Two plays—moments, really—made the Seattle comeback possible. They provide a contrast of what makes a good coach, and what makes Mike McCarthy.
Let me explain.
There’s a phrase for the travesty Mike McCarthy wrought upon his team on Sunday afternoon. In fact, there are two, depending on your understanding of football and how the game works. The first one is called “taking the points.” It means that, no matter what, let’s put points on the board. This thought process worked in the 1970s, before Bill Walsh changed the game forever. It can even work now, depending on the context.
But Mike McCarthy decided to kick a field goal on 4th and goal from the one yard line – with Aaron Bleeping Rodgers as his quarterback. Then, on the next drive, because Seattle decided to be charitable and turn the ball over five times, McCarthy opted to kick another field goal from inside the 5, completing three straight drives inside the 30, which generated 6 points.
That brings me to the second phrase, which also applies to McCarthy. It’s called “coaching to lose,” and it is an interesting phrase because it is often misunderstood and misused, acting as an umbrella term for coaches whose strategic decision did not quite work out for whatever reason.
Think of this phrase like pornography—you’re not quite sure what it is, but you know it when you see it. Personally, I have always defined “coaching to lose” thusly: thinking the other side will be happy kicking field goals. I came up with that definition watching Will Muschamp putter around the Gators sidelines for five years too long. (Important note: he only coached four years.)
Mike McCarthy, using my definition, coached to lose. He checked every box. Which brings me to Pete Carroll.
Pete Carroll lined his team up for a field goal down 16 points with a little under 5 minutes to go in the 3rd quarter. When the Packers weren’t stopping the Seahawks, Seattle was turning the ball over. A field goal wouldn’t change that much.
So what did Carroll do? He called for a fake, taking everybody by surprise, and all of a sudden it was a 16-7 game, and new life and energy was in CenturyLink Field. I’m not sure I have to tell you what happened after that; something clicked. The insane chaos that exists solely to power Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson and the entire Seattle Defense got rebooted. Maybe the power of the 12th man recharged the generator that exists below the turf, or maybe Seattle finally remembered they’re the best top-to-bottom team in the league.