by Troy Sparks
Green Bay – When Green Bay was robbed of a win at Seattle on a last second call on a last second Hail Mary pass in their Monday night game by a replacement official, it fueled outrage from football fans everywhere.
The fight over the ball between Green Bay safety M.D. Jennings, who appeared to have two hands on the ball before Seattle’s Golden Tate put a hand on the ball, resulted in a tie-up. Observers who saw one official signal a touchdown and the other signal a timeout without discussing the situation were confused. They also saw Tate push Green Bay cornerback Sam Shields down before he went up for the ball. You know what happened. The ruling was a TD.
After that call that gave the Seahawks a 14-12 win, the wrath that was felt by Packer Nation became the rallying cry heard around the world that still hasn’t simmered. The outbursts reached the office of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in New York. He felt the heat and got the owners and officials union to agree on an 8-year deal. The real officials are back to work.
There was nothing the Packers could do about the last result. It still went down as a loss. They could do one of two things; keep complaining or take it out on the next opponent.
Against New Orleans, Sept. 30, at Lambeau Field, Green Bay came out swinging in what was a carryover from their shootout game here last year in which the Packers won 42-34. Green Bay was trying to rebound from their 1-2 start and New Orleans, who was 0-3 entering the game, was looking for a win in the worst way.
Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers started the shootout with a TD pass to James Jones in the first quarter and New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees came back with a scoring pass to Marques Colston.
Then the pace picked up in the second quarter with the QBs. Rodgers hit receivers Greg Jennings and James Jones for two consecutive TDs and Brees found Darren Sproles in the end zone right before halftime. Green Bay scored 21 of the 35 total points in the half.
The real officials got a warm welcome to Lambeau Field before the game, but once the game began, they heard the boos on two plays in particular that weren’t correctly called.
Colston pushed off on a Packers defender to get his TD catch. A replay early in the second half showed that Saints tight end Jimmy Graham caught the ball before it hit the ground. Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy challenged the play and the completed pass call stood, costing the Packers a time out and left them without any more challenges.
McCarthy gave one of the referees a mean stare. It didn’t matter if it was a real or a replacement official. That warm welcome of the regular officials at Lambeau quickly wore off when they called a total of nine penalties on both teams in the first half and 17 in the game. You can’t blame the replacement guys for anything that happens now because they are no longer officiating NFL games.
Things quickly went south for Green Bay. They lost Greg Jennings in the second half when he re-injured his groin. Rodgers was poked in the eye when New Orleans safety Malcolm Jenkins grabbed Rodgers’ face mask as the Packers were driving for a TD in the third quarter.
Rodgers went out. In came backup QB Graham Harrell. He lost the snap at the Saints’ 2-yard line and Jenkins recovered the fumble. The Saints caught the Packers’ defense off guard. Receiver Joseph Morgan ran past Shields and was all alone 20 yards downfield when he hauled in Brees’ pass and raced to the end zone. That 4-play, 92-yard drive that took 1 minute 21 seconds to complete gave the Saints a 24-21 lead with 3:43 remaining in the quarter. Rodgers came back in the game and engineered a scoring drive in the fourth quarter as the Packers regained the lead at 28-27.
“Basically, I was looking in the backfield, and that hurts,” Shields said of being out of position on the last TD by the Saints. “(Morgan) got behind me with a touchdown. It was a whole lot of stuff going through my mind at that time. They lined up quick, but like I said, it was all on me.”
New Orleans drove downfield late in the fourth quarter to set up for a game-winning field goal by kicker Garrett Hartley. He missed the field goal from 48 yards. Green Bay got the ball back, ran out the clock and escaped with a 1-point win to go to 2-2. New Orleans was still winless at 0-4.
“When we go up tempo,” Green Bay tight end Jermichael Finley said, “I don’t think that nobody can stop us. We came in and realized who was playing. Their defense is pretty weak. We just had to go out and expose them like we wanted to. I feel like we got our swagger back. In this league, confidence is the key. If you go out there and look timid, you’re not going to play well. But if you go out there, knowing that you’re going to do the job and do it well, the sky’s the limit.”
McCarthy was pleased with his team overcoming the madness in the Seattle game to move forward and play well against New Orleans. “I’m proud of our football team, especially the week we endured,” he said. “We talked a lot about integrity and character. I’m proud of the way our players responded to the challenge and responded throughout the game.”