On one of the most important plays Sunday night, Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy liked the New Orleans Saints' defensive look.
It was fourth-and-1 in the second half, and the Saints shifted three linebackers to the left side of Green Bay's offense. On the right side, the Packers had three players to block three defenders. The odds were good, so McCarthy called for a run to the right, behind backup guard Lane Taylor.
The plan backfired.
Taylor got beat off the snap, pushed 3 yards behind the line of scrimmage. Running back Eddie Lacy never had a chance. The Saints dropped Lacy for a 1-yard loss, a critical momentum swing. Four plays later, the Saints broke the game open when quarterback Drew Brees found tight end Jimmy Graham for a 22-yard touchdown and a 14-point lead.
McCarthy was asked Monday why he chose to run the critical fourth down to the right side, instead of behind veteran left guard Josh Sitton.
"Did you look at the defense?" McCarthy asked rhetorically. "Frankly, if you look at the defense, we got the defense we expected. That's why we used the (presnap) motion. The angles were clearly what we were looking for.
"Really, the stress of the blocking scheme was on the left side, so that's why I called it to the right."
Taylor, replacing the injured T.J. Lang (ankle), struggled while playing 65 snaps Sunday. His minus-4.2 overall grade from Pro Football Focus was the lowest on either side of the ball. Taylor graded minus-4.3 in run blocking.
Lang's status for the Packers' next game against the Chicago Bears is uncertain, though McCarthy hopes the bye week gives Lang a chance to rest and heal his ankle.
"He's not doing very good today, but I think he'll feel better as the week goes on," McCarthy said of Lang. "We're optimistic about potential. You know, Chicago, it's a little too far out there for me to really give you an accurate reading."
Either way, the Packers will welcome back center JC Tretter this week. Tretter was slotted to be Green Bay's starter before a knee injury placed him on the injured reserve/designated for return list in the preseason. Rookie center Corey Linsley has sealed the starting job through an impressive, eight-game start to his career.
McCarthy did not specify how the Packers will re-introduce Tretter to the offensive line, but the second-year lineman provides options outside of center. Tretter was a collegiate tackle at Cornell, and he's also capable of playing guard.
"We'll answer the JC Tretter situation here, I would think, this week some time, but we need to talk to JC about those things first," McCarthy said.
-- firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @ByRyanWood