The Green Bay Packers’ decision to kick a crunch-time field goal rather than going for a touchdown on fourth-and-goal while trailing by eight points will receive the majority of headlines.
And it should. Especially after the Packers lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31-26 in the NFC Championship Game.
But it overlooks the Packers’ strong chance to score on third down. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers looked like he could have run for an eight-yard touchdown the play before the Packers elected to kick a 26-yard field goal but instead threw an incomplete pass.
Rodgers, as you may recall, stepped up in the pocket and it appeared he had room to his right. At the time, Tampa Bay defenders were moving right-to-left across the field, following Green Bay receivers at the goal line.
And while the Buccaneers did have a few bigger bodies around Rodgers, it, again, seemed like he had the chance to outrun them to the end zone with 2:15 left in the game.
Here’s an illustration of the play:
Rodgers was asked about that specific play after the Packers lost to the Super Bowl-bound Buccaneers at Lambeau Field.
“You know, I felt great about the third-down call. We actually ran it early in the game,” Rodgers told reporters, via the team. “… Looking at it back, it looked like he ended up crossing late and may have been kind of back across my body (for) an opportunity. I felt like I kind of had a chance, maybe, to run it. But, I felt like there was a guy kind of closing on me.”
Rodgers noted how if had he knew the Packers would kick on fourth down rather than go for it — fourth-and-goal from the Tampa Bay 8 yard line — he may have tried to change the third-down play. He said the decision to kick the field goal was not his decision.
“Based on the call, Matty (LaFleur) allowed me to call that third-down play, if I had known we were going to kick it if we didn?t get it maybe something else would have been, maybe gone with some sort of crossing routes there instead, but I thought maybe we would have four chances to go,” Rodgers said.
At the very least, the Packers quarterback and play caller were not on the same page. And at the most, Rodgers’ decision to not run it on third down, along with the field goal on fourth down, got Green Bay knocked out of the postseason.