Packers-Cardinals Aftermath: What a Missed Penalty Really Means

Chad ToporskiContributor IJanuary 11, 2010

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 10:  Linebacker Nick Barnett #56 of the Green Bay Packers walks with teammates out to the field prior to the 2010 NFC wild-card playoff game against the Arizona Cardinals at the Universtity of Phoenix Stadium on January 10, 2010 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Cardinals defeated the Packers  51-45 in overtime.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

After a stunning loss in overtime at the hands of the Arizona Cardinals’ defense, the Green Bay Packers left the field with an empty hole in their stomachs. And their fans felt the same way.

Unfortunately, in what has become an all-too-familiar scenario this season, the officiating has come under instant scrutiny in light of missing two glaring penalties on the final overtime drive.

(Take a look at this YouTube video here for the replay. Feel free to disregard the title.)

On second down, after a missed bomb to Greg Jennings, Green Bay appears to make a first down on a dump pass to Ryan Grant. The officials, however, throw a flag for holding on Darren Colledge, and rightfully so.

What they miss, though, is the obvious helmet-to-helmet hit on Aaron Rodgers by Bertrand Berry. In a year where quarterbacks are being treated like newborns and concussions have been the hot topic injury, the referees missing this call is almost unbelievable.

Then comes the fateful third down.

On what was a great play by the Arizona defense, Michael Adams forces the ball out of Rodgers’ hand on a stunt/zone blitz. The ball stays airborne after bouncing off of Rodgers’ leg and lands right in the hands of Karlos Dansby, who makes a short dash to the end zone. But the officials again miss one more glaring penalty: a facemask.

This wasn’t just incidental contact, though. From the split second after he knocks the ball out to the moment he hits the ground, Michael Adams had a firm hold on Rodgers’ facemask and even twists his head to the other side.

Now let me get this out of the way before I continue: I make no excuses for the Green Bay Packers and the way they played this game. Each team earned their score going into overtime, and if the Packers would have secured the ball better in the first quarter and played better on defense, then perhaps they wouldn’t have been in that situation.

And if Aaron Rodgers would have connected with Greg Jennings on first down, then the proceeding downs wouldn’t have even been played.

In no way does officiating (or the lack thereof) determine the outcome of a game.

But what it does do—and here is the key—is it takes away from the game’s value and each team’s chances.

Just ask the Minnesota Vikings fans about the “phantom tripping call” in the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Or ask Ray Lewis and the Baltimore Ravens about what constitutes “roughing the passer” (Though they did exact their revenge on Sunday).

The worst part about the Packers-Cardinals game, though, was that these two missed calls were fairly severe and could have resulted in injury. They were clear-cut and not at all questionable, unlike some missed or “phantom” holding calls or pass interference penalties.

Again, it takes away from the game.

The Green Bay Packers did not have a sure win. Even if Arizona was called on either of those infractions, it would not have put the Packers in immediate scoring range, and they could have easily coughed up the ball again later.

The travesty is that they never got a chance. After making an amazing comeback to tie up the game, the Packers are denied the opportunity they should have been given. An otherwise exciting game now ends on a sour and questionable note.

In March of 2009, Vice President of Officiating Mike Pereira said that officials’ success rate decreased slightly from 98.3 percent in 2007 to 98.1 percent in 2008, which averages out to about three missed calls per game.

I don’t know what the statistics are right now, but this has been a season to forget when it comes to officiating, and this Wild Card game should serve as a strong reminder to the NFL that the problem has not been fixed.

Let’s get this clear one more time: Bad officiating does not determine the outcome of a game.

It does take away from the entertainment value of a game. It takes away chances for a team to earn its own fate, whether it be good or bad. And, it tarnishes the credibility of the NFL’s referees.