Why McCarthy opted for fourth-and-1

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Before we completely close the book on the Green Bay Packers’ 19-17 win over the Baltimore Ravens last Sunday, there’s one more aspect of the game worth examining.

Perhaps the most memorable -- and important -- moment in the game was the goal-line stand in the second quarter, when the Packers stuffed Ravens running back Bernard Pierce on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line.

But the play that immediately preceded it was noteworthy for a decision made by coach Mike McCarthy. On third-and-goal from the 1, officials called holding on Ravens offensive lineman Rick Wagner, who came in as an extra blocker. McCarthy declined the penalty, which would have set up a third-and-goal at the 11-yard line.

“The thinking was simple, and it’s exactly what I said on the headsets,” McCarthy said. “We’re playing great defense; I’m declining the penalty. So it wasn’t really a conversation. I just felt strongly, just knowing the personality of their football team, they were going to try to run it again. I was just confident that we’d be able to stop it. Our defensive line did a great job. The penetration on that goal-line stand was outstanding, particularly on the road. That’s a moment as a defense that you can really build off of, and I thought it was definitely one of the big, big plays, big segment of plays in the game.”

That’s the opposite strategy McCarthy took in a similar situation in the regular-season opener at San Francisco with the 49ers inside the 10-yard line. In Week 1, McCarthy accepted an illegal motion penalty against the 49ers on a third-and-1 play from the 5-yard line during which running back Frank Gore was stuffed for no gain. McCarthy could have put the 49ers in a fourth-and-1 but instead he chose third-and-6 from the 10-yard line. On the following play, Packers linebacker Clay Matthews was called for a late hit out of bounds on quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who was actually stopped short on a scramble, and it led to 49ers touchdown.

“To me the biggest difference is those are kind of gut feel calls and if you look at the first half runs against us, I think they had they had 12 of them, and we were 11 wins and one loss,” Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. “So our run defense was kind of our hot hand right then.”

For the game, the Packers held the Ravens to 47 yards rushing and an average of just 2.1 yards per run.