Packers on Offense: The Field Goal Decision
Aaron Rodgers was slicing the Panthers to bits on the drive that led to that field goal. Starting at his own 20, Green Bay's quarterback completed every pass he threw, going 6-of-6 for 53 yards. The Packers never tried a red zone pass on this drive, despite the fact that in the third quarter, Rodgers completed a 5-yard touchdown pass to Donald Lee and a two-point conversion pass to Greg Jennings. McCarthy had a hot goal-to-go quarterback, and he didn't use him. Rodgers also converted a fourth-and-1 with a 2-yard sneak of his own in this very drive.
The odds on a fourth-down goal-line conversion were with the Packers, based on Football Outsiders' DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) stats. Green Bay came into this game ranked third in offensive goal-to-go DVOA (42.6%), while Carolina ranked 28th in defensive goal-to-go DVOA (44.8%). The Packers are more efficient in red zone situations with the pass than they are with the run, and that was true even in this game.
If the Packers hadn't made it on that fourth down, they still would have put the ball back in the hands of an offense that had gashed them for three rushing touchdowns already – and was about to get a fourth – as well as several long pass plays, but they would have done so with the addition of a 44-yard handicap. By conceding the touchdown, McCarthy put things in the hands of his two most inefficient units: special teams, who gave up a 45-yard return on the post-field goal kickoff after allowing a 51-yard return on the previous kickoff, and a defense that immediately gave up a 54-yard pass to Steve Smith and DeAngelo Williams' final touchdown.
McCarthy is a good coach, but when you take the chance away from your best unit – not to mention a quarterback who was playing out of his mind – and put the game on your worst, that's a problem. And it might have taken his team out of the postseason equation for good.
Packers on Defense: Williams' Winning Touchdown
The Packers had to know what was coming. The Panthers had the ball on the Green Bay 1, and there had not been a Carolina passing touchdown all day. On first-and-goal, the Panthers lined up with tight ends Jeff King and Dante Rosario to the right side – they might as well have raised a flag that read, "WE ARE RUNNING THIS WAY!" The Packers responded by targeting that side at the snap, but the Green Bay defense was completely blocked out of the play.
King went straight ahead on end Aaron Kampman, while guard Keydrick Vincent did the same on defensive tackle Ryan Pickett. This allowed right tackle Jeff Otah to chip Kampman and move to the second level, as Rosario came inside to help put Kampman on his butt. Otah headed through and blocked Brady Poppinga, while A.J. Hawk and Charles Woodson tried to fill the gap behind King as Wililams rushed through it. No dice.
The Panthers have re-made themselves into a power team, and they showed the positive effects of this approach against a Green Bay rushing defense that has proven unable to counter simple smash-mouth football up the middle.
Doug Farrar is a Staff Writer for FootballOutsiders.com. He is also a Panelist for The Washington Post and a Contributor to The Seattle Times.
X-and-O Show: Pack vs. Panthers
Packer Report Top Stories
Podcast: Field Position, SOS, Upcoming QBsA couple weeks ago, Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy said his team needed to win the field-position and time-of-possession battles. How have the Packers done in those…
Packer ReportYesterday at 7:17 AM
Quarterbacks Will Test Packers’ Pass DefenseAfter being picked apart by Blake Bortles, Sam Bradford and Matthew Stafford, look who's coming up on the Packers' schedule.
Packer ReportThursday at 7:14 PM
Packers Unveil Titletown’s Park PlansThe main attraction will be a sledding hill that will feature tubing lanes with views of Lambeau Field. A sledding hill will be located within an area that includes a skating trail…
Packer ReportThursday at 12:08 PM
Subscribe to Packer Report Today!Why would you subscribe to Packer Report? With exclusive content and discounts on tickets and gear, why would you not?
Packer ReportThursday at 8:32 AM
Podcast: The Upside-Down PackersWeaknesses have become strengths and strengths have become weaknesses through three games. Plus, Lacy's hot start and why the Packers are a better after winning on Sunday.
Packer ReportThursday at 7:59 AM