Welcome to the Friday edition of The Cooler, where sometimes a season gets pushed closer to the brink. Let’s get to it:
*The Vikings have had their share of ups and downs in a sometimes frustrating 5-3-1 start (hello, 27-6 loss to Buffalo!).
But I think it’s fair to say frustration runs even deeper one state to the east, where the rival Packers entered Thursday 4-4-1 and in need of a victory over Seattle on multiple levels. They needed it to remain in solid playoff position. They needed it because they’ve struggled on the road this year and in Seattle with QB Aaron Rodgers. And they needed it perhaps most of all because throughout the season Rodgers and coach Mike McCarthy (who runs Green Bay’s offense) haven’t seemed to be on the same page at various points.
What the Packers got instead Thursday was familiar to Green Bay fans: a stunning loss in Seattle, complete with fresh new reasons to question McCarthy.
In two critical moments, the Packers coach made questionable decisions. First, he failed to challenge a Seattle catch that set up the Seahawks’ go-ahead touchdown. Replays weren’t 100 percent conclusive, but there’s a good chance the completion would have been overturned and might have led to a stalled drive and the preservation of Green Bay’s 24-20 lead.
Second, McCarthy decided to punt on 4th and 2 with 4:20 left on Green Bay’s ensuing possession. He said after the game that he was “playing the numbers” in choosing to give up the ball instead of going for it.
*I crunched the win probability numbers on Pro Football Reference, and it’s pretty much a wash in terms of which decision would have historically favored the Packers. In either case, they would have had about a 25 percent chance of winning after the decision.
But the Packers had been gouged all night in the running game, which should have been a factor in McCarthy’s decision. So, too, is keeping the ball in the hands of one of the best QBs in NFL history. To me, the most relevant numbers are 1 and 0: The first being the number of plays Rodgers was guaranteed had the Packers gone for it, vs. the number of plays he was guaranteed with a punt.
*Seattle gained two first downs on the ground to run out the clock. And Packers fans? They’re not happy. In wading through all the “fire McCarthy” and “ditch MM” comments online, this one with more substance stands out:
McCarthy needs to lose that Denny’s Menu he carries around and get an actual feel for the game. 4th and 2 with four minutes left in the game and your two best run defenders are hurt and you punt the ball! As soon as he did that I and everyone not named Mike McCarthy knew Seattle would run out the clock. A winning coach would have been in a 4 down offense.
*It left longtime Packers writer Tom Silverstein to conclude that “something is broken.” Silverstein also quoted Seattle coach Pete Carroll as being “a little relieved” the Packers punted instead of going for it.
The Packers don’t get much relief. Their next game is a week from Sunday in Minnesota, again at night in prime time. The Vikings will be fresh of a huge game of their own in Chicago, and both teams will be desperate for a win — the Packers perhaps to stay on the fringes of the division race and the Vikings perhaps to take control and send their rivals deeper into a spiral.