The Green Bay Packers were three yards away from beating the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday — three yards from moving into a three-way tie atop the NFC North with the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions, despite being without starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers for the entire month of November.
But on fourth down, Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy decided to kick a field goal instead of trying to end the game with a touchdown. The Vikings would soon match that field goal and the game would end in a tie, keeping the Packers behind in a tight divisional race. Kicking the field goal instead of trying for a touchdown was a mistake by McCarthy, and one that could come back to haunt the Packers.
You’re supposed to play for the tie at home, but not in this situation. With a fourth-and-goal from the three-yard line, the Packers needed to go for the touchdown, which would have ended the game without the Vikings getting a possession in overtime. Barring some kind of horrible turnover by the Packers, the worst thing that would have happened is the Vikings getting the ball at their own three yard line.
McCarthy should have enough faith in his defense to stop the Vikings from doing something substantial when starting a drive from the shadow of their own goalpost.
The Green Bay offense was much more effective in the fourth quarter with Matt Flynn at quarterback, and they did well to march down the field on the opening possession of the overtime. They deserved a chance on fourth down to punch the ball into the end zone and win the game. Even if they failed, the Packers would have had a huge advantage in field position, much better than they had after kicking the go-ahead field goal and then kicking off to the Vikings.
The Packers needed to win this game as much psychologically as they needed to win in the standings. Things have spiraled out of control since Rodgers went down with an injury and Green Bay needed to get back on track, especially with an important game against the Lions coming up on Thursday.
The Packers were three yards away from getting the win they needed, with everything to gain and little to lose by not converting a fourth-and-goal. It was a huge mistake, and the Packers remain winless in November as a result and remain behind in their division, putting them in a tough spot heading down the stretch.