Packers Dispute Ruling on Punt

The call on Robert Francois was clearly blown, the Packers insist, and it leads to a touchdown during the Dolphins' 23-20 overtime win on Sunday.

A picture is worth a thousand words.

For Shawn Slocum, his picture was worth about 21 words.

"I've got this picture which shows me (he's) one-and-a-half-yards (off the line of scrimmage)," said Slocum, the Green Bay Packers' special teams coordinator. "Or two yards. He's considerably away from the football."

The key play of Sunday's 23-20 overtime loss to the Miami Dolphins involved a player who was just called up from the practice squad earlier in the week. The Packers' defense had just held firm on a third-and-2 play from the Green Bay 43 midway through the fourth quarter. Punter Brandon Fields' kick was fair caught by Tramon Williams at the 8-yard line.

After a commercial break, referee Ed Hochuli explained that Robert Francois was lined up illegally on the punt. The resulting 5-yard penalty was enough for a first down. Four plays later, Chad Henne put the Dolphins in front 20-13 with a brilliantly called and executed throwback screen to tight end Anthony Fasano.

According to the NFL's new player-safety rules, a defensive player, A, cannot be lined over the long snapper or, B, if he is lined up over the snapper, he has to be 1 yard off the ball.

"That's judged by whether, does he have a foot or any part of his body up within, if you look from the sideline, up within the linemen that are down on the ground," Hochuli told a pool reporter. "And he did. So, that was what the penalty was, a 5-yard penalty."

Slocum and Francois disputed the officials' ruling.

"You have to be a yard off of the snapper and I was more than a yard off of the snapper," Francois said, treading carefully to avoid a fine. "It happens."

Referee Ed Hochuli (white hat) discusses the call near Mike McCarthy.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
"Robert was lined up a yard-and-a-half from the snapper," coach Mike McCarthy said. The ruling took everyone by surprise, including a defense that was catching its breath after making a key stop in a tie game.

"I had no idea what was going on. Crazy time to call that, I guess," linebacker A.J. Hawk said.

"I didn't know they were even huddling up to make a call," cornerback Tramon Williams said. "I thought we were out of there. But they came in and made a call and we had to go back out on the field."

"Well, I was not aware of it until …" defensive coordinator Dom Capers said, stopping himself in midsentence. "I don't know whether they went over and looked at the picture of it or what they did. I was feeling pretty good at the time, because I thought we had done a tremendous job getting off the field."

With the Dolphins getting a free-pass first down, the defense couldn't get off the field again. And while Aaron Rodgers answered with a game-tying touchdown drive, the Dolphins capitalized on excellent field position for their second overtime possession and kicked a field goal to drop the bruised, battered and cursed Packers to 3-3.

"I don't know. I've never seen something like that where they just huddle up, where a flag wasn't thrown and then they decide, ‘Oh, yeah, wait, he did do something wrong,'" defensive end Cullen Jenkins said. "Like, OK. But, you know, the only thing we can look forward to is getting an apology for it, if it was wrong. That'll make us feel better."

The loss comes on the heels of last week, when Rodgers threw an interception and the Redskins turned it into the points in overtime. Rodgers was victimized by a helmet-to-helmet hit on that play, and while no flag was thrown, which would have nullified the interception and given Green Bay a first down just 25 yards from a shot at a winning field goal, Washington's Jeremy Jarmon was fined $5,000.

"We should start framing them and hanging 'em up," Jenkins said of the league's too little, too late mea culpas. "Instead of putting up division championship banners and things like that, we should just put up apology letters."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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