The Green Bay Packers had all the chances in the world to win the NFC Championship. Yet again, though, they allowed it to slip through their fingers. Without a doubt, there will be turnover on the roster and coaching staff as a result. For now, here are three key figures who have a share in the blame.
Kevin King and EQ St. Brown
Ever since Kevin King was drafted by the Packers ahead of TJ Watt, he has been a model of inconsistency. At times, he is a very solid corner back. At others, though, he is a liability. He was a liability on Sunday.
While Jaire Alexander locked down whoever he covered, Kevin King allowed big play after big play. Most notably, he gave up a long touchdown in the closing seconds of the first half. Later in the closing seconds of the game, he committed a pass interference penalty that sealed all but sealed the Packers’ fate. He is a free agent this off-season, and surly will not be back with the Packers.
EQ St. Brown does not get much playing time, and he showed why on Sunday. When the Packers were rallying and scored a touchdown, EQ dropped a two-point conversion pass that hit him right between the numbers. While those two points were not the difference in the game, his drop deflated the Packers and stopped their momentum.
Had he caught that ball, the mindset of both teams would have been different. Instead of a confident Packers’ offense, what was seen was an offense that not only had to beat the Bucs defense, but also overcome their own weaknesses.
Matt LaFleur Ops for a Field Goal
Again, as the Packers were driving as the game winded down, their momentum was stopped by one of their own. On fourth and goal from inside the five, Matt LaFleur opted to kick a field goal.
Of the decision, Aaron Rodgers later said, “It was not my decision. I understood the decision.” Obviously, while he understood the mindset, the likely MVP was confident he could find a way to get the ball into the end zone.
What is overlooked here is this simple fact: Coach LaFleur chose to rely on Mike Pettine instead of Aaron Rodgers. That is unacceptable, and brings us to the next person of blame.
Mike Pettine Was In Over His Head
Mike Pettine’s defense was the subject of much discussion after the Packers’ blowout loss in last year’s NFC Championship. Many did not want to see him return. However, he was brought back and the end result was the same.
Mike Pettine does not seem able to understand when man coverage is necessary and when zone coverage is necessary. On the long touchdown to end the half, he opted for man coverage.
As discussed, Kevin King was being lit up all day. All day! Yet, Pettine decided to trust him to cover a receiver one-on-one on a key scoring play. Asked after the game about the coverage decision, Coach LaFleur said, “That was not the right call.” It is not the first time LaFleur has made such a comment this season.
Yes, the Packers won the turnover battle. However, when it came down to key plays, Pettine could not stop the Bucs’ offense. His whole philosophy is meant to prevent the big play. His defense gave up a lot of those today.
Coach Pettine is a remnant of the old Mike McCarthy regime in Green Bay. It is time for him to go the way of McCarthy if the Packers want to improve.