Packers 4 Downs: Panthers make correct call going for two-point conversion
Four observations the day after the Packers' 24-16 win over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday:
When Carolina coach Ron Rivera went for the two-point conversion in the fourth quarter down by eight points, my initial reaction was the same as many: What’s he doing? But after you think it through, it makes sense. Not that you should always do what analytics say — game-specific circumstances matter, too — but the analytics say that going for two at that point gives you a better chance of winning. Think of it this way. Converting a two-pointer is about a 50-50 proposition in the NFL. So by going for two while down 24-16, Rivera gave himself a 50-50 shot at being down six. If that happens, he then could win the game by getting a stop, a touchdown and kicking the extra point. If the two-pointer failed, he still could tie the game by converting the two-pointer the second time. Considering he had a young quarterback in Kyle Allen going against Aaron Rodgers, I don’t blame him for wanting to shorten the game. The longer they’re on the field, the more advantage to the Packers. So overtime was not to Rivera’s advantage. “That was purely analytics, 100 percent,” Rivera said after the game.
Rodgers said it more bluntly than coaches usually do publicly, but he had some sound advice for his young teammates as they head off to their bye. At 8-2, the Packers have a lot going for them. The last thing they need is for a player to get arrested this week, something he and 32-year-old Jimmy Graham discussed. “It doesn’t happen like this all the time,” Rodgers said. “We’ve both been through rough seasons over the years where you’re just not quite in the mix. This feels different. Hopefully these guys understand how important the opportunity is and not do anything stupid that’s going to jeopardize their role in that opportunity.”
Mike Pettine, the Packers’ defensive coordinator, sure must trust Ibraheim Campbell, who played his first game of the season Sunday after undergoing knee-reconstruction surgery late last year. Though Campbell missed all offseason work and the first half of the season while recovering from a major injury, Pettine got him immediately into the playing rotation on defense. He played Campbell in his dime package at the safety-linebacker hybrid position. Campbell played more than half the game — 42 of 73 snaps — and he was on the field for most of the fourth quarter as Carolina tried to come back from a 14-point deficit. Campbell’s official stat line was six tackles and a forced fumble. But he’s a guy to watch as he gets into playing shape, because Pettine has been trying to fill that safety-linebacker position in the dime since Raven Greene (ankle) went on injured reserve in September, and so far he’s failed. It sure looks like he’s hoping Campbell can be that guy.
It was looking like third-round pick Jace Sternberger wasn’t going to contribute anything as a rookie after he missed the first half of the season because of injury, but after playing one snap in his return from IR last week, he was on the field more (15 of 68 snaps) against Carolina. Coach Matt LaFleur used a lot of two- and even three-tight end personnel groups Sunday, and Sternberger was in for several of them as a blocker. Rodgers never targeted him on a pass, but with six games left in the regular season, it’s starting to look like Sternberger at least is going to get a look to see if he deserves more playing time as the Packers’ look for any help they can get down the stretch.