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Did Mike McCarthy go into Conservative Turtle Mode 2nd Half vs. the Lions?

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Did Mike McCarthy go into Conservative Turtle Mode 2nd Half vs. the Lions?

With an offensive explosion and 31-10 halftime lead, it was evident the Packers were banging the drum towards Mike McCarthy’s 106th regular season win with ease. 
The Detroit Lions stormed back in the second half through an impressive aerial attack to within just 7 points before the Packers moved the chains enough times to get into victory formation and close the door. 
From afar it appeared that McCarthy took the foot off the gas, and the offense played conservative to preserve the victory. This is a lazy sentiment that I saw repeatedly when reading reviews of the game, and was not how I interpreted the second half of play. 
The first “conservative” drive of the second half resulted in 9 plays for 47 yards and finished with a 46-yard Mason Crosby field goal. Of the 9 plays, 5 were Eddie Lacy carries for 30 productive yards. Aaron Rodgers dropped back for the other 4 plays and completed 1 pass for 13 yards on a short strike to Justin Perillo that picked up 13 yards. Rodgers scrambled on 2 of those 4 drop backs including the 19-yard scramble that was called back because of a drive killing Brian Bulaga hold, and the 14-yard scramble that put Crosby and the Packers into field goal range.
The second drive only went 5 plays for 20 yards, but it wasn’t tentative play-calling for the Packers. As was with the majority of plays in the second half, this drive’s most productive plays were runs from Eddie Lacy. The fourth year running back took the first 3 plays for carries totaling 20 yards. It was actually a 2nd down sack from Haloti Ngata and an incomplete 3rd down pass that ended this drive in the early part of the 4th quarter. It was at this point with 9:42 left in the game that Jacob Schum punted for the first time all afternoon. 
3 plays for 8 yards, now that has to be a team failing to play aggressive on their third series. Wrong again, as the Packers threw on first down in which Rodgers hit Trevor Davis, but the rookie failed to make the catch. The drive ended on a dump pass to James Starks in which he fell two yards short of the first down. Again, it’s not like the Mike Holmgren era where they would run 3 times and punt. 
It shouldn’t need to be explained, but the fourth offensive drive of the second half was aggressive and closed the door on the Lions’ chances for a second straight Lambeau Field victory. After two short runs, Aaron Rodgers scrambled for 9 yards on 3rd down to move the sticks. After a 9-yard completion to Davante Adams, Eddie Lacy burst through the Lions for 9 more back-breaking yards to seal the Packers second victory. 
While it’d been great for the Packers to dominate the second half just like they did the first, I don’t think it was due to being too conservative. On paper, they might have had more success in the second half had they handed off to Eddie Lacy every single play. While this isn’t reasonable, it is true that most of their shortcomings happened when they were trying to be aggressive and throw the ball in the second half. Overall, the game plan was fine in the second half it was just the execution that was lacking. 
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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (51) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Spud Rapids's picture

This is spot on and glad you addressed this. I think people are confusing intent with results. The Packers didn't intend to play conservative the results just look like they did. The defense was on the field for forever in that second half.

DrealynWilliams's picture

"The defense was on the field for forever in that second half."

Absolutely. After watching the game for a 2nd time I was in disbelief that the 1st time the Offense got the ball in the 2nd half was around 8 minutes and some change. I thought I had skipped passed a drive.

Duke Divine's picture

Agreed. The play action fake to Lacy, that faked the go route to Davis, the same go route that went for a 66 yard defensive PI in first half, was a genius play call and hardly "conservative." Davis just dropped the comeback route. That particular play and Bulaga's holding penalty were player execution failures, that prevented 2 first downs that would have iced the game much earlier. Not to mention the dropped ints on the defensive side. This game wasn't close from a coaching standpoint. Right away I bitched about Dom going into a zone in the 2nd half but re-watching I see that guys are in position (unless it's the middle of the field) to make plays defending the pass. Just two more plays that were there for the taking, out of many opportunities, and it's a laugher. Domfounded Capers and Mashed Potato Mike owned the Lions and the young Packers made some young (negative/learning) plays that prolonged an inevitable win. THe bright side!! Burnett and Clay will be back too!

Horse's picture

Execution was lacking along with ARip and Cook, who were out of the game, which might have had something to do with that.

Lphill's picture

Yes he did as well as Capers .

The TKstinator's picture

Opinions are like.....
Everyone has one.

Duke Divine's picture

So Dom dropped the 3-4 interceptions?

croatpackfan's picture

It is normal. He is not as fast & quick as he was when he was younger... We have to take his age in consideration. But, he, after all, played well... ~~

pacman's picture

I missed the 2nd half so can someone enlighten me? Did one penalty and one drop account for all the differences between the 1st and 2nd half? Did Rodgers have to scramble more in the 2nd half? Did Detroit correct things in the 2nd half and cover better and did the Packers not find an adjustment to that?

NMPF's picture

not including the 3 kneels at the end the game I believe the break down was 15 runs 6 passes. granted 2 Rodgers runs were broken pass plays.

Chad Lundberg's picture

Well, let me think. Uhm... YES!!

Let me be perfectly clear, I am perfectly fine with MM's approach to draining out the clock. Several advantages include less risk to iniury, less tape for opponents to study, and one other thing I cant remember for some reason.

Heres my problem: MM will still go ultra conservative about 5 or 10 mintues too early when a comeback is still possible. But more importantly, he'll do it regardless of whether or not its working. Best example is when in the NFC Championship game, he began running the ball against an 8 box of tough Seahawks defenders. An IMPOSSIBLE scenario. Yet he kept running Lacy again and again despite it having no chance of working.

In Sundays game, I had no problem with the approach because clearly it was effective. And I knew Packers would win simply because I knew that the Packers they could score again if they needed to. What I cant stand is how he seems to repeat the mistake of forcing it over and over again when he clearly needs to establish a more sure handed victory first.

Chad Lundberg's picture

Did we "win" the game in 2014?

The TKstinator's picture

I thought this was about Sunday vs the Lions.

Chad Lundberg's picture

This isn't about my feelings towards an event, this is about an example of how MM is a very conservative play-caller, stick to the subject at hand and don't try to change it.

If the future holds more of McCarthy doing the same, there's an increased chance that the past will repeat itself. Against a tough opponent, in a critical game, I hope he runs that damn score up as high as it can possibly go.

croatpackfan's picture

No, we do not. But I think I saw your comment before that NFCCG how Packers need to release Bostick from the roster, because, if not, that will cost them win at "Home of 12th". I remembered your comment immediatelly after Bostick screwed on side kick and told to myself - wow, how clever is that man. He knew exactly who will be guilty one...

Nick Perry's picture

To think there were several Bostick supporters out there at one time thinking he could be a TE similar to Finley, even though he never showed anything remotely close.

MITM's picture

The fact that this is even a discussion proves the point that Mccarthy is absolutely guilty of doing this in the past. He cost us the NFCCG in Seattle, forget Burnett forget Bostick that blood is on Mccarthys hands. I admittedly did not see the 2nd half of Sundays game I just remember checking the score at halftime and then once again when the game was over and being stunned.

marpag1's picture

"The fact that this is even a discussion proves the point that Mccarthy is absolutely guilty of doing this in the past. "

Exactly. And the fact that people keep talking about little green men from Mars proves beyond all doubt that there absolutely are little green men on Mars.

The TKstinator's picture

Just heard Bigfoot knocking on a tree in the woods behind my house.

marpag1's picture

Hey, hey... focus, people! This is about MM and the little green men from Mars. Maybe you've heard that everyone is talking about them?

PS - These days he prefers to be called Sasquatch. Politically correct, you know...

croatpackfan's picture

Hilarious! ^^^^^^^^

MITM's picture

So you're saying that he isn't guilty of doing this in the past? I'm confused. Your witty response really has my head spinning.

RCPackerFan's picture

Very well written.

I didn't feel McCarthy was conservative in the 2nd half. Maybe he didn't throw it as much as he ran it, but Lacy got hot, and you ride your hot hand.

My favorite was the final drive. One set of downs then burned 2 of the Lions timeouts. After they got a first down, on the next play he throws to Adams for a 9 yards. Setting up a 2nd and 1. Perfectly executed. If McCarthy was conservative he would have ran it there.

DrealynWilliams's picture

I'd like to think that 2nd pass to Adams was a "my bad" pass since he missed Adams over the middle on the previous play, lol.

Portland Mark's picture

Lets not forget the 3 dropped ints. If the defense makes 2 of those picks and Davis doesn't drop that pass, it's likely a Packer blow out win.

Since '61's picture

Tyler - your analysis off the Packer's offense in the second half is spot on. Take away the Bulaga hold and we likely score another TD on that drive. If not a TD, at least an FG, but with another 2 minutes off the clock. If Trevor makes his catch who knows how long that drive would have lasted. The problem in the second half was not the Packer's offense but the inability of the Packer's defense to get off the field. The dropped interceptions were among the defensive failures. When you play with a lead it is up to the defense to shut down the opponents. It is not up to the offense to keep scoring but to run off as much clock as possible without risking turnovers which will enable the opponent to make a successful comeback. If you can run the clock and continue to score that's great but to accomplish that the defense needs to get off the field without allowing the opponent to score. It's not a matter of conservative or aggressive it's a matter of situational football and executing appropriately. Don't expect MM to coach towards enhancing fantasy football results or playing for the point spread. He doesn't and shouldn't care about those things. The bottom line is that his strategy worked because the Packers won the game. That's all that matters, case closed. Thanks, Since '61

croatpackfan's picture

Very well explained. And I would like to add one more thing. D was playing injured and ill. They were fatigued because they rotation whole game was pretty affected by injuries. Take all that inb consideration. I'm not worried how many yards they left for Lions in pass game, but only in few long plays. Both long plays - end of first half (rookie mistake) and that 73 yards TD (over Randall, who played sick!) are acceptable because of gaining exparience. But, w/o those 2 plays, Lions would be 7 points less and they would consume much more time to achieve same result as 73 yarder...

Since '61's picture

Croat - excellent points about the defensive injuries. CM3, Shields, and Burnett could have made a difference in the final result. The players that we did have on the field had their chances to make 3 interceptions. Holding on to one or two of those picks would have changed the final result as well. The key for this version of the Packers is not to beat themselves. They had no turnovers versus the Lions. They need to play clean and win then field position battle. The defense is playing well enough to win. Combine that with clean and efficient offensive play and the Packers will be fine. Hopefully, all of our injured defenders will return after the bye. Go Pack Go! Thanks, Since '61

PETER MAIZ's picture

Croat, the fatigue issue for the defense made McCarthy wisely run Lacy a lot the second half. The more time he kept the offense on the field, the more the defense had a chance to rest. This is my opinion.

guzzi2000's picture

I guess that's one way to look at it. However, recent history shows that the longer the Packers defense is
on the field leads tend to disappear. If you are having
success putting points on the board why would you
change the approach. Force the other team to stop your offense.

The TKstinator's picture

They should throw on every down in the second half. That way nobody will think MM is going conservative.
Unless all the passes get dropped.
Dropped passes are conservative.
Or if there are holding penalties.
Holding penalties are very conservative.


Since '61's picture

TK - well played! Thanks, Since '61

Norm's picture

"However, recent history shows that the longer the Packers defense is on the field leads tend to disappear."

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that's true of every team with the lead, not just the Packers.

pacman's picture

This is a very good topic for discussion and all seem to agree that MM did not go conservative (at least not much). So this is a big improvement. But my question was more about adjustments. Was the Detroit D better in the 2nd half? The article lists Rodgers scrambling. Even though it seemed to work, did Rodgers go more conservative? Just asking.

4thand1's picture

It's about AR not taking chances with the ball. If a pass play looks even a little "iffy", he's pulling it down and running. After the int in MN that sealed the game, he wasn't about to give the lions any extra chances. The Packers won the turn over battle, by 1 and won by 1 score. Even though they should've had 3 more picks and really buried the lions.

Finwiz's picture

They should be running double the drills on the jugs machine for ALL those DB's, so catching a damn football is 2nd nature. This has been an issue for the last few years. Harken back to the playoff game a few years ago against SF where we could have sealed the victory if Hyde holds onto the ball in the flat that he undercut perfectly and hit him right in the hands. That game was over, but old butter-fingers dropped another one, just like last Sunday. Drill them on the jugs until their hands hurt.

croatpackfan's picture

Yeah - I think there is one problem with Micah Hyde. He can not catch throw that is tossed properly. But, when you have to catch the ball on artistic way, Hyde is my favorite... Remember last season, that highlighted interception with one hand?

Bearmeat's picture


The problem with the offense in blowouts is that AR and MM play the percentages. Just like Capers does.

The real issue on Sunday was that the defense was down 5 key starters. I don't care how you slice it, that game wouldn't have been close with even 3 of them in there.

Lphill's picture

You can't start burning the clock at the beginning of the 3 rd quarter which is what MM thinks, you have to keep scoring in today's NFL , this was evident after the big 73 yard play right before the half. This should have been a laugher not a squeaker , burn the clock in the 4 th quarter with a fresh Lacy .

PaulRosik's picture

The Packers were never trying to run the clock in this game other than the final drive. They ran Lacy because it was working and if anything they should have given him five more carries or so rather than getting sacked and having to punt. I get it you are punishing the coach for his sins of two years ago, but in this game no conservatism was seen. In fact not this season at all, if he had been more conservative he would have kicked the field goal instead of going for it on 4th and one and maybe the Packers beat the Vikings.

pacman's picture

I think MM had change a while back and decided to shake things up and get more aggressive. Hence the firing of many coaches and his tone seems to have changed. And the beard. But he seems to get caught up in the moment. Unusual that he went for it on 4th and 1. But not when your team hasn't been playing well except for that drive!

Being a head coach is 'the buck stops here' job. So he will get the credit when things work and take the blame when they don't. He's not getting paid just to show up every day. Does anyone really care if we win the division? It's another SB or bust year! Let's get healthy and win the rest of the games.

Houndog's picture

This may have been the first time in a long time that McPuffy didn't go conservative, but I was thinking it at the end of the first half!
Why Capers decided not to cover "center field"? That's a whole separate discussion I guess.

rdent's picture

After looking at the 2 half again,I think it was penalties and poor execution and the defense inability get off the field more than being conservative

stockholder's picture

They Won. Thats the bottom Line. Odds are he'll do it again. Mike's thinking- No mercy rule in football. Why Try.

packrat's picture

I agree with finwiz. I recall when GB had so many interceptions, led by Woodson. Woodson heavily encouraged the other DBs to join him at the Jugs machine and Interceptions rose.

croatpackfan's picture

I agree. Let's sign Woodson. As far as I heard he is FA, so maybe we can get him for small money?

daveh's picture

I hate to be pessmimistic but I believe McCarthy days have come and gone.He is to predictable, and at times looks confused, and doesn't seem to make half time adjustments. The Packers are very talented team, just need a new leader. Just my opinon

sheppercheeser's picture

Well, if it wasn't conservative play, then it was either a poor adjustment by the coaching staff at halftime and/or poor player execution. You don't score 31 points in one half and only 3 in the second half and say "oh well".

carusotrap's picture

The real question is WHY the team execution went in the toilet in the 2nd half. Youth? Complacency? DET adjustments? Number 1 is on the personnel philosophy. Youth is cheap, but you'd better be ready for dropped INTs. (Although, Cook....). Number 2 seems to be about coaching. Number 3 is football.

packrat's picture

Jordy was out and a lot of younger players were getting reps.

PETER MAIZ's picture

The defense was on the field forever during the second half so they must have been very exhausting. McCarthy kept on hitting with Lacy to extend the offense's time on the field as this gave the defense a necessary breather and a bit of time to rest. This is how I see it. As starters return to their defensive positions, the team should be more effective stopping drives by opposing teams.
I like this year's team but the rookies and sophomores are still going through their learning experience.

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