It was not a bold strategy, Cotton, and it didn’t pay off for them.
It wasn’t Peter La Fleur, but rather Matt LaFleur (no parent) who confused curious minds during the NFC Championship game on Sunday afternoon. Facing a 31-23 deficit with just over two minutes to go in regulation, the Packers coach opted to aim for a basket rather than trying to tie the game at 31 with a touchdown and a 2 point conversion. Green Bay never recovered the ball after a Mason Crosby shot, and the Buccaneers came away with a 31-26 victory.
The decision was criticized everywhere, calling LaFleur and the Packers less than courageous for the decision.
Matt LaFleur had to wait until he had a better quarterback than Aaron Rodgers to get there from the 8-yard line down 8 at the end of the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship game.
– Matt Schneidman (@mattschneidman) January 24, 2021
The FG literally did nothing there. You still need a TD to win. You were 8 yards away with one of the greatest QBs of all time … LaFleur should blame himself after the game.
– Jake Brown (@JakeBrownRadio) January 24, 2021
Why did the Packers choose to launch a basket?
After the game, LaFleur chose to defend the decision not to go. The Green Bay head coach cited the team’s inability to move the ball as well as the amount of time-outs the team had – presumably stopping Brady’s-led offense and recovering the ball – as reasons .
Matt LaFleur says that “it was just the circumstances of having three shots and leaving without yards” that led to him kicking. He says the need for a 2-point conversion and essentially four timeouts left also played into the decision to kick.
– Matt Schneidman (@mattschneidman) 25 January 2021
According to advanced winning odds statistics (via ESPN’s Seth Walder), the decision to do so in this position barely surpassed the decision to throw the basket.
We preferred to go there, but more closely than I would have thought.
WP go: 10.0%
WP Kick: 9.5%
Need a 21% chance to justify going. The league average is 23%. But the Packers are also better than the league average.
– Seth Walder (@SethWalder) January 24, 2021
—> To (31) to Go (23) <---
GB at 4th and 8 at VG 8
Recommendation (MEDIUM): ? Go for it (+1.3 WP)
Actual play: ?? 26-yard field goal M.Crosby is GOOD, Center-H.Bradley, Holder-J.Scott. pic.twitter.com/upf05RiP2j
– 4th decision bot (@ben_bot_baldwin) January 24, 2021
Assuming the Packers score there, they would have needed the 2 point conversion for the tie which means it’s basically anyone’s ball game after that point. The Packers and LaFleur, knowing they had three time outs and the 2 minute warning in their pocket (four clock stops), probably felt the basket was the safest route.
Consider the results:
- Packers score a touchdown, do not convert on a 2-point conversion: 31-29, need a stop and a goal on the ground
- Packers score a touchdown, convert to 2 conversion points: 31-31, need a stop and a basket or go to overtime
- Packers kick the basket: 31-26, need a stop and a touch
The results are all there and pretty obvious, so it begs the question: why go there?
LaFleur will have a few questions to answer after the game.