The Packers should have won against the Vikings today if not for a bogus roughing the passer call against Clay Matthews, but they also should’ve lost the game after that. Mike McCarthy’s playcalling is not the primary story right now because of that call and because of multiple missed field goals from Vikings kicker Daniel Carlson but it also bears mentioning.
McCarthy’s playcalling failed to adequately use the running game with Jamaal Williams and Ty Montgomery late in today’s tie. Williams and Montgomery combined to run 21 times for 90 yards and they should have gotten more carries down the stretch.
After Ha Ha Clinton-Dix intercepted Kirk Cousins the fourth quarter, the Packers had the ball at first and 10 at the Vikings’ 13-yard line with 2:04 remaining. On first down Williams ran for no gain into the two minute warning and on second and third down Aaron Rodgers threw incomplete passes. When it was all said and done, the Packers settled for a field goal.
They only took 19 seconds off the clock and didn’t force Minnesota to burn any of their timeouts. If anything, they should’ve thrown on first down and when an incomplete pass wouldn’t be an extra detriment and run on the next two plays to at least force the Vikings to use timeouts.
In overtime, Williams picked up a first down on a nine-yard run to the Vikings’ 46. Rodgers completed a 9-yard play to Geronimo Allison for 2nd and 1 on the Vikings’ 37. At this point, Rodgers faked a handoff to Williams and then fumbled the ball. It’s unclear if Rodgers was going to wind up passing or running it himself on a gimpy knee on this play but neither, to my mind, had as good an expected value as running on this play. Rodgers got sacked on the next play and the Packers had to punt. It would be their only overtime possession.
The Packers running backs averaged 4.3 yards per carry today. A first down in this series would have put them already on the outskirts of field goal range. If they had run it and gotten stuffed there they still could have run it three more times.
Even disregarding the strategy of what makes you most likely to pick up first downs there, the Packers’ general philosophy in these games where Rodgers is hobbled should be to run the ball more often. When they are moving the ball that way they expose Rodgers to less harm in the form of pass rush. It’s obviously easy to second guess playcalling from a recliner after watching the game on TV but focusing on the running game is really something McCarthy should be hyper aware of executing.
The good news for the Packers and their fans (like me) is that Aaron Jones is returning from a two-game suspension next week. When healthy, Jones has the highest upside of the running backs on Green Bay’s roster. Maybe we can’t expect a heavy dose of him against Washington and beyond but that’s what I’m hoping for.