When the teams met on Nov. 28, the Falcons took a 10-3 lead just before halftime thanks in large part to a controversial fourth-and-3 reception by Tony Gonzalez. A replay on Fox clearly showed that Gonzalez didn't make the catch, but the coaches didn't have access to that replay until long after the Falcons had snapped the ball.
Delays aren't unusual. At Lambeau Field, for instance, you can watch the play live and then look up at the monitor in plenty of time to see the play unfold "live" on television. At Ford Field in Detroit and Mall of America Field in Minneapolis, by the time the play unfolds "live" on television, the offense is breaking the huddle for the next play. The delay was even more pronounced at the Georgia Dome.
"I don't (know) whether it's the direct TV feed or if it's the direct feed from the network or exactly what it is," coach Mike McCarthy said on Monday evening, about 22 hours after his Packers won an NFC wild-card game at Philadelphia 21-16. "I don't know if it's by stadium. I know Ted Thompson and Russ Ball, our vice president of football operations, have looked into that specific situation after what occurred in Atlanta. But we're worried about lining up and playing. The technical part of it really in our view is not going to affect the outcome of this game."
McCarthy wouldn't elaborate, but clearly with what's at stake, it would be nice if both teams were playing by the same replay rules. As it is, the home team has an advantage in that the scoreboard operators show replays of close calls only to the home team.
"Like anything involving decision-making, it's about information," McCarthy said about the decision of whether or not to challenge. "When you have information, you have to make a decision, whether it's a particular instance of challenging a play, is it blind information, meaning you're going off of what you see live or the emotion of the moment or the situation. Or the information that you're able to receive from the replay, your coaches up top, or if someone gets a really good look at it on the sideline.
"Really, the Tony Gonzalez play, being fourth-and-3, having no information, calling a timeout there would have been the right option. But as we discussed after the game, there was really no information that he did not catch the ball. It was actually communicated that it was a catch. That's why we never called a timeout, and everybody knows the delay that occurred with the information as far as the instant replay."
Almost a clean bill of health
For two consecutive weeks, the Packers emerged from a game relatively healthy.
McCarthy said Donald Driver's bruised left knee shouldn't prevent him from practicing this week or playing on Saturday. Plus, defensive end Cullen Jenkins, who had missed the last four games with a calf strain, came out of the game without a setback.
A real sore spot
For the fourth time this year, James Jones had a chance to reel in a touchdown reception, only to have the ball bounce off his hands and harmlessly hit the turf. The latest was in the final minute of the first half, when Jones dropped what likely would have been a 63-yard score against Pro Bowler Asante Samuel.
After the game and again on Monday, McCarthy said Jones has been playing with a "very painful thumb injury." Interestingly, Jones has not shown up on the injury report, and McCarthy said it hadn't been mentioned for "competitive reasons."
Ball security is a major issue. The Packers were minus-2 on Sunday until Tramon Williams' game-ending interception. The Packers were minus-1 last week against Chicago until Nick Collins' game-ending interception.
"You can't turn the ball over," McCarthy said. "These games in the playoffs, they come down to one play a lot of times, so we need to maximize our opportunities, especially the number of possessions you get with playing Atlanta. I think we had seven real possessions in our first game, so it's important for us to take care of the football."
— With the game on Saturday, the Packers will practice on Tuesday through Thursday rather than Wednesday through Friday. "We feel very good, the fact that we've played three weeks in a row in a very competitive playoff atmosphere," McCarthy said. "So, that's what we're taking into the game. We feel the short week helps us. We're in sync, we're ready to go. We'll be smart with our practice reps this week because I want to make sure our players are as fresh as possible for this game."
— The Packers dodged a bullet when Brandon Underwood practically tripped over a punt, handing the ball right back to the Eagles' offense after they had gone three-and-out to start the game. "It's about awareness of where the football is," McCarthy said of Underwood, who was engaged as a blocker when he stepped on the ball. "That's something we need to do a better job of being aware in that particular situation, and definitely Brandon will learn from that experience."
— Aaron Rodgers, Philip Rivers and Tom Brady are the candidates for the FedEx Air Player of the Year and Jamaal Charles, Arian Foster and Michael Turner are the candidates for the FedEx Ground Award. To vote, click here.
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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.