GREEN BAY – Mike McCarthy has never seen a better throw.
That’s saying something for a coach who has been in the NFL since 1993, working with several Pro Bowl quarterbacks and teaching the mechanics and fine points of the position as well as anybody.
The pass Aaron Rodgers launched with no time on the clock Thursday night might never be topped in his mind.
“That’s probably the best throw I’ve seen in my time in this game,” McCarthy said on Friday, roughly 12 hours after the Packers’ team plane returned from Detroit following an exhilarating and miraculous Hail Mary victory.
“Just the arc that you want to put on the ball and obviously the distance. Great throw.”
A lot of things had to work just right. Rodgers had to escape the initial pressure and get a couple of key blocks to buy time going to his right. Then he had to get his momentum moving forward to get everything he could behind the throw, which might have come as close to scraping the Ford Field rafters as any punt ever has.
It traveled nearly 70 yards in the air, but it was the incredible height combined with the distance that made it so spectacular, and effective.
“A lot of guys may go with a flatter throw, because they’re thinking they have to get it there,” McCarthy said. “But the confidence he has in his arm and the ability to throw with that arc … the arc of the ball is critical to the success of the play. That’s the way it’s coached. You want the ball to drop down into the end zone area.”
The Packers call the play “rebound pass” and were running it with a different personnel group than normal, partly due to confusion resulting from the facemask penalty as the clock initially hit zero and gave the offense one more snap.
McCarthy credited the players for thinking on their feet to get set and get the play off in time. He also marveled at how the Packers had positioned themselves downfield. Roles were reversed on the fly, as Davante Adams was supposed to leap for the ball, but tight end Richard Rodgers did instead, with Adams and Randall Cobb ready for a potential deflection in multiple directions.
The ensuing bedlam won’t soon be forgotten, either.
As is his custom after a big play, McCarthy was immediately looking for any flags that might have been thrown. After that, he was reminded by referee Carl Cheffers that the point-after try, by rule, still had to happen, and he told Cheffers to “chill out” because “it’s gonna be a couple minutes.”
McCarthy had no intention of short-circuiting the celebration. Eventually, the Packers simply took a knee on the unnecessary PAT and the raucousness continued up the tunnel and into the locker room.
“Phenomenal play,” McCarthy said. “To me, that’s our greatest regular-season win. It’s more about obviously the play, but the reaction on the sideline, that’s the stuff you remember. I just get the biggest kick, seeing our guys, the joy that they had, the excitement in the locker room. It was phenomenal.”
The victory kept the Packers in the hunt for their fifth straight NFC North title and earned a banged-up team a weekend off.
At one point Thursday night, the Packers were down to one starter on the offensive line before left tackle David Bakhtiari (knee) returned to the game.
“He’s beat up. They’re all beat up. His words to me were he plans on practicing every day next week, and he’s looking forward to this time off,” McCarthy said of Bakhtiari. He added that playing two games on field turf (at Minnesota and Detroit) in a span of 12 days was a factor in the linemen’s health.
On defense, McCarthy said he liked what he saw from rookie inside linebacker Jake Ryan in his first NFL start, but he hadn’t watched the defensive game film to give a full evaluation.
As for running back Eddie Lacy’s minimal involvement in the offense (five carries, one reception, one net yard) following consecutive 100-yard games, McCarthy called it an “internal football decision,” saying “nothing happened with Eddie” but not denying the move was disciplinary when asked.
“Could be, but those things we don’t discuss in here anyway,” McCarthy said. “It’s something we handled internally and that was the outcome.”
McCarthy equated what he needs to see from Lacy with what he needs to see from his team as a whole down the stretch with a playoff berth in the balance.
“We need to be better as a team, frankly,” he said. “There’s a lot more to get. The fine details are not where we want them to be. There’s a formula for us to get it there, and that was made clear to our players, the expectations and commitment we’ve made to each other, and we need to do a better job.
“We’re not clicking for four quarters in all three areas. That’s what we’re working for.”
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