I had some free time this week, so I took a break from my usual free time activities of rubbing salt into any open wounds I might have and squirting lemon juice into my eyes and decided to take another look at the Green Bay Packers’ playoff performance against the San Francisco 49ers.
Everybody has their hobby horse issue from that game, but what strikes me the most is how changing just a couple of small things — maybe even just one — probably results in a Packers win.
A lot had to break against the Packers for that game to turn out as it did. If Marcedes Lewis doesn’t fumble on the Packers’ second drive, they probably open the game up double digits. If Aaron Jones runs out of bounds on his big catch-and-run just before the half, the Packers get more than one shot at the end zone — and probably a better shot at a field goal. If Tyler Lancaster looks right instead of left on the blocked field goal, it’s a 10-point Packers lead at the half. If Corey Bojorquez’s blocked punt lands differently, it might bounce out of the end zone for a safety instead of turning into a touchdown. If Aaron Rodgers at least looks at Allen Lazard, San Francisco might never touch the ball again.
But it goes deeper! San Francisco presented a uniquely bad matchup for the Packers. They capably probed the Packers’ weak points on offense and defense, taking advantage of the Packers’ shortcoming in defending tight ends while punishing their weak tackles with a vicious pass rush. And the fact that San Francisco was in Green Bay at all is probably the biggest bad break of them all.
As you’ll recall, the Dallas Cowboys needed just six points to tie and seven to win as they drove down the field against the 49ers the previous weekend in Dallas. But on 2nd and 1 from the 49ers’ 41-yard line, with no timeouts and 14 seconds on the clock, Mike McCarthy green-lighted a quarterback draw. Dak Prescott ran a bit too far, the Cowboys burned too much time getting lined up for the next play, and that was that. Prescott’s spike turned out to be the final play of the game, and the 49ers left with the victory.
True, Dallas had some serious work to do to win that game, but getting to the opposing team’s 41 with 14 seconds left probably gives you two shots at the end zone even if you don’t advance another yard. If they had succeeded, they’d have advanced to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Divisional Round, sending the Los Angeles Rams to Green Bay instead of the 49ers.
Who knows how that game would have turned out, but the Packers match up much better against the Rams than the 49ers, so I choose to believe they’d win. After all, they did so convincingly in the regular season. Why couldn’t they have done it again?
My point in all this, then, is this: Mike McCarthy’s clock management once again cost the Packers big time. Maybe that’s a stretch (it is), but it’s not completely untrue. And if taking down the Packers was his goal, I have no choice but to respect this highly successful football coach for hatching this nine-dimensional plan to do it.