By HCR Staff | January 25, 2021
Now there are two.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will play the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl 55. Tom Brady vs. Patrick Mahomes. And in a league of increasingly younger head coaches, Boomers Bruce Arians and Andy Reid will face off.
We’ve gotten to this point without any game cancellations during a difficult season. So as we do every week, thank you to all the players, coaches and staffers who have made the 2020 season possible.
Let’s get to it.
Does Mike Pettine Survive As Packers Defensive Coordinator? The Packers were playing from behind the entire first half – which they don’t like to do and frankly, don’t respond well too – but they had closed to within 14-10 with only eight seconds left in the half. Plus, the Packers were going to receive the second half kickoff, so while trailing wasn’t ideal, it was still a one- possession deficit.
Tampa Bay had the ball on the Packers’ 39-yard line with a first down. But with no timeouts left, there wasn’t much they could do – maybe complete a short five yard pass to the sideline, and then hope for a long field goal attempt. If all of this went right, maybe, just maybe – at best – Tampa Bay goes into halftime with a seven-point, but still only one-possession lead.
But then the Packers defense made a terrible mistake. For some reason, Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine decided to go man-coverage with a single high safety.
Seeing this, Bucs quarterback Tom Brady decided to go all-in and take a deep shot to wide receiver Scotty Miller, who was being defensed by Packers cornerback Kevin King. King had inside leverage and no safety help, and Miller easily ran by him for a touchdown and a two-possession lead.
It was an incredibly deflating turn of events for the Packers, and they were never able to really gain any momentum or sustained confidence in the game.
Pettine’s decision reminds us of the call that then-Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams made against the Raiders during the regular season that cost the Jets a game. It simply was a scenario where there’s only one defense – and that’s to simply do whatever it takes to KEEP THE BALL IN FRONT OF YOU.
Experienced, decorated coordinators simply can’t screw this one up – it’s the golf equivalent of an eight-inch putt.
But when you do screw it up, your job is on the line – automatically.
We’ll be interested to see if Pettine survives this fiasco.
“4th & 8” Will Be Part Of Matt LaFleur’s Legacy, But He’s A Terrific Coach. After trailing the entire game, the Packers had one last chance to tie the game at 2:09 left in the fourth quarter. The Packers had the ball and a fourth down on the Tampa eight-yard line, down 31-23.
At this juncture, LaFleur had the following inventory to go over in his mind, prior to making a decision on what to do on 4th down. He’s got: Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams, the best redzone offense in football, three timeouts and the two-minute warning (effectively four timeouts), the momentum, a defense that has played well in the second half, Tom Brady on the other side.
What, of this inventory, would you latch on to?
Us, we would have latched onto Aaron Rodgers. We would have given him the shot to score; if he fails, the Bucs are backed up and we still have our four timeouts. We’d still be in position to tie the game, even if we do fail on fourth down.
LaFleur latched onto his defense. Which, frankly, for an offensive head coach, is fairly mind-boggling. So he went for the field goal.
LaFleur essentially tried to outsmart the moment. He wanted his cake and to eat it too. He thought, “we can score (a field goal), and we still have our defense and four timeouts, and we can win, not tie.”
Now we like the aggressive thinking, for sure. But a lot had to go right for LaFleur in putting his chips into that line of thinking. For one, he had to hope Tom Brady was not going to be able to get a first down to get to his tenth Super Bowl.
We don’t like that kind of hoping strategy.
Notwithstanding LaFleur’s decision, we remain highly impressed with him. The Packers made numerous errors in this game, but they still had chances to win. He’s still a very young head coach, and he will only get better. He’s taken the Packers to back-to-back NFC Championship games, and quarterback Aaron Rodgers had an MVP season.
Obviously, this loss is a bitter one for Packer fans, as their head coach took the ball out of their best player’s hands at the most critical moment – reminiscent of Pete Carroll’s decision not to run the ball with Marshawn Lynch in Super Bowl 49.
LaFleur just outsmarted himself; he missed on one – but only because it didn’t work out. He is going to have the Packers in the hunt for many years to come, notwithstanding this decision.
Andy Reid Is One Of The Greatest Coaches Of The Last 20 Years Because He’s Andy. Set aside his football acumen, but Andy Reid’s greatest asset as a leader may simply be his personality. It is rare, and superb, and universally liked. And in an incredibly cutthroat industry, this may be his most significant accomplishment.
His personality is what draws great players, and great coaches, to want to work with him. And one of the great coaches he brought back was defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.
Spagnuolo’s work during the last two Chiefs’ playoff runs has been superb. There have been rocky moments, of course, but one thing that’s stood out to us is that Chiefs’ defensive players seem to play with a higher intensity and cohesion in critical moments.
We’ve enjoyed watching how Spagnuolo utilizes his safeties, Tyrann Mathieu and Daniel Sorensen, both of whom have made critical, game-changing plays in last season’s playoff run and this year’s. Spagnuolo uses them as safeties and linebackers, and he constantly changes the looks – in a way where Mathieu and Sorensen get the hands on balls – often.