Category Archives: Penalties

12

February

NFL Concussion Conundrum is Enough to Make You Feel Woozy

One of the biggest headlines during the 2010 season was the issue of player safety, most notably concussions. After a congressional hearing criticized the NFL for not taking the matter more seriously, the NFL took to the issue with a renewed fervor. What resulted was mass confusion for everyone; players, coaches, referees, the media and the fans had no idea what constituted an illegal hit.

This was followed by frustration by many players, most notably Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison, who was fined upwards of $10,000 per infraction. Harrison lead the league in fines (with over $100,000) and criticism (with a meeting with commissioner Roger Godell in New York and a fiery jab during the Super Bowl media day) and even threatened to retire should these fines continue.

I believe that the NFL is heading in the right direction, concussions are a serious matter and the ramifications for players as they retire and grow older can be devastating, but the system with which officials determine what constitutes an illegal hit and the repercussions that the NFL enforces afterwards are a little baffling.

The first issue, of course, is what constitutes an illegal hit due to the threat of concussion. While some hits, such as the Julius Peppers’ hit on Aaron Rodgers during the NFC championship game are pretty obvious, others, most notably when defenders end up hitting quarterbacks on the head, are a little harder to explain (such as Trent Cole’s “hit” on Peyton Manning this season). Perhaps if Deacon Jones was still playing and axe chopping quarterbacks that might be an issue, but usually these penalties occur when defenders are trying to bat balls or throwing arms and their hand coincidentally ends up touching the quarterback’s helmet.

The second issue comes from how penalties are handed out. These hits are treated as personal fouls, with a 15 yard penalty, an automatic first down and a likely monetary fine somewhere down the road. A 15 yard penalty with an automatic first down is a good start, the percentage of success for an offense rise exponentially based on their position, so usually such a large penalty will result in points, but if a cornerback can be penalized 45+ yards for pass interference holding by a wide receiver’s arm, hitting a defenseless receiver or knocking out the quarterback should probably be a bigger penalty.

8

January

NFL Wild Card Weekend: Packers-Eagles Preview: Deja Vu in Philly

The Green Bay Packers defeated the Chicago Bears 10-3 last Sunday at Lambeau Field to lock down a wild card berth for the second consecutive season.

The Packers enter the playoffs as the number six seed, but in a conference that features a 7-9 division champion, any team could come out of the NFC and head to Super Bowl XLV.

The first stop for the Packers on the road to Dallas is in Philadelphia for an encore match against the Eagles. In the first game of the regular season, the Packers beat the Eagles 27-20 after knocking then-starting quarterback for the Eagles Kevin Kolb out of the game and giving Michael Vick the opportunity to write one of the great comeback stories in NFL history.

Looking back at that game, the Packers had the Eagles well under control until Vick came into the game. He nearly led the Eagles back, but a couple well-timed sacks stopped the comeback just short and the Packers held on the victory.

With an entire week to game plan for Vick, will the Packers fare better against the elusive Eagles quarterback?

Breaking down the Eagles

Vick carried the Eagles this season. You can’t argue any other way.
In a season where coach Andy Reid was under the microscope after dealing Donovan McNabb away within the division, Vick played brilliantly and leads an incredibly explosive offense. With Vick’s dual running and passing threat, the Packers will have their hands full with No. 7.

Now, Vick is reported to be a little less than fully healthy for this game with him as of early this week saying he was only at 75% but will be ready to go Sunday.

Should the Packers be able to somehow contain Vick to the pocket, they will have to take in account speedy receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. Vick also can use tight end Brent Celek as a medium distance threat. Running back LeSean McCoy also is very underrated and will provide another option for Vick in the screen game. Of course, this all depends on if the iffy Eagles offensive line can hold up.

Bottom line: Do not underestimate the Eagles offense. They are one of the few units in the NFL than can keep up on the scoreboard against the Packers’ offense.

19

December

How Did We Get Here? 5 Plays Responsible for the Green Bay Packers’ 2010 Playoffs Predicament

Having now lost five games this season (all by four points or fewer), the Green Bay Packers  now find themselves in serious danger of missing the playoffs.

How did it come to this for the Packers? Of course we all know about the injuries, but that’s not an excuse. Plenty of playoff-bound teams, like the Patriots for example,  have their share of players on IR.

When you lose close games, you can often target a few key plays or decisions throughout the season that highlight why you are in the position you are in.

1. James Jones’ fumble against the Bears
Even though the Packers were racking up a record number of penalty yards and finding new ways to shoot themselves in the foot, Aaron Rodgers appeared poised to lead a fourth-quarter comeback victory against a hated division rival.

Then James Jones reminded us that he’s, well, still James Jones.

You can’t fault Jones for trying to make a play, but where would this season be if he just went out of bounds?

2. Rodgers chooses not to slide and gets a concussion
Some people pin last week’s loss to the Lions on Aaron Rodgers. They say his decision to not slide was selfish and he is now a “concussion prone player.”

Rodgers should have slid, no doubt. But his ill-advised decision does not mean he’s selfish and does not make him more concussion prone than any other player.

Rodgers is playing without arguably his top receiving target, his 1,200-yard rusher and his veteran right tackle. He also lost his starting guard early against the Lions. In order for the Packers to score points, Rodgers has to make plays.

Rodgers chose not to slide because he was trying to make a play. It was not a good decision, but it had nothing to do with acting like a tough guy, proving a point or being selfish.

3. Going for it on 4th and goal against the Redskins
If I was an NFL coach, I would probably be much more conservative than most fans could handle. However, if I coached the Packers, my conservatism would have resulted in an extra win this season.

Thanks to the benefit of hindsight, we realize that Mike McCarthy should have kicked the field goal when faced with a 4th and goal from the Redskins 1-yard line early in the second quarter. Those extra three points likely would have changed the game’s outcome and given the Packers another conference win over an opponent that ended up beating the Bears a few weeks later.

17

November

Packers Beer Mug Perspective: Trending in the Right Direction

Welcome to the first edition of the “Packers Beer Mug,” where I will take a look at a particular aspect of the Green Bay Packers from two different angles, then determine whether to ultimately view the mug as half full or half empty.

This week’s question:

Is the Green Bay Packers’ current winning streak a trend that will continue through the final seven games?

The Green Bay Packers and their fans have been on a wild roller coaster ride ever since training camp. After displaying some offensive and defensive muscle during preseason, the Packers had two respectable wins at Philadelphia and against Buffalo.

But then came the first division game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field, and suddenly the team was looking eerily similar to its 2009 unit.

They gave up crucial plays on Special Teams and drew a record eighteen penalties. Add to the mix a narrow victory against the Detroit Lions, plus two overtime losses to the average-at-best Washington Redskins and Miami Dolphins, and the season’s outlook became quite dull.

Fans started becoming skeptical of what their team was really made of, and if they could overcome the rash of injuries.

Jump to the present, and all of sudden the Green Bay Packers are riding a three game winning streak that began with a tough but crucial victory against the rival Minnesota Vikings and followed with a strong defensive win against the New York Jets. Now maybe the 2010 Packers really are following a similar road as last year’s team, who won five straight games after a 4-4 start.

Will the trend continue, though? Have the Green Bay Packers truly turned their season around?

THE MUG IS HALF FULL

Let’s look at a few statistics:

Wks. 1-3 Wks. 4-6 Wks. 7-9 2010 Total
Penalties per Game 8.7 6.3 2.3 5.8 (T-8th)
Pen. Yds. Per Game 72.0 46.3 18.3 45.6 (6th)
Def. Sacks per Game 4.1 2.7 2.3 3.1 (T-1st)
Off. Sacks per Game 1 3.7 1 1.9 (T-11th)
T/O Margin +0 -2 +8 +6 (T-4th)
Opp. Pts. Per Game 15.7 21.7 10.3 15.9 (1st)
Scoring Margin +10.3 -1.4 +17.0 +8.7 (1st)
Opp. Record 13-14 11-16 12-15 36-45
30

September

Packers Penalty Palooza – Where Do They Go From Here?

In 2007, the Green Bay Packers were 4th in the NFL in penalties. In 2008, they moved up to 2nd, and in 2009, the Packers claimed the top spot in the entire NFL.  (BTW, for a more detailed look at the Packers penalty history with Mike McCarthy, take a look at this article written in June.)

With their recent domination of the NFL penalty stats, are there more hills to climb? What could the Packers do to solidify their legacy of  penalty prowess. Wait, I’ve got it! They can set new Packers all-time  records.

Well, one down already:

Most penalties in a single game -  (18)  in franchise history. What a great bullet point on your coaching resume. The record was previously held by the 1945 Packers. Looking at the roster for that team, about the only recognizable names are Ted Fritsch and Don Hutson (this was Hutson’s last season and he was strictly a kicker that year).  With the roster depleted by WWII, this was surely some ugly football being played in the NFL. And now the 2010 Packers can say they were just as ugly on this one day.

So what’s left?

Most Penalties in a Season – The current record of 135 is held by the 5-9-1 1987 Packers. You remember that team, don’t you? Names like Randy Wright, Paul Ott Carruth, Phil Epps, Alfonso Carreker. Ahh, the good old days…  (actually, that team did have one of my all-time favorite linebacker corps, with John Anderson, Brian Noble, Tim Harris and Johnny Holland. Other than that, though…).  Mike McCarthy’s  Packers did manage 118 penalties in 2009, but you would think they need to get their penalty-producing asses in gear to catch that 1987 team. Amazingly, though, the Packers need only to maintain their current penalty per game average (8.6667)  to finish the season with 138 penalties. Hey, that’s not unreasonable!

Most Penalty Yards in a season – (1103 yards) Also currently held by  the 1987 packers . Boy, that team was something, wasn’t it? But let’s not shortchange the 2010 Packers. It was only last season that the Packers were penalized  for 1057 yards, currently good for second place in franchise history. Now this is a very attainable goal to shoot for. Go Pack!