The Packers Are Bad In Close Games; Here’s Why

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Mike McCarthy

Pattern?! There's no pattern here!

All six of the Green Bay Packers losses have come by four points or less, this season.

To be exact, four losses have come by three points and two have come by four. Meanwhile, the Packers average margin of victory is a shade less than 17 points per game.

That last statistic is slightly misleading because not all of the Packers victories have been blowouts. They beat Detroit by two in week four and Minnesota by four in week seven. However, by and large, when the Packers win, they win big.

That brings us back to that record in close games. The Packers are 2-6, so far this season.

I’ll give you the quick explanation why — coaching.

Mike McCarthy has the second-worst winning percentage among active coaches in close games. He’s 5-15, which is a .250 winning percentage. The only coach who’s worse is Buffalo’s Chan Gailey, who is 3-11 — a .214 winning percentage.

Go ahead and say I’m unfairly piling on McCarthy again, but the statistics don’t lie.

Neither does the evidence.

The simple fact is McCarthy’s Packers are consistently bad in less noticeable, but extremely important areas of the game.

For years, the Packers have been among the league leaders in penalties. In 2009, they were first with 118 penalties. In 2008, they were second with 110. In 2007, they were fourth with 113.

While they’ve committed far fewer penalties this season — they’re currently 28th in the NFL — it’s still been a problem area.

The Packers gift wrapped the week three game for Chicago by committing a team-record 18 penalties. Then there was Robert Francois lining up illegally on a fourth quarter punt against the Dolphins. The resulting first down gave Miami their first go-ahead score.

Both were huge factors in Packers’ losses.

For the past three seasons, the Packers have fielded one of the worst special teams units in the league. In 2009, they finished 31st in the Dallas Morning News’ special teams rankings. In 2008, they finished 26th, which cost special teams coach Mike Stock his job.

This season, the Packers have been killed by their special teams — from New England lineman Dan Connolly’s 71-yard return just before the half, last week, to Atlanta’s Eric Weems’ 40-yard return after the Packers tied the score with 1:06 left in week 12, the hits keep coming.

Both of those plays proved pivotal in Packers’ losses and they aren’t isolated incidents.

Certainly, I could go into the whole clock management thing again, but I don’t want to beat a dead horse.

Gary D’Amato points to the Packers shortcomings in short-yardage situations, as well, which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. The Packers failed to score a touchdown after first-and-goal at the 2 against New England. They failed to score any points after Aaron Rodgers fumbled following a first-and-goal at the 2 against Atlanta.

The biggest part of the problem seems to be the Packers predictability. They consistently try to run up the middle, but that’s beside the point.

Again, these aren’t isolated incidents.

The Packers rank 24th in the NFL in fourth-down conversion percentage (5-13, 38 percent). Like penalties and poor special teams play, this problem isn’t unique to this season.

The Packers were 30th in fourth-down percentage (3-9, 33 percent) in 2009 and 23rd (8-18, 44 percent) in 2008.

When a talented football team develops a pattern of losing close games it’s usually the result of recurring, seemingly secondary, problems. After all, the Packers aren’t losing because their offense can’t score or their defense is getting run over.

They’re losing close games because they can’t put it all together on a consistent basis.

When these problems develop into a pattern over several years, it’s because the team isn’t well coached.

About The Author

Monty McMahon is one of the founders of Total Packers. He is probably the most famous graduate of UW-Oshkosh next to Jim Gantner.

12 Comments on "The Packers Are Bad In Close Games; Here’s Why"

  1. jeremy

    Great article McMahon. It sums up what many of us have been saying for a couple of seasons now. McCarthy has failed to fix these issues because he fails to consistently recognize them. I thought Slocum got of to a good start this season when he demoted Donald Lee for leaving his lane on a pre-season kick return. Unfortunately that was the end of holding guys accountable, after that it was just talk.

    I’m beginning to think McCarthy needs to go through what happened Belichick when he got fired from Cleveland, because they had many of the same issues. Now by all accounts New England the guy relentlessly reinforces the important concepts and corrects negative trends to the point of Ad Nausium. The result is that the Patriots almost never make the stupid personal and team mental errors that the are becoming the Hallmark Packers.

  2. ay hombre

    Simply put, I don’t think MM has the common sense and basic math skills necessary to be a Head Coach. Period. How else can you justify throwing the ball deep on 4th and 1 with a backup QB, plenty of time, and 2 timeouts…..AND try and argue that it was the correct call?

    How else can your logic be so flawed in the 2 minute drill that you think leaving no time on the clock is more important than actually scoring.

    He’s dumb. End of story.

  3. ay hombre

    Another good stat…no Packer wins this year when trailing at any point in the 4th quarter. Now if that’s not the trademark of a winner than nothing is.

  4. Madcity Packer Fan

    Frame this one! I agree 100% on all points. We can’t ignore these game changing problems. It seems McCarthy has been able to make excuses for our poor special teams and his game losing clock management skills. Great points Jeremy and Hombre!

  5. green bay!

    Well.. yeah he’s a bad coach in close games… but who else is up to coach and they might be good? I have no idea. If someone does.. then just tell me cuz id really like to know

  6. Brad

    Well, if the fourth and one went for a touchdown, then he’s a brilliant coach and play caller……but he does need to use more mis-direction plays on short yardage situations and mix in more draw plays and play action passing early in the game, in my view.

  7. iltarion

    Maybe MM is to blame for global warming and the JFK assassination too.

    You know what is more important than your record in close games? Your overall record. After taking over a 4-12 team, MM has had one losing season in 5 years. That is not a recipe for getting fired.

    Now, I don’t find 8-8 acceptable either; so, if we lose the next two games and THEN go 8-8 or worse next year, then I’m all for MM being shown the door. But until then, we can criticize MM all we want. Afterall, that is what we are here for, but talk of firing him is just a waste of time until then. It isn’t happening.

  8. nurseratchett

    Appreciate the article. It seems to me that special teams has been an after thought, & I get a little worried about Tramon Williams doing kick returns when he is so needed on D. The stats are pretty glaring!

  9. M S T

    Amen to the whole running up the middle problem. You want to know the best way to ensure we don’t gain any yardage in the run? Head directly for the heap of people. Jackson consistently, maddeningly doesn’t even try to juke left or right when by doing so he could bypass almost everyone. Instead, he stops dead short due to an elementary law of physics – you can’t run through people.

  10. toolkien

    It is frustrating that the Pack have so much “potency” (the ability to generate point differential, which is the point of the game) but not “consistency” (winning big, losing small). It is Thompson’s job to supply potency, it is McCarhy’s job to supply consistency. It’s basic organizational structure in any industry.

    A team that has a +344 “potency” the last three seasons, even including a thin 2008 defensive performance that has been more than adequately fixed, but is only on pace to be as good as the 92-94 era team, if that? I don’t know if many Packer fans realize that this Packer team is the best team, potency-wise, we’ve had since the Superbowl era of 95-97. And we’re getting playoff pretender caliber results? If this is acceptable then I need to start bagging my own poop and sell it as fudge.

    I think two games a season minimum hang exclusively on McCarthy, everything else being equal. It is the HC’s job to get the best he can, and MORE, out of the team, not sandbag it. Too much talent getting too little results.

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