Some Thoughts from the Green Bay Packers' Loss Yesterday
I'll admit it, I was pretty darn angry following the Green Bay Packers loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers yesterday. This year really felt like the year the Packers would return to the Super Bowl and, instead, their season is done thanks, in part, to a controversial pass interference penalty and even more controversial coaching decision.
I've calmed down now, and after some reflection, want to share some of my thoughts.
1. The pass interference penalty made Matt LaFleur's coaching decision seem worse than it was. I'm not saying it was a great decision. I mean, he had the league's top red zone offense and this year's (likely) league MVP on the Buccaneers' 8 yard line. But, without the pass interference, the Buccaneers would have punted with more than a minute on the clock and with Green Bay still having one time out. In that scenario, the field goal would have had Aaron Rodgers and company in a position to win the game with a quick score.
Still, even with that in mind (and I'm among those who think the refs shouldn't have thrown the flag on an uncatchable ball), I don't love LaFleur's decision.
2. Let's not make Rodgers into a victim. Even with three interceptions, I feel like Tom Brady outplayed Rodgers in this game. He made plays when they were needed, including the big touchdown strike at the end of the half. Rodgers either didn't see or ignored an open Allen Lazard on three straight "goal-to-go" incompletions to Davante Adams in the second quarter, forcing the Packers to settle for a field goal. He also apparently didn't see a wide-open Adams on the second-half free play that led to an incomplete pass to Dominque Dafney. Let's also not forget he had an opportunity to run the ball on his last play from scrimmage and, instead, tried to force the pass to Adams. Championship-winning quarterbacks don't leave points off the board.
3. I mentioned this before, but I still am not a fan of the second-half play calling. Tampa's defense played them tough throughout but the Packers were moving the ball with short passes and were starting to have some success with the ground game before seeming to completely abandon both. There was plenty of time on the clock so the decision to have Rodgers hold onto the ball against a dominant pass rush while waiting for someone to get open deep just didn't make a lot of sense.
To be fair, this might not have been by design and Rodgers might have simply been impatient. If that's the case, then refer to #2 again.
4. Mike Pettine needs to be on the hot seat. I try to give defensive coordinators a little bit of leeway because the game gives a heavy advantage to offenses and sometimes even good defenses look bad. However, this is the second straight year the Packers were defeated in the NFC title game because of questionable defense.
Yes, they did make second-half adjustments and had three takeaways but the defense still had some glaring issues. This includes a horrible defensive call at the end of the half that led to a Tampa Bay score that shouldn't have happened and a state of confusion that led to the team being caught with too many men on the field on more than one occasion. Also, if you take the multiple Tampa Bay dropped passes into consideration, this game could have been much more lopsided than it was.
I'm not a fan of change just for the sake of change. However, if LaFleur has an opportunity to upgrade DC, he should consider it.
5. The Packers didn't deserve to win. The harsh reality is Green Bay defeated itself. Tom Brady wasn't great and, other than one big play in the first half, the Buccaneer's running game was a non-factor. Even their defense wasn't perfect throughout. The Packers could have won this game but their own mistakes doomed them even before that pass interference flag.
As a Packers fan, I can only hope the championship window wasn't just slammed shut.