Aaron Jones on their first five offensive plays, including an 8-yard touchdown to give Green Bay an early lead. In the second quarter, Jones caught a 24-yard touchdown pass from Rodgers.
By halftime, Jones had 88 total yards on only 10 touches, but McCarthy told FOX’s Erin Andrews to expect more running in the second half.
That never happened. Jones had just four carries in the second half. He carried just once on what could’ve been a huge touchdown drive for the Packers. Instead, the drive had five pass plays and fizzled in the red zone. Green Bay settled for a field goal to take a 24-20 lead, leaving the door open for the Seahawks’ game-winning touchdown.
Rodgers has been begging for Jones to be a bigger part of the Packers offense — especially in the red zone:
Aaron Rodgers thought RB Aaron Jones not only helped offense pick up 1st downs, but that he was especially useful in the red zone. #Packers scored 4 red-zone TDs vs. Dolphins. Jones had half of them. "He’s a great player. We just need to continue to give him more opportunities."— Ryan Wood (@ByRyanWood) November 13, 2018
And for a little while it looked like McCarthy listened. Until he didn’t.
Rodgers could’ve cut through all the missteps if he just threw an accurate pass to Valdes-Scantling. But that’s how it’s been for most of his time in Green Bay. Rodgers can’t make any mistakes, because — way too often — he already has to overcome his coach’s.