Monday, September 21, 2009

McCarthy Should Have Gone for the Touchdown First.

I haven't heard a lot of chatter about McCarthy's decision to take the field goal on second down at the Bengal's 27. Which is surprising, because there is no doubt that McCarthy made the wrong decision. McCarthy should have gone for the touchdown first.

There are two reasons. First, by scoring the touchdown the Packers would have at least preserved the possibility of winning the game in regulation by scoring another touchdown. Think back to the game against Chicago. With the receiving corps that the Packers have it is not that far-fetched to imagine the Packers winning the game in the final seconds. But by kicking the field goal first, McCarthy took the win off the table and the best the Packers could hope for was to send the game to overtime.

Second, you should save the field goal for last because you can kick a field goal from various places, but you have to get to the endzone to score a touchdown. Put another way, the Packers needed a touchdown and a field goal. Obvious. But the Packers did not need a touchdown and a 45 yard field goal. But once they kicked the field goal, that's what they were locked in to.

Think about it this way, once the Packers kicked the field goal, they had to drive 57 yards just to tie the game with a touchdown. But had they first scored a touchdown, they would have only needed to drive 24 yards to try a 50 yard field goal, 19 yards to set up a 55 yard field goal, or 14 yards to try winging a 60 yard field goal. Add in the 27 yard to the endzone and the Packers would have needed a total of 51 yards for a touchdown and 50 yard field goal try, 46 yards for a touchdown and a 55 yard field goal try, or 41 yards for a touchdown and a 60 yard field goal try. But the Packers didn't even have the option of trying a long field goal because McCarthy locked the team into a 45 yard field goal try, and locked the team into needing to drive 57 yards for the tie.

Did it ultimately matter? It's tough to say. The most improbable part of the comeback effort was the onsides kick, which was successful. But think about this: after the Packers got the ball back it took 27 seconds to get to the Bengals' 35 yard line and spike the ball into the turf.

In an alternate universe could the Packers have scored a touchdown and recovered the onsides kick with 28 seconds remaining allowing the Packers to attempt a 52 yard field goal? We will never know. But it was at least possible. McCarthy's job is to preserve these possibilities. His job is to put his team in the best position to win. He failed yesterday.

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