Seriously, no flag?
OK, the much-needed preface: Blown calls are not an excuse for losing. There's no guarantee that the Packers would have gone down the field and kicked the winning field goal, whether it was the overtime playoff loss at Arizona or the overtime Week 5 loss on Sunday at Washington.
With that said, there's no disputing that Jeremy Jarmon launched himself into Aaron Rodgers and knocked the Packers' star quarterback to the turf with a helmet-to-helmet hit. I don't care that the officials didn't call it, just like they didn't call the face mask in the playoff game. Rodgers sustained a concussion following Sunday's hit but he was lucid enough to complain about the non-call barely a split-second after hitting the turf.
With Rodgers out, could Matt Flynn have driven the Packers down the field? Who knows. But at least they would have had a chance, with a first down at the 39-yard line. Kicker Mason Crosby had missed two field goals earlier but would have needed only another 20 or so yards to get a crack at the game-winner.
Of course, you probably know all of this already. What's almost more troublesome than Rodgers not getting these kind of calls is that coach Mike McCarthy doesn't blow a gasket. For God's sake, it's only the franchise quarterback. Asked about it on Monday, McCarthy simply said, "I'm not going to answer those questions. I don't comment on officiating." Yeah, Coach, you're going to get fined if you spend 2 minutes wondering aloud how in the hell your quarterback can't get a call. You can afford it. What you can't afford is opposing teams taking shots at your quarterback's head.
It's a different sport, but the NBA's Pat Riley, followed by Phil Jackson, are practically legends at complaining about the officiating after a game in hopes that maybe they'll get a call the next game. It's time to take a stand and stick up for your quarterback. The team has been let down by its general manager. It's time to show someone's got their back.
Good thing they kept four
In shaping the 53-man roster, general manager Ted Thompson was wise to keep four tight ends. That's especially true now that the two guys at the top of the depth chart, Jermichael Finley and Donald Lee, are injured.
Outside of Rodgers and Clay Matthews, the Packers couldn't find a bigger long-term loss than Finley, and his absence was apparent as Rodgers had to survive without his security blanket.
Andrew Quarless had four catches for 51 yards.
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
It's up to rookie Andrew Quarless and first-year Tom Crabtree to pick up the slack as best they can. Crabtree is a superb blocker but he's going to have to produce in an expanded role as a receiver so the offense doesn't become predictable.
Quarless is going to have to grow up in a hurry with Finley out at least three weeks but probably longer. He dropped a pass in the end zone against Chicago. He was flagged for holding on the Packers' second-to-last drive at Washington, when they led 13-10 and had second-and-4 near midfield. And he could have done more on that fourth-and-goal incompletion, with tight ends coach Ben McAdoo saying Quarless should have stuck his foot in the ground and tried to leap over the defender to either make the grab or draw interference. On the other hand, he caught four of the other five passes thrown his way, including a 21-yarder that put the Packers in position to win the game.
"We lost those guys very early and yet we still had 200 yards in the first quarter, we had over 400 for the game," offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said. "Obviously, they're very good players and would love to have them back as soon as possible. When you watch the film, it wasn't like we lost the game because we didn't have those guys. We certainly had opportunities. That being said, we'll have to devise a good plan with the guys that are healthy and hope those guys get back quickly."
Can I get a reprint?
In the Happy Hour section of the new edition of Packer Report Magazine, me, Matt Tevsh and Keith Roerdink debated the coaching credentials of McCarthy. I sang his praises for several reasons, not the least of which being his play-calling. Unlike a lot of coaches, who tend to bang their head against the wall when their beloved passing game (or running game) isn't working, McCarthy's history has been that he calls whatever's working.
So, of course, McCarthy turned a blind eye to his team's 157 rushing yards and 9.2-yard average and chucked the ball all over FedEx Field.
McCarthy was prodded on his pass-heavy attack on Monday. He called the criticism "convenient" — which was funny because that's what we predicted he'd say.
Philbin also defended the approach, which on the surface made sense because Washington ranked 31st in pass defense but didn't make sense in reality because the running game was working and their receivers weren't catching.
"I'm very comfortable with the play-calling,' Philbin said. "We were in a lot of good situations. We had a bunch of opportunities. We just didn't — for whatever reason — we didn't cash in at the right times. We missed a couple of field goals, we got stopped on a fourth-and-1, we had a couple of drops on third down when we were in good field position. I think we were there. Should of, could of, would of but we had opportunities to score a lot more points. We've got to do a better job of getting the ball in the end zone and putting points on the board. The calls are the calls. Almost any week, I think you could dispute should you call more run here, less pass and vice-versa. I'm comfortable with the way the game went."
Half full or half empty?
The Packers are 3-2. They beat an impressive Philadelphia team on the road. They demolished Buffalo. And then, pffffff.
So, is this still a playoff-worthy team? Or is this team careening to 8-8 — or worse?
On the bright side, their two losses were both on the road to first-place teams: 20-17 at Chicago on a last-play field goal and 16-13 at Washington on an overtime field goal. The Packers played well in both games, only to continually shoot themselves in the foot. So, it's not like they're being outclassed.
If you view the glass as half full, you look at the Packers' record of offensive success and think this has to change. From 2007 through 2009, the Packers ranked in the top five in the league in scoring each year. Their three-year point total is a franchise record, as is their three-year total of giveaways.
Rodgers is still the quarterback, Donald Driver and Greg Jennings are still the receivers. The blockers are still there. At some point, Rodgers will get on track and the offense will be the difference between three-point losses and seven-point wins. You know, like what happened last year.
If you view the glass as half empty, you see an offense that has scored one touchdown in the last six quarters against two of the worst defenses in the NFL. You see an offense without two big playmakers in Finley and Ryan Grant. You see Jennings has disappeared. You see Rodgers with a concussion. You see Chad Clifton looking old.
So, are they closer than it appears from the outside?
"I don't know about that," Philbin said in what can hardly be considered a ringing endorsement. "We're just not as detailed as we need to be right now. For all the yards, there's not enough points and we haven't gotten the ball in the end zone. We've got to go out and prove it. I told the players flat-out: It's one thing to talk about it; it's another thing to demonstrate it on a consistent basis. We've got to go out there and consistently perform well for 60 minutes. I'm certainly not blaming them because it starts with the coaching. We've got to do a better job."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.