MINNEAPOLIS -- Mike McCarthy, criticized at times for not taking a more aggressive approach, might have picked the wrong time to try to shed that label.
The Green Bay Packers coach eschewed a chip-shot field goal that would have tied a low-scoring game on Sunday night against the Minnesota Vikings in favor of a risky fourth-and-2 call in the third quarter.
And it cost him.
From the Vikings’ 14-yard line, running back James Starks came up a yard short, and the Packers never got any closer in their 17-14 loss. McCarthy apparently thought he had the Vikings’ defense reeling after a long drive.
"It was fourth-and-2, we were on a 12-play drive," McCarthy said. "I felt the advantage was to the offense in that particular situation. We had a solid play call, and that’s my decision."
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers agreed with the decision.
"I liked the call," he said.
The problem was, the Vikings had it covered perfectly. Coach Mike Zimmer put six defenders at the line of scrimmage and a seventh just behind it against the Packers’ front five.
"We had a five-man blocking scheme and they had a jam front -- I think it was six guys in the box," right guard T.J. Lang said. "I don’t know who ended up making the play, if it was a back side D-end."
It was indeed defensive end Brian Robison who came from the backside to grab Starks.
Neither Rodgers nor McCarthy said whether the quarterback had the option to audible to a pass at the line of scrimmage, but given the freedom he has at the line of scrimmage, there’s a good chance he did. Even with three receivers to the right (Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and tight end Jared Cook) and the one to the right (tight Richard Rodgers) all singled covered, the quarterback stuck with the run.
"They brought double-edged pressure," Aaron Rodgers said. "[Safety Andrew] Sendejo was coming on this side, but I felt like we had kind of beat him with the run. I had a chance maybe to throw it out to Jordy, maybe convert it, but I felt good. Not sure about the spot, I don’t know if we have to go back and look at it. But I felt like from where I was standing that we had maybe got the ball a little farther. But I liked the call [by McCarthy]. It was an aggressive call, we were moving the ball well, and we’ve got to convert there."
McCarthy didn’t say why he opted for Starks, who finished with just 3 yards on seven rushes, and not Eddie Lacy in that situation, but in the first quarter, Lacy was stuffed on a first-and-goal play from the 1-yard line.
"I was close," said Lacy, who rushed for 50 yards on 12 carries. "I thought about sticking the ball out, but I’d rather keep possession and not have a turnover on the 1-yard line. But I felt like I was close."