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November

Packers Making the Most of Opponents’ Penalties

Mike McCarthy

Packer coach Mike McCarthy conversing with a pair of refs.

The Packers have had plenty of calls go against them this season, but they’ve also taken advantage of some penalties that have gone in their favor.

Remember the Packers opening drive against the Texans? Aaron Rodgers missed an open James Jones deep and we all groaned while trying to figure out what the heck was wrong with our MVP quarterback. Thankfully, the Texans lined up offside on a punt, giving the Packers a free fist down and Rodgers a re-do on a his deep pass.

This time, Rodgers connected with Jordy Nelson for a 41-yard touchdown on the very next play. From there, the route was on and order was restored in the Packers universe.

Before continuing, I want to be clear that I’m not saying the Packers have gotten lucky when it comes to penalties going their way. See the Fail Mary, phantom pass interference calls on Sam Shields and various bogus roughing penalties if you think that’s been the case. All I’m doing is pointing out a few instances where the Packers have taken advantage of an opportunity created by an opponent’s penalty.

I was in the stands when Jeff “I Should be a Replacement Ref but for Some Reason I’m Actually a Real Ref” Triplette and his crew missed a key fumble on a New Orleans kick return late in the game. The Saints appeared to take the lead after a field goal on the ensuing drive, but saw those three points wiped off the board due to a holding call.

The field goal re-try was no good, probably because the wind from all the Packers fans inside Lambeau breathing a sigh of relief caused the kick to sail wide.

How about this Sunday against the Jaguars? Hanging onto a six-point lead late in the fourth quarter, the Packers faced third and 7 from their own 47. Instead of going the safe route and trying to just pick up enough yards for a first down, Rodgers launched a bomb to Jones, who held up his hands looking for a pass interference penalty as the ball fell to ground incomplete.

The official closest to the play did not throw a flag. Two of his colleagues did, however, allowing the Packers to extend the drive and eventually kick the game-clinching field goal. Replays showed it was probably the correct call, but a case could also be made that there wasn’t enough for interference.

The Packers have had success even when opponents are in the process of cheating. Jones made an amazing catch while getting interfered with that clinched the Saints game. Rodgers and his receivers seem to thrive when a defender jumps offside and they get a free play (Exhibit A: The touchdown to Randall Cobb against St. Louis).

According to ESPN.com, Rodgers is 4-for-6 on free-play situations this season. Rodgers averages 25.8 yards per attempt on free-play passes over the last two seasons, more than any other quarterback with more than two free-play attempts. Also over the last two seasons, Rodgers has completed five passes for 128 yards and two touchdowns on free plays.

Good teams are able to draw penalties from opponents, and make it count when they do. So far the Packers have done a good job with that.

Now if Shields would only stop getting pushed over and flagged for pass interference………

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Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam's writing on the Packers here.

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2 Responses to “Packers Making the Most of Opponents’ Penalties”

  1. Mike says:

    Good points, though I don’t know why McCarthy has become allergic to running slants on 3rd & short.

    As far as Shields and his numerous unfortunate run-ins with the officials (real and replacement) goes, the NFL can’t allow that or Green Bay would be 7-1 and back atop the talks, unacceptable for the media ya know?

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    • Bearmeat Bearmeat says:

      Rodgers doesn’t throw the slant as well as he throws other routes. We were spoiled with possibly the best slant thrower in the history of the NFL for 15 years.

      After the change in QB’s, MM switched up the emphasis in routes run.

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