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When McCarthy Calls "A Shot"

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When McCarthy Calls "A Shot"

Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy is an emotional guy and sometimes, just sometimes, it effects the coaching job he does on the sidelines. He's admitted as much in press conferences, such as after a Monday night game against the Ravens in '09 that his challenge of a Baltimore touchdown was an "emotional" decision.

And while he's never admitted as much publicly, I'm willing to bet the same holds true for his playcalling.

We've already learned that McCarthy did away with the traditional "openers" (the scripting of the first 15-20 plays). But I've also suspected that McCarthy's "shot" plays, where he tries to take shots deep down field, are more predicated upon his emotions than any down and distance or field position.

The first time I noticed it was back in 2009 in the first quarter of the matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers. After the Packers began the game with a three and out, the Steelers opened with a roll out of Ben Rothelisberger who threw a deep touchdown to then-rookie receiver Mike Wallace.

Three and out, then one play - Packers down 7.

So what does McCarthy call on for the very next offensive play?

You just know that was in direct response to the shot from the Steelers.

McCarthy does this quite a bit, and I love it. He'll use a deep shot as an attempt to swing the emotion of a game (not to mention the field position). I suppose all deep pass plays do that in some respect, but McCarthy's feel more "from the gut", if that makes sense. (I realize I'm doing a poor job of explaining this. But that's kind of the point. McCarthy is hard to pin down analytically and I like that.)

Another instance where I'm pretty sure we saw this come into play is the touchdown to Greg Jennings against the Dolphins last year. Tramon Williams had just picked the ball off. The Packers offense had not done much up to that point, though they had managed to put three points up on the board.

Then McCarthy went for it all.

Interestingly enough, its roughly the same field position as the shot in the Steelers game. Similar concept too, though not quite the same personnel and the protection is different, not to mention Jennings runs a very different route.

But the boot-out-of-playaction with a shot down the right sideline is there. And this time, Rodgers connects.

First, looking at the All-22 shows us how the lone high-safety takes the underneath route, seeing the "drag" break into the open.

What I love about the design of this play is that any time this is run against a lone high-safety, the defender will more often than not jump that drag route, thinking that Jennings is running an "out".

Speaking of Jennings, just look at this route. Jennings is simply too good a route runner for this to be anything other than a huge gain, if not a touchdown. This is also a perfect demonstration of why you simply can not give Jennings a free release off the line of scrimmage. He's just too smooth in and out of his breaks. He'll kill you every time he's allowed to roam free off the line.

As I just mentioned, there's no way this play gets off without first-rate protection. Bryan Bulaga had all sorts of problems with Cameron Wake in this game (hey, what offensive tackle didn't in '10?) but the Packers catch a break as the Dolphins have him lined up on the opposite side of the formation to where Rodgers is rolling out. Donald Lee and Korey Hall take care of the defensive end while the other outside linebacker drops into a zone while the interior of the line picks up the A Gap blitz.

In other words: Perfection.

Put it all together and I don't know what the eff  it means, but you got some bad-ass perpetrators and they're here to stay.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (33) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

alexwoodsIAM's picture

nice job aaron. Also reminds me of the Wildcard game against the cardz.

bigfog's picture

I still get bummed when I think about that game. It was won, all Rodgers and Jennings had to do was connect on that pass!


PackersRS's picture

Is it that much strange that I get a huge boner seeing Jennings run that route? That and the triple move he put on Asher Allen, that's just poetry in motion man.

packeraaron's picture

That move on Allen is just ridiculous.

Jim's picture

He's so fluid it almost looks like slow motion, makes it look like he's not even trying.

Tommyboy's picture

I'm not a big Collinsworth fan, but I LOVED his call of that play. He just started rollin' when he saw that on the replay. It was just plain sick.

Dolomighty00's picture

Best line from this is the last: "bad-ass perpetrators and they're here to stay". Im going to be working that into my conversations for the rest of the day.

packeraaron's picture

Great. The best line is the one I didn't write. ;)

Cole's picture

Love when you put up the vids.

nick's picture

That is why getting more protection in the draft was so important. Protect the franchise and good things happen.

redlights's picture


Pack Morris's picture

Awesome post, Aaron.

packeraaron's picture

Thanks man.

MadMan's picture

Great post Aaron. I love how the website has grown over the last two years and all the new staff additions, But this type of post is what I most look forward too. You are informative in the breakdown of plays with the use of video and that get's me excited for the season to begin.

packeraaron's picture

Thanks very much.

some guy's picture

agreed with the above - good post.

really love when the videos are incorporated...

Vrog's picture


MarkinMadison's picture

One small thing I noticed on the Jennings TD catch and run. He must have thought the defender had him. So he breaks left about 15 degrees and uses the ref to set a pic. Sweet.

LED's picture

Needed this a lot. I feel like I don't quite appreciate the games in real time during the season because there's so much emotion involved. There so much to comb through and the off season is a great platform to do so. Hats off Nagler. Somewhere in the greater Chicago area Matt Bowen is sipping his coffee and smiling.

I stand pat in my belief that McCarthy is a great play caller. Some believe he's a liability having the job. No, they really do. Yes, the offense regressed early in '10. I think Ryan Grant being out was the biggest reason, and Finley added to that. Some would say it's the other way around, and I wouldn't tell them they're wrong, but I believe Grant was a bigger part even if he's not the better player. Anyway it's not important, there are many reasons they get into droughts. Rodgers, in all his greatness, is still fine tuning his game.

At the end of the day, we've all yet to see McCarthy's offense put together a great year, wks. 1-16 in the dominating fashion they're capable of. I would like to see them click for an entire season, if I may be selfish for a moment.

Bearmeat's picture

If they do that, you can start clearing the place on your wall for the back to back super bowl champs poster... :-)

PackersRS's picture

McCarthy borderline hinders his offense during the regular season to build up for the playoffs.

He called so many times a quick dumpoff to Kuhn on short downs that even the analysts knew when it was coming. But during the playoffs he was so imaginative off of it, calling even a PA pass to Crabtree, who had never caught a touchdown before, and it took the defenses off guard. Another example is using Raji as a FB. During the regular season, he drove right up the middle with Kuhn. Yet, against the Bears, he didn't do anything conventional, instead rolling Rodgers to the left with a QB run.

I can't prove it's on purpose, but the fact is, almost every tendency MM builds during the offseason, he completely changes them in the playoffs.

Nerdmann's picture

I think MM goes downfield way too much. I'd like to see a more WCO-oriented "high percentage" offense. Yeah, they got sick talent and can get away with the more low percentage attack, but look at all the drops from 20+ yards.
Anyway, with Green, they'll at least have a guy who can catch that dumpoff pass and GET to the first down marker before the defense converges on him. LOL. I love Kuhn, but he's a bit of a plodder.

MarkinMadison's picture

I think that all NFL coaches do this. They all film-study the c$%^ out of each other. They know that you know that you know that they know, etc. You have to have wrinkles or you'd be dead.

To me, the real genius in play-calling is the guy who can make the 1/2 time adjustments or the in-game adjustments. They're doing this? OK then they'll expect us to do that next based upon what we do, so I'll go do the other thing.

+1 Nerdmann. I think he pulls out the down field play a little too often for my taste. It's great when it pays off. For many teams, it kills a drive when it doesn't. This year the Packers were good enough to overcome the down/distance hole, so I guess it was fine.

Nerdmann's picture

All 22 is the view of all 22 players right? LOL. Anyway, if the safety doesn't bite on the underneath drag route, then that's probly where Arodge goes with the ball, because then he's probly helping with Jennings and Finley/Quarless is open underneath.

PackersRS's picture

Yeah, but he made the safety bite.
After the PA, he checks if the rush on his right is winning, after that he eyes the left receiver running the drag, which drives the safety.

Rodgers manipulated the defense perfectly in this instance.

Nerdmann's picture

Yeah, that's how the play is designed. I still think they go downfield too much though.

ZeroTolerance's picture

Thanks Aaron - I needed a little football.

packeraaron's picture

Me too. More on the way.

jeremy's picture

Nagler's posts like this one are the reason I come to this sight! Keep'em comin.

Lynn Dickey 12's picture

PA probably worked better since this play happened in the first quarter, before MIA realized that the Packers were on their way to a 76 yard rushing performance and a 3.6 yards per carry average.

Lost in the sands of time is the drive the Packers put together to tie the game up at the end of regulation, with some clutch conversions.

At the time, I thought MM should have gone for the 2 point conversion to wrap it up. But, the way the rushing attack was that day, probably best not to.

packeraaron's picture

Totally agree on the playaction issue. McCarthy uses it early quite a bit and defenses always seem to bite. You saw that at play on the opening series in the NFCCG against the Bears as well.

Lynn Dickey 12's picture

Thank you for the reply, Aaron. Your comments validate my existence.

packattack1972's picture

Awesome post!!!

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