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Most Green Bay fans will tell you that the Packers’ most consistently maddening flaw is their inability to put the final nail in their opponent’s coffin. I’m probably not the only Packers fan that often receives text messages late in games that read “Why can’t this ever be easy?”
Struggling to put away opponents is not necessarily a bad sign. After all, you have to be good enough to regularly get a lead. However, it’s still a flaw that can prevent you from winning a championship. We saw this in the Seattle debacle and we nearly saw it in the Packers’ 2010 championship run.
The 2010 NFC Title game is probably best remembered for B.J. Raji’s pick-six with 6:04 left in the 4th quarter. The play gave the Packers a 21-7 lead and prompted Wayne Larivee to make his famous “Dagger!” call. This call was a tad premature as the Bears scored a touchdown four plays and 1:21 later to cut the lead to 21-14. The Packers got the ball back with 4:43 left and proceeded to do this:
•1st and 10: James Starks to GB 25 for no gain
•2nd and 10: James Starks to GB 23 for -2 yards
•3rd and 12: Aaron Rodgers scrambles to GB 24 for 1 yard
The Packers survived an inspired last hurrah from the Bears, which ultimately fell short because Caleb Hanie was their quarterback. Even so, this sequence was eerily similar to what happened four years later Seattle, and I don’t think anybody in Wisconsin has any interest in experiencing that again.
How to put away teams when the Packers were up by two scores was a puzzle that McCarthy could never solve. Those are leads that give the illusion of security, but in reality are always on the brink of dissolving entirely. McCarthy’s always seemed more interested in protecting these lead than trying to expand them. While this is a sensible strategy to an extent, it really makes no sense when you have Aaron Rodgers.
McCarthy has a strong case for being the second best coach in Packers history. His teams are consistent winners and he played an integral role in the development of the current NFL MVP. He’s not without his flaws, but as evidence by his decision to surrender play calling, he’s smart enough to recognize what they are. Let’s just hope his biggest flaw is not shared by Tom Clements.