Blame Refs, Yes, But Blame the Packers, Too

In a game that forever will be known for Russell Wilson's game-winning interception, the Packers must look in the mirror. Yes, the replacement officials stole a game from the Packers, but the team never should have been in that position.

The Green Bay Packers had defeat snatched from the jaws of victory on Monday night at Seattle by a California high school and junior college official, but in some ways, they have only themselves to blame.

Pass protection

How could Green Bay's offense improve upon last year's 560-point onslaught? The offensive line was the team's hidden strength last season, and more was expected from a group that included three of the game's best young blockers: right tackle Bryan Bulaga and guards Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang. Instead, it was a jail break throughout the first half, with Aaron Rodgers getting sacked eight times. Bulaga, in particular, had a dismal first half. Left tackle Marshall Newhouse was beaten a few times. Center Jeff Saturday is suffering through some growing pains with three so-so games in a row.

Twice during the first half, the Packers crossed midfield. Both times, Rodgers was sacked back to the Packers' side of the 50.

If one play summed up the first half, it was Seattle's Chris Clemons sacking Rodgers by stunting past Saturday while Bulaga was flagged for holding Bruce Irvin. Or, perhaps it was the segment late in the first half. With the Packers at Seattle's 47, Saturday was called for holding and Rodgers was sacked on back-to-back plays by Clemons.

Play-calling

And yet, coach Mike McCarthy dialed up one pass after another. By halftime, Rodgers threw 15 passes, was sacked eight times and scrambled on two other occasions. That's 25 passes, with two runs by Cedric Benson and one by Randall Cobb.

At one point, McCarthy dialed up 14 consecutive passing plays. Later, McCarthy called 10 consecutive passing plays.

It wasn't until the second half, when McCarthy used some two- and three-tight end formations and gave Benson the ball that the offense started to move the ball. When the Packers scored the go-ahead touchdown with 8:44 remaining in the game, the second-half play count read 38 for Green Bay and six for Seattle.

"We really felt that we were starting to wear their defense down," McCarthy said. "Frankly, the one regret I have is not going to that plan earlier. With that, I'll take responsibility."

Rodgers

During the preseason, fans and a few members of the team acted as if I had a third eye when I pointed out the Packers' No. 1 offense had scored on just four of 14 possessions in the preseason.

Well, here we are three weeks into the season and the Packers have scored 57 points. Only four teams have scored fewer. Maybe it's, as we pointed out last week, football's version of the law of gravity. Maybe it was the loss of Joe Philbin. Maybe it was the ensuing coaching shuffle. For whatever reason, those short-circuit-the-scoreboard days of last year are ancient history.

To blame this on Rodgers would be wildly inaccurate. After all, 22 quarterbacks who have started this season have been sacked less for the entire season than Rodgers was on Monday. However, Rodgers never missed last season. He's missed in every game this season, including a wide-open Donald Driver in the end zone on the Packers' first scoring drive. Driver probably would say he should have caught that pass, but Rodgers' pass was too hot and too high.

"We shouldn't have been in that position," Rodgers said of having the game in the hands of replacement officials.

Hail Mary

That M.D. Jennings intercepted that final pass is almost beyond dispute — unless, of course, you're misinterpreting the rules for "simultaneous catch." As our photo gallery shows, the official with the best view is back judge Derrick Rhone-Dunn. It appears Rhone-Dunn is signaling that it's an interception, only to have side judge Lance Easley — the aforementioned high school and juco ref — signal touchdown.

Still, the cardinal rule of playing Hail Mary defense is to knock the ball away. In Jennings' case, had he knocked the ball out of bounds, the game would have been over and the Packers would have earned a gutsy road victory. Instead, who would have guessed that Sunday's Saints-Packers game would feature teams with a combined 1-5 record?


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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 packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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