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Packers fans angry at coach Mike McCarthy (again) after loss

Welcome to the Friday edition of The Cooler, where sometimes a season gets pushed closer to the brink. Let’s get to it:

*The Vikings have had their share of ups and downs in a sometimes frustrating 5-3-1 start (hello, 27-6 loss to Buffalo!).

But I think it’s fair to say frustration runs even deeper one state to the east, where the rival Packers entered Thursday 4-4-1 and in need of a victory over Seattle on multiple levels. They needed it to remain in solid playoff position. They needed it because they’ve struggled on the road this year and in Seattle with QB Aaron Rodgers. And they needed it perhaps most of all because throughout the season Rodgers and coach Mike McCarthy (who runs Green Bay’s offense) haven’t seemed to be on the same page at various points.

What the Packers got instead Thursday was familiar to Green Bay fans: a stunning loss in Seattle, complete with fresh new reasons to question McCarthy.

In two critical moments, the Packers coach made questionable decisions. First, he failed to challenge a Seattle catch that set up the Seahawks’ go-ahead touchdown. Replays weren’t 100 percent conclusive, but there’s a good chance the completion would have been overturned and might have led to a stalled drive and the preservation of Green Bay’s 24-20 lead.

Second, McCarthy decided to punt on 4th and 2 with 4:20 left on Green Bay’s ensuing possession. He said after the game that he was “playing the numbers” in choosing to give up the ball instead of going for it.

*I crunched the win probability numbers on Pro Football Reference, and it’s pretty much a wash in terms of which decision would have historically favored the Packers. In either case, they would have had about a 25 percent chance of winning after the decision.

But the Packers had been gouged all night in the running game, which should have been a factor in McCarthy’s decision. So, too, is keeping the ball in the hands of one of the best QBs in NFL history. To me, the most relevant numbers are 1 and 0: The first being the number of plays Rodgers was guaranteed had the Packers gone for it, vs. the number of plays he was guaranteed with a punt.

*Seattle gained two first downs on the ground to run out the clock. And Packers fans? They’re not happy. In wading through all the “fire McCarthy” and “ditch MM” comments online, this one with more substance stands out:

McCarthy needs to lose that Denny’s Menu he carries around and get an actual feel for the game. 4th and 2 with four minutes left in the game and your two best run defenders are hurt and you punt the ball! As soon as he did that I and everyone not named Mike McCarthy knew Seattle would run out the clock. A winning coach would have been in a 4 down offense.

*It left longtime Packers writer Tom Silverstein to conclude that “something is broken.” Silverstein also quoted Seattle coach Pete Carroll as being “a little relieved” the Packers punted instead of going for it.

The Packers don’t get much relief. Their next game is a week from Sunday in Minnesota, again at night in prime time. The Vikings will be fresh of a huge game of their own in Chicago, and both teams will be desperate for a win — the Packers perhaps to stay on the fringes of the division race and the Vikings perhaps to take control and send their rivals deeper into a spiral.

It's OK to enjoy the Timberwolves and still keep things in perspective

The most cautionary of all the cautionary Timberwolves tales might be a game most of you have long-forgotten but for some reason sticks with me to this day.

On Jan. 30, 2006 the Wolves played their first home game after a blockbuster deal that sent Wally Szczerbiak and Michael Olowokandi to the Celtics for Ricky Davis, Mark Blount, Marcus Banks and Justin Reed (along with other assorted draft picks).

The game happened to be against Boston, and it was the overall Wolves debut for Banks, had missed two road games (Wolves split them) after the trade.

Minnesota was languishing just below .500 at the time at 20-22. This trade was the latest attempt to surround Kevin Garnett with a new core of players he could work with, and on that night everything clicked. All the new guys shined, particularly Banks (20 points and a ton of quickness) in a 110-85 victory that pulled Minnesota within a game of .500.

I was convinced at the time the Wolves had found lightning in a bottle. So, too, was Garnett. After the game he said this, per the Star Tribune archives: “A new team breathing new air. We have a lot of potential. It’s up to not only the coaching staff but ourselves to develop that potential. We have a real special thing here.”

A real special thing.

The Wolves proceeded to go 5-17 in their next 22 games. The season ended with the absurd double-overtime loss to the Grizzlies in which Garnett sat out and Mark Madsen heaved seven three-pointers (making none). Final record: 33-49. Garnett was traded a season later after a 32-50 finish. The slow descent into awfulness had begun.

So listen: I’m not here to ruin anyone’s good time. I watched the Wolves’ 107-100 victory over the Pelicans on Wednesday in the debuts of Robert Covington and Dario Saric, and I genuinely enjoyed a Wolves game for the first time all season. They shared the ball (particularly in a wonderful stretch of the late first/early second quarter) and closed the game with a flurry after the Pelicans regrouped.

Covington and Saric are going to help. The Wolves are absolutely a better team now than they were 18 months ago before they acquired Jimmy Butler, and yes I’d rather have Covington and Saric than Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine. If you could promise me Lauri Markkanen isn’t going to be a star or invent a time machine to redo the Justin Patton pick (or at least not let him get injured), I’d feel better but as it stands I’m OK with the net result of Butler in/Butler out.

We’ll need a much larger sample size than one game to decide if they’re somehow better now than they were last season with Butler — 47 wins is a high bar — but you can at least see how the pieces fit together.

Andrew Wiggins was energized at shooting guard in the post-Butler world. Karl-Anthony Towns delivered a monster two-way game. Covington is worthy of his first-team All-NBA defense status. Saric is a great fit for the modern NBA.

The Wolves are 6-9. They seem like they have a chance to crawl back to .500 and beyond, but then again so did that Wolves team 13 seasons ago.

It’s OK to enjoy the games while still keeping things in perspective. It sure beats whatever that alternative on-court product was at the start of the year.

TV Listings

Local Schedule

  • Northwestern at Gophers football

    11 am on BTN, 100.3-FM

  • Gophers women's hockey at St. Cloud State

    2:07 pm

  • Buffalo at Wild

    5 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • San Diego at Gophers women's basketball

    7:30 pm on BTN PLUS

  • St. Lawrence at Gophers men's hockey

    8 pm on 103.5-FM/1130-AM

  • St. Cloud State at Gophers women's hockey

    2:07 pm

  • Memphis at Timberwolves

    2:30 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Wild at Chicago

    5 pm on FSN PLUS, 100.3-FM

  • Vikings at Chicago

    7:20 pm on Ch. 11, 100.3/1130

  • Gophers men's basketball vs. Texas A&M at Vancouver

    9:30 pm on ESPN2, 100.3-FM

  • Ark.-Pine Bluff at Gophers women's basketball

    7 pm on BTN PLUS

  • Denver at Timberwolves

    7 pm on FSN PLUS, 830-AM

  • Ottawa at Wild

    7 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Timberwolves at Brooklyn

    11 am on FSN, 830-AM

  • Winnipeg at Wild

    3 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Cornell at Gophers women's basketball

    3 pm on BTN PLUS

  • Gophers women's hockey vs. St. Lawrence

    3 pm

  • Michigan State at Gophers men's hockey

    7 pm on FSN, 103.5/1130

Poll: How will the Gophers and Vikings do this weekend?

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Today's Scoreboard

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No MLS games today