Penalties have hold on offense

Maybe the officials are getting paid by the penalty flag.

Six days after getting flagged 14 times for 169 yards in beating New Orleans 19-14, the Packers were slapped with 13 penalties for 103 yards in Friday's 9-7 loss at Jacksonville.

Last week, the problem was the Packers' young defensive backs getting a lesson in Pass Interference 101. On Friday, the problem was the Packers' veteran offensive line's clutching and grabbing.

Four of the five members of the Packers' starting offensive line were found guilty, as were two of the top backups. It began with starting right guard Mike Wahle, in his first action of the preseason, getting called for a chop block on the second play of the game. It ended with rookie center Scott Wells getting called for holding in the fourth quarter. In between, Pro Bowl guard Marco Rivera was called for holding. Wahle was called for holding. Starting left tackle Chad Clifton was called for a false start when the Jaguars were about to blitz. Center Grey Ruegamer, starting for the injured Mike Flanagan, was called for holding twice. Kevin Barry, a valuable reserve who is like a sixth starting lineman due to his role as an extra blocker on running downs, also was called for holding.

"We moved the ball," Packers coach Mike Sherman said. "We felt comfortable about moving the football. We had a 13-play drive, a 17-play drive, but we would shoot ourselves in the foot with either a turnover or with penalties. We had an inordinate amount of penalties on offense. Today we had very few defensive penalties, a reverse of last week. Our DBs didn't get penalized but our offensive line did an awful lot.

"We've got to clean that stuff up because certainly you have to put the ball in the end zone, which I know we're more than capable of doing, but you can't continue to move backward."

Despite 27 penalties in the last two games, Sherman said his team's history of penalty-free play gave him reason not to hit the panic button. The Packers had 88 accepted penalties against them last season, third-best in the league.

"We've been one of the least penalized teams in the league, and I'm not overly concerned at this point because of that fact," Sherman said. "I think they get tired and they don't move their feet the way they're supposed to move their feet, so they reach out and grab. We need to clean that up."

The parade of penalties goes a long way toward explaining the Packers' offensive ineptness this preseason. The Packers scored their first preseason touchdown on Friday, but still have crossed the goal line just once in 42 possessions.

"The concern level is not our ability to get a touchdown, it's the constant shooting ourselves in the foot that's pushing us backward," Sherman said of Friday's loss. "Making plays and then taking them away because of penalty; we made a number of plays today that we needed to give back simply because we held on a play or we didn't have a formation aligned correctly.

"It's not the players, it's not the scheme, it's not the play of the players: It's actually the mistakes that one individual would make to bring it all the way back. I think we'll be an explosive team in the red zone. I don't doubt that. But we're certainly dealing with a lot of penalties that are drive stoppers."


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