GREEN BAY – Mike McCarthy's first instinct was to go for it.
In fact, he was initially making his way to the official to call his last timeout, and he had a play he wanted on fourth-and-2 from his own 33-yard line with 4:20 left trailing Seattle by three points.
Seeing how it played out makes it easy to regret punting now, but McCarthy acknowledged roughly 16 hours after the fateful call that "those are the kind of decisions that keep all of us up at night." A brief discussion over the headset led him to change his mind, and as the Seahawks drained the rest of the clock against a banged-up defense to win 27-24, Aaron Rodgers never took another snap.
"My first reaction was to go for it," McCarthy said on Friday, adding that as an offensive coach it's often his natural inclination. "But a three-and-out there puts us right above two minute(s), and I have great confidence in our two-minute offense, especially with Aaron. It's a solid decision."
The Packers almost pinned the Seahawks near their own goal line, but rookie JK Scott's booming punt bounced into the end zone. Still, the 67-yarder was a 47-yard net with Seattle starting on its own 20.
The bigger problem was the Packers' run defense, which the Seahawks were sure to test. It was nowhere close to full strength, as defensive linemen Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark had left the game with injuries, and Green Bay's front couldn't put up enough resistance.
The Seahawks needed just four plays to get the two first downs required to clinch the win, converting on second-and-5 and second-and-6, never facing a third down.
"Now, standing here, if I knew the result was them running out the clock, yeah, I'd go for it on fourth-and-2," McCarthy said. "It was my decision. We had two options, and that's the choice I made."
McCarthy is also choosing to ignore all the noise swirling around outside. At 4-5-1, the Packers are in danger of missing the postseason for a second straight season, which has never happened in McCarthy's 13-year tenure.
The Packers' 0-5 record on the road this season has been their undoing thus far. Disappointing games at Washington and Detroit have been followed by much more competitive performances at Los Angeles, New England and Seattle, but fourth-quarter letdowns still produced defeats.
With just six games left, the Packers are running out of time, but the only future McCarthy is concerned with is next week, even as he allowed that it's impossible for an entire locker room to block out all the externals in this technological age.
"I'm focused on what's in front of us," he said. "Every individual on the inside, particularly the football team, we have a 2018 commitment. That's all I've ever focused on.
"We've been in this position before and I'm confident in how we do things. It's real important at these particular junctures in a season, you have to react but you can't overreact. You just have to stay in tune with the specifics and the details of why we're not getting it done."
Offensively, third downs and timeout usage are two elements that have hurt the Packers. The 3-for-11 conversion rate on Thursday night, and being down to just one timeout in the final minutes, were significant factors in the loss. The special teams have made damaging mistakes in virtually every game, including costly penalties and a missed field goal in Seattle. And the defense has struggled in the fourth quarter, especially the last two road games.
"It's pretty consistent through the NFL it's usually three or four plays that games come down to," McCarthy said. "You look at the execution, the communication. Our errors unfortunately have happened particularly at the end of games. That's a pattern we need to do a better job. I need to coach better, we need to execute better."