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Was 4th-and-Inches A Lack of Confidence in Crosby?

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Was 4th-and-Inches A Lack of Confidence in Crosby?

There's certainly no shortage of blame to be spread around today, following the Packers' heartbreaking 34-30 loss on Sunday to the Cincinnati Bengals. Even if the Pack had pulled it out and won the game, the disjointed feeling would still have been a dark cloud in the face of victory.

Where do you start? Jeremy Ross's early fumble on a kick return that put the Packers in a 14-0 hole? Injuries that took out three pivotal starters before the first half ended? Aaron Rodgers' worst game as a starter, followed up by a near-meltdown on the sideline with coach McCarthy? Or, once again, the defense becoming a sieve late in the game, allowing a team that was down by 16 points to claw their way back?

After a win, I always like to look for the unsung hero (or heroic decision) of the game; and after a loss, I look for the hidden mistake that came back to haunt the team. This week, my suspect is Mike McCarthy's decision to pass over Crosby when he probably shouldn't have.

With just over three minutes to go, the Packers had an apparent first down on a drive to put away the game, ahead by three points. After a long booth review put the Packers on fourth-and-inches instead, McCarthy was left with a critical choice: go for it on fourth down, or kick a field goal.

Mason Crosby was trying to send every message that he was ready and willing to attempt the 48-yard field goal, warming up a few feet in from the sideline, right in McCarthy's sight line. Crosby didn't want McCarthy to forget that kicking a field goal was an option.

But therein lies the conundrum. Kicking a field goal would have put the Packers up by six points with just over three minutes to go, and the Bengals would likely be starting well on their own side of the field. They would have to make it all the way into the endzone to take the game away. It's a decision that many coaches have had to face in the history of the NFL--play it safe, take the points, and trust your defense to do its job; or, send your offense out and try and pick up the first down and keep moving downfield.

Both decisions have risks. A missed field goal gives the Bengals great field position and the opportunity to kick their own field goal to send the game into overtime. But, as we saw, going for it comes with its own set of risks, too...not just turning the ball over on downs, but the risk of turning the ball over.

The point is, following Crosby's historically bad 2012 campaign, I don't think McCarthy felt confident enough to put the ball on his foot to win or lose the game. Maybe, seven times out of ten, you make that call to go for it on fourth down.

But, Rodgers had thrown interceptions on his last two offensive possessions, and Johnathan Franklin was still getting his first carries as an NFL player, and powering his way into a goal line defense could never have been thought of as one of his strengths. But even with all of those concerns, I don't think McCarthy truly considered going any other way.

This is where having a kicker you can't trust hurts a team in critical situations. We watched McCarthy pass over long field goal attempts over and over during the latter portion of 2012, almost always choosing to go for it on fourth down. He wasn't going to put Crosby in the position to be the goat in a win-or-lose situation.

But today was probably the day to have tried the field goal. If Rodgers had his usual focus, go for it. If John Kuhn was healthy and playing, go for it. Mason Crosby was ready and willing. He's fought his way through a preseason competition and came out on top. As a seventh-year veteran, he's no longer in a position to have his self-esteem handled with kid gloves, as you might do with Franklin.

Fans frustrated with this situation have predicted that one day, Mason Crosby will lose a game for the Packers. On Sunday, he may have lost a game for the Packers without even kicking.

Comments (34)

Evan's picture

I think it had less to do with not trusting Crosby and more to do with not wanting to give the Bengals the ball back with that much time down just 6. I think it was the right call, wrong play.

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

That's my take as well.

Mojo's picture

Agree on all counts Evan.

chazman's picture

Concur. The Zone Blocking Scheme we run isn't geared for power football especially against the Cincinnati front. What is the harm in spreading everybody out? Franklin (to my surprise) was doing an excellent job finding the holes.

Irish_Cheesehead's picture

Exactly. Going for it was definitely the right call. Having the smallest guy on the field stuff the line was the mistake. Had it been Lacy, I would have agreed with the call.

Barutan Seijin's picture

My thoughts exactly. If he really did have confidence in Crosby, i think he would have sent him out there.

It was a tougher kick than the three he hit, and that may have given McCarthy pause.

I think he would have missed. Were they on the right hash?

Packfan988's picture

I agree with the right call and bad play. Should of went with a play action or quick pass

jmac3444's picture

this had nothing to do with crosby and everything with putting the game away. If GB gets the first down on that play they win the game

Norman's picture

This.

QOTSA1's picture

I think the decision to go for it has less to do with their faith in Crosby, and more to do with their lack of faith in the defense. And I like the decision, I just hated the play call.

Does any Packer fan think that if the Packers were up by 6 with a few minutes left, that the Bengals wouldn't march right down the field and score a touchdown?

I don't know what it is, but this team stinks when having to come back in the 4th quarter. The defense can't hold a lead, Crosby has been unreliable when the game is on the line, and for whatever reason, Rodgers is a different QB in these situations. I know wins and losses is not a quarterback statistic, but 0-20 when down to a .500 team in the 4th quarter is a pretty sad statistic.

Breadman's picture

Totally Agree, I have no confidence in this defense. Lose by 1 or lose by 4, who cares. Both sides of the ball looked out of it today. Luckily Bengals offense played like crap today, gave GB a chance to pull out a win.

green bowl packer's picture

Terrible play call...running right into their strength... it is easy to say in hindsight. Having time to think about it and you come up with running your rookie right at there strength. ..just the wrong call. I was hoping they would take just one shot down the field in the last drive...I do believe the pack will be just fine and are still superbowl contenders without a doubt.

Hans Vetter's picture

Are injuries going to control our Future?
If so season over.

Taco's picture

Lack of trust in the defense, IMO. Especially the pass D. They were on the ropes. Packers offense should be able to get 1 foot when they need it. Just a poor play call there. Running little Franklin through the tackles is one MM would like to have back I'm sure.

Will admit the Crosby angle did cross my mind at the time. But that really didn't factor in, I don't think.

Tony's picture

This seems trollish.

chicago hooligan's picture

No kidding. The same writer posted a long article criticizing Crosby just before the season, and now after a couple weeks (11 straight games if you include pre- and post-season) Crosby hasn't missed any kicks, so what to do? Write an article blaming him for kicks he hasn't even attempted, I guess.

dawg's picture

Just a horrible feeling the entire game, nobody seamed focused!
Bad management by MM!
Enter the game w/ 2 running backs, and one is a rookie which never played a down? WTF

And then have him run 4th and one with a twisted ankle? Game on the line!^$#@
Come on MAN !

dawg's picture

Why is it Chicago became so dominate this season?

It's called coaching!
Damb basturds!
MM better not lose to the Bears!!!!!!!

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

I don't know which Chicago team you've been watching, but I've watched quite a bit of duh bares, and they are far from dominant. Hell, a bad Squeeler team gave em a run, Cinci was up 11 on em late and gifted them a W.

You shouldn't fear anybody in our division, I sense a clean sweep.

dawg's picture

They just blew away Blizburg, which game are you watching?
And are 3-0??????????
Which last I checked, we are 2 games behind!

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

LMAO, that ain't your grand-pappy's Squeeler team. This ain't '95, Blitzburgh is long dead.

We sweep duh bares. Book it.

Irish_Cheesehead's picture

Dominate after just 3 games? LMAO!

Rymetyme's picture

This loss goes on the coaches and Aaron Rodgers. Going into a game with 2 RBs -- one with a long injury history -- and an underwhelming and fumble-prone return man were two coaching errors occurring before the game even started.

Still think Rodgers is the king of the NFL, of course, but he laid a stinker. Would hate to be Detroit's D in two weeks, he will bring it all and then some.

WKUPackFan's picture

Don't think it had anything to do with Crosby. The kick was also into the wind. Nugent missed from 52 in the same direction I believe. I think MM wanted to put the game away and agreed with the decision.

Also agree with those above that was a poor play call. There was so much time to select a play, you just have to wonder what was going through MM's mind. Sometimes even the smartest people can think their way to a poor decision.

tundravision's picture

I think play selection was a problem all game long. Franklin's explosive play probably made the playcalling look better than it really was.

As for Nugent, let's not compare apples and oranges. Nugent can't kick a 50+yarder to save his life, and his attempt was off the moment it hit his foot. It still had the distance, though.

We cut Tavecchio because we were afraid he wouldn't have the leg to kick in unfriendly conditions. Well, spaghetti sauce, there was the conditions we kept Crosby for.

Fi crane's picture

I think he has to coach like Crosby is an average nfl kicker. They make 47 yard field goals.

Jyros's picture

Moot point re: Crosby and FG. Poor play call and some bad personnel choices by MM and coaching staff.

Trent's picture

This fourth down call shouldn't be the controversial one. Settling for a field goal when it's fourth-and-goal at less than a yard should be the controversial call.

Ma Linger's picture

Crosby hasn't missed a thing to date. No I think going for it was the smart move. A smarter move would be to use a big tight end as the lead blocker. You only needed a half yard.

mudduckcheesehead's picture

How'd the Vikes do today?

tundravision's picture

By the way, I want to make it perfectly clear that I agree, nine times out of ten, Mike McCarthy makes the right call in going for it on 4th and inches in that situation.

I don't think it was the right call on Sunday, and while I can't back up the fact that I said, "I'd be kicking it here" before Franklin's fumble (since I was watching it on DVR-delay), I did.

Rodgers had thrown interceptions on his last two possessions. Franklin is a scatback and was on a bum ankle. I will have to also agree that McCarthy probably had just as much faith in his defense as he did in either his offense or his kicker at that point, but its not the point.

Yes, you go for the jugular and "play to win the game". But the Packers weren't playing like the Packers, and the end result of that play just backed it up.. We can debate seven million other potential plays MM could have called there, and every one could have ended up as disasterous as the Franklin fumble.

The field goal attempt would have put the guy WHO HASN'T MISSED A FIELD GOAL ALL SEASON out there to make it a six point game. Crosby needs to have this chance to put a game away.

Sure, the Bengals might have driven down the field and scored with a few seconds remaining, but hey...that's what happened anyway. The offense looked even worse on the ensuing drive.

You can tell me all week how MM made the right decision, wrong call. I still think the field goal was the right move to make under the circumstances, and I don't think MM was confident in Crosby to make it an option.

Evan's picture

" The offense looked even worse on the ensuing drive."

Really? I thought they were moving the ball pretty smoothly until those last 3 plays.

tundravision's picture

Did they score? No. Did they need to score to win the game? Yes. Failure.

Three balls batted down at the line. The Bengals took away the sidelines (except for one play) and allowed only nickel/dime plays.

That was not the offense we've come to expect with the highest-paid player in the NFL and the deepest WR squad in the NFL. The Packers last four possessions resulted in an interception, and interception, a fumble for a touchdown, and a turnover on downs on a batted ball.

Bibbon Hazel's picture

Thats on MAshed Potato Mike. Roll the pocket after the first two batted balls. Dont do the same thing on 4th down only to have it batted again for game over. Go for it on forth down, yes. Run a single back dive with a 185lbs running back into the best Dline in the NFL with the one of the NFL's weakest olines blocking straight on, NO NO NO?? If there was ever a time to get creative it was that forth down. Im more comforatble with a sneak or a boot leg, not a single back dive with circumstances listed above. Mashed Potato Mike scheming again! Still should have won if not for an unlucky bounce...Oh well, its early

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