Sunday, January 17, 2016

Packers Playoff Loss: Still Taking It All In

[UPDATE: While I picked on Hayward below it appears that CB Damarious Randall was to blame for the blown coverage.] CB Casey Hayward is soon to become a free agent. While he's a good player, he seems to make mistakes that might give the front office pause on whether he's a keeper. DE Mike Daniels already got his mid-season extension but unless Hayward isn't in demand (which seems unlikely since CBs have been getting paid in free agency) I don't see the Packers re-signing him. It's plays like the opening one in OT, when WR Larry Fitzgerald deployed a cloaking device and ran right past him, that makes me wonder.
It's been a struggle on offense this season (QB Aaron Rodgers does need a healthy offensive line, which he finally got in the playoffs, and a deep roster of receivers) but these two Hail Mary plays, side-by-side show how he's made up for some of it. It's also interesting that both defenses played it completely different. The Lions took a lot of criticism for defending a series of laterals that never came, instead of the Hail Mary, and they didn't bring much pressure because they were expecting the short pass. The Cardinals, instead, brought the house and got into Rodgers's face immediately, and they only dropped four into coverage. Rodgers spun away from the rush and still managed to throw the pass he needed anyway. Two different defensive schemes to the same scenario, but Rodgers made the result the same.

I'm all for taking risks, and understood why Bruce Arians passed late in the game when he could have run out the clock. If the Cardinals had completed that fade pass to Fitzgerald, then the game was over. But the Cardinals were the favorites and they've been the better team all season, so they could have taken the lower percentage path to victory (and probably won in regulation, if they'd wiped out another 35 seconds). The Packers, on the other hand, could have gone for the two point conversion to end the game before OT. I understand the math and the Packers probably had a better chance of converting then rather than winning in OT, but it's a one-and-done scenario. Instead of giving his team a few chances to make a big play in OT, Mike McCarthy would have gave them just one. Unfortunately, the secondary blew the coverage in their first opportunity to make a play in OT, but McCarthy made the right call for the extra point. He should give his team more than one chance to win, though Bill Barnwell below explains why he thinks McCarthy should have gone for two.

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