After suffering through a 6-10 season full of near misses (or to see the glass half full, near wins), the ongoing problem with penalties is continuing.
Last year the Packers committed 110 accepted penalties, second most in the NFL.
They lost 984 yards (first in the NFL) on those penalties, nearly the length of 10 football fields. Not that the defense isn’t to blame for their fair share. After all, they did play an aggressive man-to-man coverage. But the attention and focus always seems to be on the offensive line and special teams, especially during critical times.
The first example that comes to mind is the 24-27 loss against the Atlanta Falcons. With 1:20 left in the second quarter, Mason Crosby hit a 43-yard field goal that was nullified by a holding penalty. Crosby subsequently missed the second attempt from 53 yards.
Another instance in the same game came when the Packers were down 20-17 in the fourth quarter. Aaron Rodgers completed an 8-yard pass to Donald Lee that was negated by a holding penalty. Instead of 3rd and 2 from the Green Bay 43, they were pushed back to their own 25. An intentional grounding penalty shortly after led to an interception by Rodgers, which Atlanta turned into the game sealing touchdown.
Against Minnesota in the Metrodome, leading 24-21 and with the ball on the Vikings 27, an offensive hold negated a 12 yard run for a first down. A false start pushed them back another 5 yards during the drive. The Packers had to settle for a field goal from the 22 instead of a 1st and 10 from the 15 and a better chance at a touchdown. They ended up losing the game by one point.
There are several more examples throughout the season of costly penalties at critical times.
To be fair, the Packers did improve from 2007 when they were flagged 113 times (fourth in NFL) for 1,006 yards (second in NFL), if you can call that improvement.
So what is the solution? Who is to blame?
Joe Philbin took over the offensive line two years ago when the rash of penalties started. Is he the culprit? Shawn Slocum takes over for retired Mike Stock on special teams. Could he help turn around the mental mistakes there?
When it is all said and done, the sole responsibility falls to Mike McCarthy.
He has acknowledged the problem in post-game press conferences for the last two years calling it a “focus and discipline” issue. But the results need to be seen on the field. If the preseason flags are any indication this trend is going to continue, it could end up costing the Packers points and field position.
After losing seven games by four points or less last year, better focus and discipline on the offensive line and special teams can turn four point loses into four point wins.
Lets hope McCarthy can get this problem under control and the Packers see a little less of the refs reaching for those not-so-harmless yellow flags in their back pockets, and see more ref’s arms indicating first downs and touchdowns for the Green and Gold.