On November 16 I posted: “Tell you what – if Big Mike stays predictable against the Ravens, the Packers could easily go scoreless.” Pretty crazy prediction, right? The Green Bay Packers hadn’t been held scoreless at Lambeau Field since 2006 – when Brett Favre left the game in the first half with an elbow injury, leading to a 35-0 loss to New England.
On November 19, coach Mike McCarthy stayed predictable in his play calls. The result: Ravens 23, Packers 0.
I just went back and reviewed the stats and film of the Ravens’ game, focusing on Big Mike’s play calling.
The defense more than lived up to its challenge against the Ravens. It held Joe Flacco to 183 yards of passing and Baltimore only gained 58 yards on the ground on 26 carries. Baltimore was also scoreless until the third quarter, but three turnovers on downs, three interceptions, and two lost fumbles took their toll as the game wore on. This was a game Green Bay should have won.
One creative play call: on Green Bay’s opening drive, Brett Hundley rolled left, and passed deep across the field to Davante Adams. The pass was short, but caught for a 33-yard gain. This was a great surprise call – a good throw would have resulted in an easy touchdown.
On the Pack’s second possession, on a 3rd-and-4, Hundley hit Jordy Nelson on a simple slant for nine yards. Not creative, but still a fine call. The quick slant across the middle is simply the hardest play to stop in third-and-medium situations.
On the third drive, they were again moving when Devante Mays fumbled the ball away – the first fumble by a Packers’ running back all season.
McCarthy’s reaction was to abandon all thoughts of creative play calling. He played not to lose, or not to lose worse, the rest of the way. It was short passes and runs up the middle, along with a bundle of sacks. I believe that all of Jamaal Williams’ 18 runs were inside the tackles.
The Packers, bravely or desperately, did go for it on three fourth downs in the second half. On a 4th-and-6, Hundley rolled right and was sacked without making a throw. On a 4th-and-1, Jamaal Williams was stopped just short when he went straight up the middle – it was the same play they used to convert a fourth down in the first half, but the Ravens were not fooled twice. On the last fourth down call, Hundley again scrambled and got sacked without even getting a throw off. These were two inexcusable blunders by Hundley.
There was one more creative play call, midway through the third quarter: on a 3rd-and-6, Jordy Nelson slanted all the way across the field and was open deep. Hundley spotted him and had time, but overthrew his receiver. A decent throw here would have been a momentum-changing big play.
The Packers offense had ample opportunities – 13 offensive drives in the game. The first half results: Int – Int – Fumble – Punt – Punt. The second half was worse: Downs – Punt – Downs – Punt – Fumble – Downs – Int – Punt. On third and fourth downs, the Packers were 5-of-17. In the team’s one red zone incursion, on the opening drive, Hundley’s short pass to Randall Cobb was picked off in the end zone.
The way I see it, Big Mike’s play calling was at its best against the Bears and the Steelers, and the offense played well enough to win both games. His play calling against the Saints was terrible. Against the Ravens, Hundley played his worst game, and deserved to be pulled, but it didn’t help that McCarthy lost all confidence in him after that bad first half, and spent the second half being his old predictable play-calling self.
Big Mike should either have continued to be creative in his calls, or he should have brought in Joe Callahan to play the second half. He did neither, and there went the season.