You know, everything is so different when you go to the game. You don’t see replays. You don’t hear the commentary. You just watch the game and experience the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat.
I left Lambeau on Monday night, absolutely amazed that the Packers pulled out the win. From the opening flea flicker, through the three turnovers, it appeared like this was Detroit’s night. And then I got back to my hotel and checked Twitter. And I saw the angst and the consternation. Tuesday morning, I turned on ESPN’s Get Up and saw the highlights.
There’s no question: the officials screwed the Lions. The penalty on the Allison hit. The non-call on Will Redmond for pass interference. Lazard’s TD (he was down at the one). And of course, the two hands to the face penalties on Trey Flowers. All bad calls. All went the Pack’s way. They should have had to kick the go ahead field goal with a minute and a half left, and Matthew Stafford should have had a chance to give Matt Prater a chance to win the game. The way he was kicking, they only needed to get to midfield.
Officiating in the NFL sucks. It sucks because we now have cameras that catch and show us everything. It sucks because there are a lot of new, inexperienced officials. It sucks because they feel like they have to throw the flag all the time to prevent being criticized for missing something. Every fan base feels like they’re being picked on, but only Vikings fans feel like there’s a conspiracy to help the Packers.
The last game I attended, the Eagles game, also ended on a horrible non-call. When Philly intercepted Rodgers on a deflection at the goal line, Marquez Valdez-Scantling was being absolutely mugged. His arms were wrapped up and he had no chance to make the catch. The play should have been reviewed, and maybe it was, but it was clear pass interference that prevented the Packers from having a chance to win the game.
On this October night, the Packers were handed a gift. But they did a lot of good things to put themselves in that position. The Packers defense was fantastic, after giving up the 66 yard flea flicker and the other bomb early in the game. They held the running game to 56 yards (while gaining 170 themselves), they held them to under 300 yards for the game. The three Packers turnovers turned into just three field goals. They held the Lions to just 23% efficiency on third down and sacked Stafford three times.
Offensively, they dealt with injuries all night. Aaron Jones appeared to injure his shoulder early and was not himself all night. Jamaal Williams rescued the running game with a great night. And then there was Rodgers, who for much of the game was without his top three wide receivers, but made do by resurrecting Marcedes Lewis and by leaning on Allen Lazard who made the most of his opportunity with some great contested catches down the stretch.
The talker coming out of the game was the blown calls by the officials, and rightfully so. But big picture, we saw a Packer team that leaned on its defense to keep them in a game when they were minus three in takeaways, a team whose quarterback again showed that he is still firmly planted in his prime and a team that is poised to improve as they get healthier.
The Pack’s 5-1 and 3-0 in the division. They’ve played like one of the top teams in the NFL, despite being led by a first time, rookie head coach. After the Monday night Fail Mary, after the hands to the face non call in the playoff game against the Cardinals, we will not apologize for catching some breaks in this one. We’re on to the Raiders.