The Packers set a franchise record they’d rather not have, with 18 penalties in the 20-17 loss to the Chicago Bears. That topped the 17 penalties the Packers committed way back on Oct. 21, 1945, against the Boston Yanks.
The 152 yards in penalties on Monday rank as the third most in a game in team history, topped only by the Monday night game against Baltimore last year (175) and the aforementioned Boston Yanks contest (184).
“You can’t win a game like that,” linebacker Nick Barnett said, matter-of-factly.
It certainly makes it tough, especially when a handful of those penalties changed the course of the game considerably.
Here’s a rundown of the five most significant calls, all of them in the second half, when the Packers committed 12 of their 18 infractions:
--Leading 10-7 in the third quarter and trying to re-establish a two-score lead, the Packers faced third-and-9 from the Chicago 15-yard line. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers hit tight end Jermichael Finley at the goal line for an apparent touchdown, only to have the play called back because of holding on Mark Tauscher, who appeared to grab the back of defensive end Julius Peppers’ jersey, though only momentarily.
“It got called,” said Tauscher, who said he hadn’t seen a replay of the play to comment further, “so it’s a hold.”
The Packers then failed to convert the long third down, and then Mason Crosby’s 37-yard field goal try was blocked by Peppers.
--On the final snap of the third quarter, the Packers had third-and-1 on the Chicago 10 and had called a simple dive running play with John Kuhn. But a 5-yard delay of game made it third-and-6 on the 5, forcing the Packers to throw, and Rodgers was incomplete to Driver (his first incompletion of the second half after 11 straight connections).
Already hit with two false start penalties on Tauscher earlier on the series when backed up inside the 1, the three-and-out forced the Packers to punt from poor field position, and Chicago’s Devin Hester returned the boot 62 yards for a score that gave the Bears their first lead at 14-10.
“You can’t win playing like that,” Tauscher said. “I had three (penalties), which I usually do that in a season, so it’s frustrating. You have to just look at yourself, figure out what you’re doing wrong and try to improve on it.”
--Unfortunately, the penalties from there started to come against the defense. Moments after the Packers had regained the lead at 17-14, Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler was intercepted by Barnett over the middle.
But the play was nullified because rookie linebacker Frank Zombo was called for roughing the passer, as his helmet got Cutler under the chin just as Cutler threw the ball. The flag wiped out the turnover, gave the Bears a first down, and they eventually drove for the game-tying field goal.
--On the Packers’ next drive, Rodgers had just scrambled for 17 yards to the Green Bay 48 with just over two minutes left. Another 15 yards and the Packers might be in Crosby’s field-goal range.
But under pressure on first down, Rodgers didn’t get out of the pocket and threw the ball away deep down the right sideline. With no receiver in the vicinity, he was called for intentional grounding, costing the Packers 10 yards and the down.
On the next snap, trying to regain some of the lost yardage to get in a manageable third-down situation, receiver James Jones fumbled at the end of a short catch-and-run, and the Bears recovered near midfield with 2:18 left.
--Finally, with the Bears right on the edge of kicker Robbie Gould’s range at the Green Bay 33, Cutler tried to go deep down the right side to receiver Earl Bennett. Rookie safety Morgan Burnett and Bennett got tangled up as safety Nick Collins came over and made a diving interception at the 10.
But Burnett was called for pass interference, a 24-yard penalty that gave the Bears a first-and-goal on the 9 and set up Gould’s winning chip shot with 4 seconds left.
Needless to say, the Packers weren’t pleased with the call, particularly because it appeared Cutler’s pass was underthrown, and Burnett had turned his head back toward the ball to avoid a “faceguarding” call that can occur when the defender never knows where the ball is.
“My personal opinion, I felt we were competing for the ball,” Burnett said. “He was turned, I was turning around for the ball and Nick made a heck of a play on the ball. The referees have final judgment, and that’s just part of the game. Unfortunately the pick was taken away.”
Coming to the defense of his young secondary mate, veteran cornerback Charles Woodson said plays like the one involving Burnett and Bennett don’t turn out in favor of the defense very often, if at all.
“There has to be something done in this league about allowing quarterbacks to just throw the ball up in the air for grabs and both players being engaged and the defensive guy getting the penalty,” Woodson said. “I think that’s just absolutely wrong. You’ve got guys out there fighting, playing hard, trying to win games, and then to have a ball move up 30 yards, whatever it was, for a first down, first-and-10, that’s wrong. That should be looked into. That should be changed.”
Woodson confessed that plenty of the calls against the Packers were legitimate in his mind, but it does get maddeningly frustrating for a defense to make a big play and see it taken away by a questionable flag.
“The quarterback just throws the ball in the air, both guys are turned around looking for the ball, they’re both engaged,” Woodson continued. “You can’t tell me that receiver didn’t put his hands on Morgan. If you can tell me that maybe I’m a liar, but I don’t believe that.
“If there are two guys looking back for the ball, fighting for the ball, it should be a no-call. The play should be over. But that’s what happens in this league. It’s such an offensive-minded league, you can throw the ball up on a play and if we touch a guy remotely, they call a penalty. That’s got to change.”
Regardless, the Packers have got to change the penchant for penalties that reared its ugly head on Monday night or there will be nothing but more frustration down the road.
“We had penalties when we were a young team, but we’re over that and past that,” Barnett said. “I don’t know what happened today. Unfortunately, we happened to create those penalties at un-ideal times.”