It wasn’t a bold strategy, Cotton, and it didn’t pay off for them.
It wasn’t Peter La Fleur, but rather Matt LaFleur (no relation) who baffled inquiring minds during the NFC championship game on Sunday afternoon. Facing a 31-23 deficit with just over two minutes left in regulation, the Packers coach elected to go for a field goal rather than trying to tie the game up at 31 with a touchdown and 2-point conversion. Green Bay never got the ball back after a Mason Crosby chip shot, and the Buccaneers walked away with a 31-26 win.
The decision was met with criticism all over, labeling LaFleur and the Packers as, well, less-than-gutsy for the decision.
Matt LaFleur must’ve been waiting until he gets a quarterback better than Aaron Rodgers to go for it from the 8-yard line down 8 late in 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 1 of the greatest QBs EVER…LaFleur should put all blame on himself in postgame.
— Jake Brown (@JakeBrownRadio) January 24, 2021
Why did the Packers choose to kick a field goal?
According to advanced win probability stats (via ESPN’s Seth Walder), the decision to go for it in that position just barely edged out the decision to kick the field goal.
We preferred go, but more narrowly than I would have thought.
WP go: 10.0%
WP kick: 9.5%
Needed a 21% chance to justify going for it. League average is 23%. But the Packers are also better than league average.
— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) January 24, 2021
—> TB (31) @ GB (23) <—
GB has 4th & 8 at the TB 8
Recommendation (MEDIUM): 👉 Go for it (+1.3 WP)
Actual play: 👟🏈 M.Crosby 26 yard field goal is GOOD, Center-H.Bradley, Holder-J.Scott. pic.twitter.com/upf05RiP2j
— 4th down decision bot (@ben_bot_baldwin) January 24, 2021
Assuming the Packers score there, they would have needed the 2-point conversion for the tie, meaning it’s essentially anyone’s ballgame after that point. The Packers and LaFleur, knowing they had three timeouts and the 2-minute warning in their pocket (four clock stoppages), likely felt the field goal was the safer route.
Consider the outcomes:
- Packers score a touchdown, don’t convert on 2-point conversion: 31-29, need a stop and field goal
- Packers score a touchdown, convert on 2-point conversion: 31-31, need a stop and field goal or go to overtime
- Packers kick the field goal: 31-26, need a stop and touchdown
The outcomes are all there and pretty obvious, so this begs this question: Why go for it?
LaFleur will have some questions to answer postgame.