GREEN BAY – Regretting decisions he makes in the heat of the moment isn’t something that Green Bay Packers coach Matt LaFleur allows himself to do very often.
But with every ounce of his being, LaFleur wished he had not thrown a challenge flag late in the fourth quarter of the Packers’ 27-24 overtime victory over the New England Patriots.
And he admitted so after the game.
“I’m not too proud of that moment,” LaFleur said. “That was an emotional decision. And I think it’s a great learning lesson that, you know, you can never make those emotional decisions in the heat of the battle.”
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers and a good portion of the 78,317 in attendance at Lambeau Field thought that receiver Romeo Doubs had caught a 40-yard touchdown catch with 2 minutes, 2 seconds left in regulation. But the officials ruled the ball squirted out of Doubs’ hands as he hit the turf.
Replays showed that the ball did indeed squirt out at the end and the only way it would have been overturned through instant replay was if the officials thought Doubs had made a football move after the catch and only lost the ball after the catch was complete.
Matt LaFleur was told by an assistant coach that Romeo Doubs had dropped the pass
But the video was pretty clear that he was still completing the catch. Rodgers said Patriots outside linebacker Matthew Judon told him while he was celebrating that “he dropped it.”
And that’s what assistant Connor Lewis told LaFleur over the headset.
“You’ve got to survive the ground,” LaFleur said. “Connor Lewis is up in my ear, he’s in the box, and he said, ‘Ah, I don’t think so.’ He said we shouldn’t challenge it.
“I just made an emotional decision, and it was almost like throwing a Hail Mary. That could have come back and bit us in the butt.”
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LaFleur calls it ‘the worst decision’ of the game for him
Losing the challenge cost LaFleur a timeout, which would have come in handy because the defense forced a punt after three plays on the ensuing series. However, the Packers had only one timeout and took it at the 1:48 mark.
Had they had another timeout, they could have stopped the clock immediately after the Patriots failed to convert a third-and-3 with about 55 seconds left. Instead, the Patriots ran the clock down to 14 seconds before calling a timeout and punting.
The Packers would have had a first-and-10 at the Green Bay 42 with about 45 seconds left. They would have needed about 25 yards without any timeouts available to get into range for a field goal.
Instead, they had 4 seconds left and ran a failed hook-and-lateral play.
The game went into overtime and, luckily for LaFleur, the Packers prevailed.
“I’d rather learn from that being on this side,” LaFleur said. “Thank god, our guys bailed me out in that regard. But definitely the worst decision of the day by me.”
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