Matt LaFleur defends Packers’ choice to kick field goal in NFC championship game — with a catch

Matt LaFleur still wouldn’t have punted on the kick.

The Packers’ head coach was excoriated for his decision to kick a late-game field goal in the NFC championship game from the 8-yard line vs. the Buccaneers, bringing the score to an inconsequential 31-26 and giving the ball back to Tom Brady with just over two minutes in regulation remaining. 

On Monday, LaFleur reaffirmed that, even with the gift of hindsight, he still would have kicked that field goal — but a difference of three yards would have made a difference.

“It is what it is. It didn’t work out,” LaFleur said Monday.  “You know, I’ll own it. But if I had to do it again, if it’s fourth-and-goal from the 8-yard line, we’re kicking the field goal.”

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Interestingly enough, LaFleur had a bit of a modifier for his decision to kick there: Had the Packers’ offense gotten a little closer — three yards closer — then the discussion to go for it on fourth down would have been different.

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While NFL head coaches are very much “no ragrets”-type people, the decision to kick the field goal in that moment is ineffective in the situation, as explained here.

Long story short, the Packers would need a touchdown and a 2-point conversion to tie if they fail in that situation, and they’d give the ball back to Tom Brady and the Buccaneers offense with just over two minutes remaining and all three timeouts if they tie the game with a successful TD and 2-point conversion. That, of course, would give them a chance to go out and win the game in regulation.

While Aaron Rodgers garnered some criticism for his decision not to run the ball on third down when he had real estate ahead of him, the what-if games don’t matter as much with the Packers opting to kick the field goal.

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It’s a decision that LaFleur is clearly OK with now, even if it still doesn’t make much sense.