Green Bay Packers

What Would the Packers' Do-or-Die Two-Point Play Call Be?

Photo Credit: Jeffrey Becker (USA TODAY Sports)

The Green Bay Packers emerged victorious on Sunday afternoon, thanks in part to the Baltimore Ravens’ inability to score on a two-point conversion attempt after pulling within one in the final minute. It’s a strategy that Baltimore coach John Harbaugh hasn’t been shy about acting upon multiple times this season, albeit unsuccessfully, and his methods have been met with mixed reviews. Given the opportunity, would Matt LaFleur make the same decision that Harbaugh did? If so, what would be the play call?

For the second time in three weeks, the Ravens were faced with a decision. Kick an extra point to tie the game in the final minute? Or go for two and the likely win? In Baltimore’s Week 13 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Harbaugh and the Ravens called an excellent play that wasn’t executed. After a slightly errant throw by Lamar Jackson, the potential game-winning pass went off the hands of tight end Mark Andrews. Two weeks later, Baltimore targeted Andrews again, this time with Tyler Huntley rolling out to the right. But Darnell Savage read the play correctly, sprinting into position to deflect the pass and help secure the win for Green Bay.

The audio that emerged after the game was enlightening, with Harbaugh consulting his offense about what they’d like to do. As you might expect, the offense wanted to go for the win right then and there. In all honesty, though, what would you expect them to say? “Nah, coach, kick it. I don’t think we can get two yards.” It seemed like Harbaugh had his mind made up and was just looking for some buy-in from his players.

Let’s flip the script. Perhaps the Packers have just come back from two scores down, with Aaron Rodgers leading a comeback in the final minutes to bring Green Bay within one point. What would LaFleur do? I can tell you that if he consulted Rodgers and Davante Adams on the sideline, there’s no way that they’d opt for overtime. Perhaps LaFleur would have gone for two when down eight instead of kicking the extra point to bring it to seven, as is seemingly the analytics trend. But when zoomed in, LaFleur said he’d have made the same call that his counterpart did on Sunday.

Even though Andrews had his coach’s back in the clip above, Harbaugh received plenty of criticism after the game outside the Ravens’ locker room, much of which comes down to the debate of process versus results. The process might have been correct in Baltimore going for two, but the play call was not. Rolling out to one side, cutting the field in half, and seemingly locking in on Andrews, his best (and only feasible) target on Sunday, Huntley was forced to try to thread a needle between cornerback Eric Stokes and a closing Darnell Savage. The throw wasn’t perfect, and Baltimore lost the game.

What would the Packers do in the same scenario? Find Adams. His release off the line of scrimmage has become the stuff of legend. In this type of scenario, that little bit of space is all a team needs — especially one quarterbacked by Rodgers. Let’s look at the past two weeks.

First, Exhibit A against the Chicago Bears:

Exhibit B, from the second quarter against Baltimore:

All Adams needs is an inch of space near the goal line, and you’ve got to like Rodgers’ chances of finding him. If I were a defensive coordinator going against the Packers in this particular scenario, I would double Adams and make someone else beat us. What then?

Here’s what Green Bay would β€” and should – do if this were to happen. Line up Adams on the left side and have him try to beat his man off the line for a quick hitter. If for some reason that isn’t there, give Rodgers the ability to move left to right across the line of scrimmage, with players like Aaron Jones, A.J. Dillon, Allen Lazard, and Marcedes Lewis finding openings and creating a window for Rodgers to throw. If worst comes to worst, Rodgers has shown the ability to scoot his 38-year-old rear end into the end zone.

If Rodgers gets to the line of scrimmage, sees that the slant or out route to Adams isn’t going to be there, the hope is that there would be a feasible run call that the Packers could audible into. The only reason that Adams wouldn’t be an option would be if he were double (or triple) teamed. In that case, I like the odds of the offensive line (plus Lewis and Lazard) run-blocking so that Dillon could batter his way in. It all starts with what the coverage is on Davante and what Rodgers decides to do about it.

I’ve long been an advocate of the go-for-two strategy, especially with momentum on your side. This desire dates back to Mike McCarthy’s cowardice in kicking the extra point after the Jeff Janis Hail Mary in Arizona during the 2016 playoffs. The Packers have the perfect two-point combination in Rodgers and Adams (and Dillon, if needed). Regular season, playoffs, Super Bowl, wherever. If Matt LaFleur has a chance to win the game, with the ball in the hands of his best players, Green Bay should absolutely go for two if given the chance.

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