SEATTLE -- When Mike McCarthy assesses the Green Bay Packers' NFC Championship Game loss, the coach will have to ask himself a hard question: Did his play calling cost his team a shot at the Super Bowl?
Not by taking the points early and kicking two field goals when the Packers had fourth-and-goal at the Seattle Seahawks' 1-yard line twice in the first quarter. Those are game-management decisions that even the great Vince Lombardi, who believed in taking the points early, wouldn't have questioned.
But with the Packers up 19-7 and in possession of the ball with 6:53 remaining in regulation of Sunday's 28-22 overtime loss at CenturyLink Field, McCarthy appeared to take his foot off the accelerator. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers handed off to James Starks for gains of 1 and 4 yards on the first two plays. On third-and-4, Rodgers threw to tight end Andrew Quarless, but linebacker K.J. Wright broke it up.
McCarthy had another shot after Morgan Burnett came up with the Packers' fourth interception of a Russell Wilson pass on the first play of the Seahawks' next possession. Why Burnett declared himself down instead of trying to return it is another matter, but McCarthy went back to the run. This time, Eddie Lacy was stuffed for losses of 4 and 2 yards to set up third-and-16 from the Packers' 37-yard line. McCarthy ran again, and Lacy gained only 2, forcing a punt.
"We had some chances early, had some chances late to do some things and didn't do it," Rodgers said, choosing his words carefully. "When you go back and think about it, at times we weren't playing as aggressive as we usually are."
Rodgers declined to elaborate on what he meant by not being aggressive, instead citing how they have finished off games this season by converting first downs to use up all the clock.
"We had a chance to do some things; didn't do it," he said.
"Hey, if you want to question my play calling -- I'm not questioning it," McCarthy said. "I came in here to run the ball. The one statistic I had has as far as a target to hit was 20 rushing attempts in the second half, I felt would be a very important target to hit for our offense."
Lacy finished with 73 yards on 21 carries and with help from James Starks (five carries for 44 yards), the Packers totaled 135 yards rushing on 30 carries.
"I have no regrets," McCarthy said. "I don't regret anything. Hell, I expected to win the game, we were in position to win the game, and that's football. We had opportunities to get that thing done and we came up a little short."