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October

Game Balls and Lame Calls: Packers 28, Saints 27

Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy

Rodgers and the offense got back on track while McCarthy’s red flag nearly cost the team a win

Not even Jeff Triplette could deny the Green Bay Packers this time.

The Packers hung on for a wild 28-27 victory over the New Orleans Saints in a game where offenses ruled the day as both defenses gave up a combined for 895 yards and quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees both had stellar days and were able to move the chains almost at will.

The Packers go to 2-2 with the victory after their heartbreaking “loss” to the Seattle Seahawks last Monday evening and will move into second place in the NFC North behind the surprising 3-1 Minnesota Vikings should the Chicago Bears lose to the Dallas Cowboys tonight.  The Saints fall to 0-4 as the team struggles to get going without head coach Sean Payton, who was suspended for the entire season for his part in the Saints’ bounty program.

The Packers offense finally appeared to find its rhythm against the hapless Saints defense that ranked dead last in the NFL entering the game, allowing an average of 477 yards per game. Rodgers picked apart the Saints secondary and Cedric Benson had another solid outing.

So who stood out and who stood down?

Game Balls

QB Aaron Rodgers

All eyes were on the reigning MVP this week after last week’s debacle in Seattle and Rodgers’ strong comments during his weekly radio show on ESPN 540. Many were expecting Rodgers to come back with a vengeance and he didn’t disappoint.

Aside from one interception, Rodgers was surgical against the Saints defense, going 31-41 for 319 yards and throwing four touchdown passes. His offensive line kept him upright and his knack for extending plays was once again on full display.  He finally looked the part of NFL MVP, though again it was against the worst defense in the NFL.

WR James Jones

What kind of bizarre NFL season is this when Jones makes the clutch catch of the game?

Aside from making an incredible catch with a defender literally on top off him late in the fourth quarter to seal the victory, Jones had his best game of the season.  He caught two touchdown passes and finished with five catches for 65 yards.

With Greg Jennings aggravating his groin injury, Jones stepped up to the plate.  Though Jordy Nelson led the team with eight catches for 93 yards, it was Jones who made the clutch catches.

Still want to trade him, Packer Nation?

RB Cedric Benson

It’s strange when your quarterback throws 41 passes and yet the offense still seemed balanced.

Yet that’s how the Packers appeared to be with Benson being fed the ball early and often.  He finished with 18 carries for 84 yards and continues to creep ever closer to being the first Packer running back to go over 100 yards rushing in nearly two seasons.   He didn’t find the end zone, but was solid nonetheless.

If Benson continues to perform like this and keeps growing into the offense, then opponents will have no choice but to respect the Packers rushing attack which will take pressure of Rodgers and perhaps make the passing game even more lethal.

Lame Calls

Defensive coordinator Dom Capers

The defense played fairly well on first and second down. Third down was a total disaster.

The Saints finished the game 9 of 17 on third down which is an efficiency of 53% and that doesn’t even tell the full story.  Seemingly whenever the Packers would force a third and long situation, Brees would find a man wide open in the middle of the field.  It was the typical “bend but don’t break” approach that Capers’ defenses in Green Bay are becoming known for.

This was a big test for the Packers defense to see if they had truly recovered from their poor performance in 2011. It was a test that they pretty much failed against an elite quarterback.  They did a decent job containing Darren Sproles but Sam Shields was torched by tight end Jimmy Graham far too often and that allowed the Saints to climb back into the game after trailing 21-7.

Coach Mike McCarthy

McCarthy deserves credit for making another gutsy special teams call with the fake punt/direct snap to fullback John Kuhn deep in Packers territory and calling a decent game overall.

An unnecessary challenge in the first half nearly ended up costing the Packers the game, however.  When McCarthy threw the red flag after Jordy Nelson clearly didn’t have full possession of the ball going to the ground, it was already a bad decision.  The play clock on the following play was winding down, but it’s unclear why McCarthy used a challenge instead of just calling a timeout.

It turns out the Packers could have used that wasted challenge when the Saints appeared to fumble a kickoff return, yet the officials ruled Sproles down by contact when he clearly wasn’t.  It was a decision McCarthy is fortunate that did not end up costing the Packers the game.

Referee Jeff Triplette

The honeymoon is officially over.

While the game definitely had more of a tempo to it unlike the games with the replacement officials, the Packers ironically got stuck with the referee many consider the worst of the regular officiating crews. After the aforementioned Nelson drop was upheld as incomplete, a nearly identical play by Graham that was upheld as a completed catch.  Throw in the blatant push off by receiver Marques Colston on safety Morgan Burnett that was not called and resulted in a Saints touchdown, and you’d swear the replacement officials were still being used.

Before the game, the officials were greeted with a standing ovation and the game ended with an angry Lambeau crowd chanting “The Refs Still Suck!” Many who attended the game said it was the loudest they’ve ever heard Lambeau Field and some thought the stadium was going to erupt should the Packers have lost.

The officials unbelievably nearly cost the Packers a second straight game.  Wonder what Mark Murphy would have had to say should that had happened?

Oh the fickle nature of the NFL and its fans.

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Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com. Follow @KrisLBurke

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39 Responses to “Game Balls and Lame Calls: Packers 28, Saints 27”

  1. Big T says:

    Whats up with fumble fingers Finley? How much more time do they give him? If the game is on the line please take Finley out of the lineup///////

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 8 Thumb down 7

    • Tarynfor12 Tarynfor12 says:

      Finley can have two drops at crucial times and yet make one catch and get an extra 5 yds and everyone says he’s a ‘freak of nature’ a game changer…yes,dropping TD passes changes the game,I agree.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 10 Thumb down 9

      • Chad Toporski Chad Toporski says:

        And yet Driver gets a free pass every time he drops the ball… Packers fans have a hard time staying consistent with the standards they set.

        Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 11 Thumb down 10

        • Tarynfor12 Tarynfor12 says:

          $2 million and a roster spot to wave goodbye from the sidelines as I said it would be like when they signed him.
          This offense needs new blood at the WR spot and Boykin should take DDs spot but then again,Jennings IMO,will do a short IR visit and be in protect mode for his new team (next season) the rest of this season..which if we are 4-4 at the trade mark…just saying,Miami has two 2nds,3rds,4ths and need a #1 WR.
          Contract>money>more important contracts>2rd and 3rd picks>I’m in for that.

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        • Wagszilla says:

          Donald Driver has never been cocky or arrogant, however. He’s kept his hand to the plow and powered through the drops.

          But it’s not just the drops, it’s not just the celebrating. It’s the guys’ overall demeanor and attitude.

          Finley is a loud-mouth prima donna in a locker room populated by blue collar guys who preach hard work and humility.

          In short, it’s a character issue.

          That being said, he had a pretty good game yesterday and as much as I despise him running 20 yards down the field doing his stupid dance on first downs, I’m man enough to admit that he played well.

          But the delusional Packer fans will keep railing on him much like they did with James Jones and he helped bring home a Super Bowl trophy, so can’t expect anything less than irrational vitriol for a perpetually underachieving TE.

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          • Tarynfor12 Tarynfor12 says:

            Never doubted DDs character but his envisioned contribution to the team by many is for me at least.

            I never railed on JJ..in fact I have been a stauch supportor of his and said to many who wanted to trade him…foolish,we need him.

            Finley is more a detriment to the offense than a benefit…that isn’t irrational vitriol…just fact.

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        • aaronqb says:

          Not sure how this morphed into Finley vs Driver, but here’s my take.

          Love Driver for what he did from 1999 – 2010. He shouldn’t have been on the team last year or this year. His production has been nil and he does not play special teams. His roster spot IMO is a PR move. Driver looked lost yesterday.

          Many Packer fans just can’t seem to accept a guy who likes to speak out. Finley likes to speak out. Is he All Pro at this point in his career? No. Is he one of the better players on the team? Absolutely. Opps must game plan for him because he has the size and speed to rip defenses apart.

          Nelson has been the guy with the drops this year – not Finley.

          Jennings has been the guy with availability problems – not Finley.

          Finely’s agent was the guy who questioned Rodgers’ leadership – not Finley.

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          • Dan "FireMMNow" Blakley FireMMNow says:

            Finley has dropped multiple balls this year and also has a fumble. What makes you think he is one of the better players on the team? He is an average TE in this league. He does not seperate like the elite TEs and he definitely does not catch the ball in traffic like the elite TEs.

            On the Driver topic, he does get a free pass. And I agree with Taryn, Boykin should be getting those reps.

            Lots of people like to be outspoken. The problem is you have to do something to make you worth hearing, otherwise it is just annoying noise that everyone can do without. Still waiting for the YOTTO.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

    • Brandon says:

      Finely didn’t that TD! The defender had has arm in between finley’s arms and body. The defender made a really good play to knock the ball away not JF’s fault.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 3

      • Tarynfor12 Tarynfor12 says:

        Thats a play where the ‘Freak’ is suppose to out muscle the defender.The ball was in his hands..period.

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        • Dan "FireMMNow" Blakley FireMMNow says:

          agree. Finley bobbled the ball, and then the defender had the opportunity to make a play. pull the ball in your hands, hold it over your head and it is a TD. difficult play? yes. A play that “elite” TEs make all day long? yes.

          Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 4 Thumb down 3

    • AF_Cheddarhead says:

      If you are referring to the ball in the end zone that is not a drop. The defender had his hand between Finley’s hands and ripped the ball out. Granted it would have been nice if he could have held on but no way was that a drop despite what the announcers said multiple times. I am not saying that Finley doesn’t drop a lot of balls but come on!

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      • Chad Toporski Chad Toporski says:

        I would still call it a drop. Finley didn’t get a good initial grasp on the ball. If he did, he would have had a much better chance of maintaining control.

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        • Art Rosen says:

          After JJ’s catch to get the final first down of the game, a catch that I’m not sure even he saw coming, no catch can compare. How the hell did he see it?

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          • buckeyefanindaphils says:

            He didnt SEE it, it was lodged into his ribs………lol.

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  2. Ron LC says:

    If I never see the “deep zone” coverage again it will be too soon. All thhe saints have to do is delay the TE or RB and slide him out two or three counts late and there they are wide open in the middle and first down guarenteed. Yester day Capers damn near lost that game by playing so loose. That was last year all over again.

    Don’t revert again Dom. Watch some San Fran game films and learn.

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  3. Sven says:

    You are not correct about McCarthy wasting his challenge. At least in regards to being able to use it on the Sproles fumble. The refs had blown the play dead and never signalled that the Packers had possession. it was the Same a the famous Ed Houculi call.

    I am not impressed that he was put in “lame calls” because you did not research the play and rules thoroughly enough.

    McCarthy called a good game. Were it not for the Graham Harrel miscue the end of the game would have seemed extremely different, that was a 14 point swing in the Saints favor.

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    • Dan "FireMMNow" Blakley FireMMNow says:

      I had a question about that as well. I thought every turnover play was under review and if the coach challenges on that it is a 15 yard penalty. But maybe since the ref called him down by contact he could have reviewed it because at that point it is not actually a turnover play. I would like some clarification on that.

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      • Oppy says:

        you’ve got the gist of it. It was not ruled a turn over, Heck, it wasn’t even a fumble, per the (non) call on the field.

        Since the ruling on the field was down by contact, there was nothing to review and nothing to challenge.

        IMO, with the way the rules have been shaped so far as booth reviewable plays/challengable plays are concerned, officiating crews should lean towards calling close plays a certain way… If it is a question of “Touchdown” or “No Touchdown”, they should ALWAYS rule TD, since all scoring plays are reviewed- there is simply less chance of making a horrendous error. Same goes for turnover plays- when in doubt, call it a turnover. It’s reviewable. Blowing the play dead is a nail in the coffin- no call, no ability to correct a mistake, as witnessed on the Sproles fumble-that-wasn’t-but-really-was.

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  4. Ben B says:

    Second game? I would argue that the officiating of the 9er game cost the Packers that game. This was almost the third game that the Packers lost due to poor officiating. Admitedly, they could do better to improve their position, but in clutch situations we have refs that know what they’re doing, supossedly.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  5. Tarynfor12 Tarynfor12 says:

    MM was in desperation mode….as much as the fake punt worked,a fail would have been devastating,the Nelson challenge was assinine.

    For all the good that was done with our run game it was tossed aside with our zone coverage on defense.What we fought for was taken away easily with every 3rd and forever completion.

    We can blame the Refs some and we got away with a couple of PI’s,but the stress level of trying not to lose was glaring from the start on defense.

    No pass rush and the infamous..”wide open over the middle” nightmare was back.

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    • Sven says:

      The Packers put points on the board. The looked good doing it. Benson had a good game with over 100 total yards. Rodgers played awesome, and Harrell had a huge fumble.

      Brees is a great quarter back, who will make a team pay for mistakes the same way Rodgers does.

      McCarthy made a truly gutsy call on the fake punt, but it worked, and the packers scored. it was the right call because it worked.

      I am very surprised to read negative coaching remarks as are on here today. it is really as if people either didn’t watch the game, or that they really don’t understand the game that deeply.

      the team overcame so mauch adversity to win this game, and yet some of you dont see the victory through the panic.

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    • Sven says:

      Either people did not actually watch the game or else they dont really have an appropriate level of understanding.

      This critism of McCarthy is just silly today. He coached a great game. He lead the packers through a ton of adversity to get this win.

      you critize a hugely successful play, which lead to the first touchdown.

      The author gives him a “Lame Call” based on a unreviewable play, that McCarthy could not have changed even with a challenge.

      McCarthy did a GREAT job yesterday.

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      • Tarynfor12 Tarynfor12 says:

        Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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  6. Big T says:

    If they don’t fine the ref that smacked Matthews upside the head, that is complete bullshit. If a player breathes on a ref they get into trouble. Now the refs can cold cock a player and it is A-ok, wtf???? Jealous bastards obviously do not like the Packers……..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

    • Ron LC says:

      I agree with the offitiating rant. I resent that many of these so-called “regular refs” think they are actually part of the game. Goodell might spend sometime telling them they are not.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  7. Big O says:

    Ya know I’m reading all of this and nobody is saying anything about the real problem! If these games continue to be this close called this poorly, there are a lot of us going to have freaking heart attack out here,Amen

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    • Tarynfor12 Tarynfor12 says:

      If players and coaches take care of business when business demands,you take the Refs out of the equation.

      Dropped balls-especially TDs..JJ bailed us out and Finley moreso.

      Challenges that clearly shouldn’t be made…Nelson non catch.

      Zone coverage that is a full game of preventing a loss…Hopefully.

      Wasting roster spots…Driver.

      Inconsistant OL play week to week.

      Convincing yourself you have a three man pass rush and the middle is still as empty as some paths between the ears.

      Woodson acting like a tool and luckily not getting flagged or ejected.

      Players..Raji..simply not understanding the reaction will get flagged.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 2 Thumb down 5

  8. Dan says:

    I didn’t think Finley “dropped” the ball in the end zone in the first half. The DB got his hand in on the play.

    MM had a bad (wasted) challenge in the first half, but, were I think he also gets the lame call award is not policing Capers. The Head coach is in charge of his coordinators. Isn’tu MM as tired as we are with the soft zone BS and open middle of the field crap. If any of us was in charge we would have a talk with old DC. Come on Mike, grow some balls and end this mess.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  9. aaronqb says:

    I don’t agree with McCarthy being on the lame list. He coached a very good game. The team was prepared and it was a solid game plan. The problem with the challenges is that the refs blew the second challenge. Graham did not make the catch and the Packers end up getting the brunt.

    Add Graham Harrell and Shields to the lame list.

    Woodson’s game is slipping badly also.

    The offensive line was very good and the run defense was great.

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    • Sven says:

      Woodson is still pretty awesome. He led the team in tackles yesterday. Has 24 tackles on the season, as well as an int and forced fumble. I havent seen him get burned much this year, it doesnt seem like alot of balls are being thrown at him so he must be covering fairly well, but he does take some gambles.

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  10. Il Packers Fan says:

    Graham Harrell and his “sh*t eating grin” needs to be gone soon! Only job was to hand off the ball. I knew something bad was going to happen when he came in

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  11. Oppy says:

    Rodgers had a good game, but it’s wasn’t back to MVP levels by any means (IMO). Yeah, he got the TDs, but I was sorely disappointed with his refusal to take the often wide-open check down to move the sticks from time to time.

    Mostly, i am very pleased to see benson getting considerable touches (for a rb in gb, at any rate!)

    Very much disagree that one failed challenge makes for a lame call on MM. As to WHY he did it- it’s simple. Calculated risk. The play clock was going to expire, he has to burn a TO or lose yardage. He felt like it was worth a shot to see if Jordy made the catch or not. I think at that point of the game, he just wanted to get something going, and figured he’d hang one out there and see if it worked out. It didn’t, and that’s that. I’m sure MM felt like it was a should I, shouldn’t I situation, and he just figured, why not. I’m sure he’d like to have it back, though.

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    • Tarynfor12 Tarynfor12 says:

      We all saw the replays before MM made his last second ‘should I or shouldn’t I’ and nearly all knew it wasn’t a catch.Desperation call and got bit later on.We survived the game and a win is a win but it doesn’t excuse what was done.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

    • PissedoffinAZ says:

      “The play clock was going to expire, he has to burn a TO or lose yardage.”

      So, better to burn a challenge AND a TO? It was a non catch, the replay showed it was a non-catch, and a smart coach saves his challenges for 1.) really egregious calls, and 2.) late in the game when you may really need them.

      Not saying MM isn’t a smart coach, but that was not a good decision.

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      • Oppy says:

        Not a good decision, sure, but such a bad decision that it over-shadows MM’s entire game and places him in the “lame calls” category?

        Seems like that is akin to saying that since Aaron Rodgers threw an INT on sunday, he turned in a losing performance.

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  12. Kevin says:

    I’m kind of sick of the Packers D being referred to as “bend but don’t break.” To me, that means let them drive but hold them to field goals. The Packers D seems to me more like a “break but don’t absolutely shatter into a million pieces” unit.

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  13. PA Packerbacker says:

    We won! No matter what! But………. We need the D-backs to play like they did against da bears and da hawks!!!!!

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