I’m proud the Green Bay Packers and their performance against the Seattle Seahawks. But amid all the happy feelings, I’m not about to give Big Mike a pass.
You saw it. Seattle gets the ball at its own 11, 53 seconds to go in the first half. Their only intention is to go into the locker room in a scoreless tie, so they run up the middle and lose a yard. Enter Mike McCarthy, who calls a timeout. The Hawks run up the middle again, for two yards – and McCarthy uses his final timeout to again stop the clock, with 43 seconds left.
Seattle runs again on the third and three, gaining four yards and getting a new set of downs. Now Seattle has an incentive to try to score. After taking their second timeout, the Seahawks reel off a 34-yard pass play, and Russell Wilson then scrambles for another 29 yards. Seattle has two shots at a touchdown from the Packers’ 15, but the Green Bay defense continues to be rock-solid, so Seattle settles for a chip-shot field goal as time runs out. A touchdown under those circumstances would have been psychologically devastating.
The two McCarthy timeouts were more than just dumb. Big Mike gifted the Hawks a halftime lead when they weren’t even inclined to try to score. It switched the momentum – after the Packers had held it for 29 minutes, and gave Seattle a spark as the receiving team to start the third quarter.
Here’s why McCarthy’s strategy was stupendously dumb. Big Mike was obviously hoping he’d regain possession and launch a final drive to close out the half. But if Seattle doesn’t get the first down on the 3rd-and-3 (assuming they didn’t stop the clock with an incomplete pass, which they didn’t), then there is just under 40 seconds left and Green Bay is out of timeouts. The Seahawks would have let the clock run out without even needing to punt the ball away. Because of your two timeouts, coach, your team wasn’t going to get the ball back even if Seattle didn’t convert on that third down.
McCarthy Doesn’t Listen, Doesn’t Learn
If our head coach would follow Total Packers, maybe he’d cut down on such dumb-ass mistakes. Just two days before Sunday’s game, I spoke of New England coach Belichick making much the same blunder on Thursday against Kansas City, adding:
“Mike McCarthy has done this – and had it come back to bite him – three or four times in the past two years. The Chiefs got a first down, kept the drive alive, and – helped by their opponent stopping the clock – scored in the final seconds of the half. It’s a bad percentage choice. Save the timeout until you are sure you’re getting the ball back.”
Outside of this coaching blunder, and one other drive leading to a field goal, the Seahawks were thoroughly stifled by the Packers’ defense. While the Packers’ D gave a great effort and a great start to a promising season, the head coach put the game in jeopardy by his continued clock management stupidity.
These blunders constituted the high point of Seattle’s afternoon. For that, I trust the Seahawks will award you a game ball, Mike – you certainly earned it.