By Drew Olson Special to Published Nov 06, 2006 at 12:39 AM
In the span of just a few seconds Sunday, thousands of fans across Wisconsin became football play-calling experts.
Frustrated football play-calling experts.

Trailing Buffalo by a touchdown with about 4 ½ minutes left, the Packers pounded their way to the 1-yard line and were on the brink of tying the game. Brett Favre took a one-step drop and fired a bullet toward receiver Donald Driver. Defensive back Nate Clements jumped the route and tipped the ball in the air. Safety Ko Simpson caught the deflection in the end zone and ran 76 yards before Ahman Green dragged him down.

The Bills, dominated in virtually every statistical department during the day, scored three plays later and won the game, 24-10, while angry Packers fans dragged broken chips through the last of the dip and wondered:

Why didn’t they run the ball?

It was a decent question, especially considering that the Packers had been running the ball well and much of the yardage on the drive had come on the ground.

But, let’s get serious for a moment.

The only reason anybody had a beef with coach Mike McCarthy’s decision was the result. The play, which resembled the one that led to the Packers’ lone touchdown of the day, didn’t work. The Packers lost. With the benefit of hindsight, fans can whine and moan and curse and call McCarthy an idiot.

"You've seen it over and over again during the year where we have the ability to catch people in transition," McCarthy said during in his post-game press conference. "I think it's convenient now to say I should have run it."

Let’s say the Packers had handed the ball to Green or Noah Herron and either man had fumbled. Would the run have been such a great move then?

A lot of people will say that the tipped pass / interception, which was a heroic play by Clements and a lucky break for Simpson, cost the Packers the game. In order to believe that, you have to discount or completely ignore a few important facts:

A touchdown in that situation would only have tied the game for the Packers. They still would have needed to score again in order to win. Id didn’t hear him say it afterward, but McCarthy may have called for the pass in order to score more quickly and provide more time for his team to get the ball back and win before overtime.

The Packers aren’t exactly a great short-yardage team. One of their more consistent red-zone threats -- tight end Bubba Franks -- had another rough day Sunday. (Why did they sign that guy again?)

Finally, think of the context. If you take the play call out of the equation, the tipped interception was a lucky bounce -- a bad break. The play that gave Buffalo its lead, a 43-yard touchdown pass from putrid J.P. Losman to Lee Evans.

That was the backbreaker.

It was second and 20 from the Packers 43. The Bills, who lost running back Willis McGahee to a rib injury early, had done next to nothing on offense during the game. The Packers were generating good pressure up front and Losman was getting booed by the home crowd.

After an incompletion, the Packers lost safety Marquand Manuel for a play. Already without Nick Collins (back), Green Bay put hobbled corner Charles Woodson in to play safety.

Evans lined up against Al Harris and ran an "out and up" pattern. Harris, thinking he had help, let Evans go. He was so open that not even Losman could miss him. Evans crossed the goal line, while Harris and Patrick Dendy started at each other with the "What happened?" look that has been all-too-familiar in the Green Bay secondary this season.

McCarthy called it a "miscommunication," which is coach-speak for "colossal screwup."

That play, along with the four turnovers, some great punting by Buffalo’s Brian Moorman and a handful of other miscues cost the Packers a chance to even their record at 4-4 and set the stage for what could be an ugly month of November.

Nobody in his right mind thought the Packers were going to make the playoffs this year, but when they get around to evaluating this season a few months from now they’re going to look back at this game and the St. Louis game and grimace.

It was a game the Packers should not have let get away.
Drew Olson Special to

Host of “The Drew Olson Show,” which airs 1-3 p.m. weekdays on The Big 902. Sidekick on “The Mike Heller Show,” airing weekdays on The Big 920 and a statewide network including stations in Madison, Appleton and Wausau. Co-author of Bill Schroeder’s “If These Walls Could Talk: Milwaukee Brewers” on Triumph Books. Co-host of “Big 12 Sports Saturday,” which airs Saturdays during football season on WISN-12. Former senior editor at Former reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.