GREEN BAY – A bold decision produced the desired result. Will it be the catalyst to a December run that launches the Packers into the postseason?
Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy reappointed himself as his team’s offensive play-caller on Sunday. The result, an uplifting, 28-7 win over the Cowboys, was powered by a road-grading running game that piled up 230 yards rushing, a 15½-minute time-of-possession advantage, 44 rushing attempts and 81 snaps from center.
“It’s an adjustment in our process. We’ve been together a long time. Tom (Clements) and I spoke on Monday. I called it today and he suggested things. The decision was made because as the leader of this football team, I felt I needed to maximize all of the opportunities to win. It didn’t feel good at all, but professionally it’s what I felt I had to do. This is the way we’ll go forward,” McCarthy said in a statement he no doubt planned for Sunday’s postgame press conference.
Clements was named the team’s play-caller during the offseason, when McCarthy announced he would relinquish the play-calling duties he held since becoming the team’s head coach in 2006. McCarthy said he wanted to devote more time to defense and special teams.
Through a one-win November, speculation built McCarthy might resume his play-calling duties; he’s recognized as one of the brightest play-calling minds in the game.
Sunday, the story broke: McCarthy would call plays.
Whether it’s fair or not to say his play-calling acumen was the difference, the bottom line is the statistics are some of the Packers’ best this season. Third-down conversions, a problem area for the Packers this season, were a solid seven of 14. The Packers gained a walloping 29 first downs and Eddie Lacy’s 124 yards rushing is his best output of the season.
“It always starts with the run, and the guys up front did a heckuva job,” McCarthy said. “I’ve always believed in Eddie. We all make a couple of bad decisions along the way. That doesn’t change how I feel about any player. He needed to refocus and he did that. Eddie was Eddie and James (Starks) was James. We’re going to go after teams aggressively like that. That’s how we need to play at Lambeau Field, particularly in December.”
Lacy was benched in Detroit a week ago for reportedly violating curfew. He ran with renewed purpose against the Cowboys, dragging several Cowboys defenders on a 24-yard run that preceded a 1-yard plunge that capped the scoring.
It was a day of renewed spirit, despite a steady rain. The crowd chanted, “Eddie, Eddie, Eddie.”
“The balance we were able to have was key. Aaron (Rodgers) was impressive in the management of it,” McCarthy said.
Starks added 71 yards rushing and a 6.5 yards-per-carry average, and Rodgers completed 22 of 35 passes for 218 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a 99.5 passer rating. The Packers didn’t turn the ball over, another key to victory on a slippery day.
“That was a fun game,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy’s bold decision, however, was the hot topic.
“Play-calling is a lot about rhythm and flow, and you have to have a quarterback that can manage it,” McCarthy said.
The day following the Packers’ miracle win in Detroit, McCarthy spoke as though he was sticking with Clements as the play-caller. The Packers had come to life on offense in the second half of that game.
“I was still excited about the game,” he explained jokingly on Sunday.
His decision to take back the play-calling was likely made over that weekend.
“The personal part of it was brutal. Professionally, I felt I had to do it. I had to make sure I did my job. I had a lot of help from the staff. We made an adjustment and that’s the way we’ll go,” he said.
“You can’t do two things. It was the best experience of my coaching career,” he added of spending more time with defense and special teams. “I know we’re a better team because of it. It’s made me a better coach.”
At 9-4, the Packers are in sole possession of first place in the NFC North. The win over the Cowboys guarantees the Packers can do no worse than play for the division title at home on Jan. 3 against the Vikings. The Packers will play the Raiders in Oakland next Sunday.
Has McCarthy taken back the play-calling permanently?
“I’m going to call them next week. It’s one game at a time,” he said.
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