By Chris Havel
Special to Event USA
Green Bay’s missed opportunities plus “NFL” refs’ poor calls doom Packers
GREEN BAY, Wis. – It was empty calories, a hung jury and a quick handshake at the end of a first (and likely last) date.
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It was at once entertaining and bizarre but also infuriating and ultimately unsatisfying.
It was Packers 29, Vikings 29.
Green Bay’s overtime tie – can there be any other kind of tie? – was cluttered with missed opportunities, blown calls and a decidedly Twilight Zone feel to it.
It wasn’t a loss. It was worse. It was wasteful.
Let me count the ways:
** No. 1 – It ruined an otherwise exceptional performance by Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Despite being hobbled by a badly bruised and heavily braced left knee, Rodgers hit on 30 of 42 passes for 281 yards, a touchdown and a 97.4 passer rating.
“He’d been working with the brace and the other components and getting ready to play throughout the week and as you can see, he went out and played a heckuva football game under those circumstances,” Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said.
Rodgers, at 34 and injured, is still superior to the Vikings’ Kirk Cousins.
A great effort by an all-time great quarterback was squandered.
** No. 2 – The Packers’ Geronimo Allison caught six passes (on six targets) for 64 yards, but the third-year receiver didn’t stop there. He knifed through the Vikings’ line on a first-quarter punt and reached out with his right hand to block it at the goal line. Rookie Josh Jackson hauled it in and scored the game’s first touchdown on the Packers’ first blocked punt in six years.
** No. 3 – Jimmy Graham, the Packers’ key free agent acquisition, caught six passes for 95 yards on eight targets.
Graham is going to be a dominant figure this season.
** No. 4 – The Packers’ defense did enough to believe coordinator Mike Pettine’s unit is significantly better than it was a year ago.
Green Bay only sacked Cousins twice on 48 pass attempts, and he threw for 425 yards and four touchdowns, but it didn’t feel nearly as lopsided as those statistics suggest.
Beyond that, the Vikings’ sensational second-year running back, Dalvin Cook, was corralled by the Packers’ defense. Cook had an inconsequential 10 carries for 38 yards with a long run of 9.
But for all of that, the Packers only managed a push.
So how did the tie feel?
“Close to an ‘L’,” the Packers’ quarterback told reporters. “It doesn’t feel great. That last play, it’s either an ‘L’ or a tie. It’s nice not to have a loss on the record right now, but it’s disappointing. We found a lot of ways to give that one away, after last week where we were on the other side, but we had the momentum and found a way to win a game. We had a ton of chances. Disappointing the way it finished.”
The Packers’ MVP was Minnesota kicker Daniel Carlson, who missed three field goals, including two in overtime. Somehow I doubt Carlson will be around when the teams meet again.
The Vikings’ MVP was the head referee or whoever was ultimately responsible for gift-wrapping Minnesota’s tie. Somehow I feel the NFL’s “officiating problem” isn’t going anywhere any time soon.
Certainly, the officiating was substandard, even by NFL standards.
Clay Matthews’ roughing-the-passer penalty was an absurdly awful call at the worst possible time. Instead of Jaire Alexander’s interception effectively sealing a 29-21 Packers’ victory, the Vikings got another chance.
This time, Kirk Cousins delivered with a game-tying, 8-point touchdown drive on the Vikings’ final possession.
In addition to Matthews’ ridiculous call, the Packers also were on the wrong end of a Lane Taylor holding penalty that wiped out a Rodgers-to-Graham touchdown in the third quarter. Instead, the Packers had to settle for yet another of Mason Crosby’s five field goals for the day.
The Packers’ offense was just 1-for-5 in the red zone. Minnesota finished 2-of-3 inside the Packers’ 20-yard-line.
Still, the Packers could’ve won at the end of regulation except Crosby’s 52-yard kick stayed wide of the left upright to send the game into overtime.
Green Bay also had a chance to set up the game-winning field goal in overtime, but Rodgers fumbled on a second-and-1 at the Minnesota 37 and then failed to convert on third-and-4.
That led to the Vikings’ game-ending missed field goal.
Afterward, the Packers sounded empty inside.
Matthews, especially, was displeased with the officiating and the outcome. He still sounded in disbelief at his roughing penalty.
“I have so many emotions running through as far as what a terrible call it was,” Matthews said. “At the same time, I don’t know what else to do. I don’t know. You let me know. You tell me. Did I put pressure on him? I thought I hit him within his waist to chest. I got my head across, put my hands down. To call it at that point in the game is unbelievable.”
“We had opportunities to win the game, no doubt about it, but it’s frustrating to allow a call which I feel like I did the right thing to influence the game. I don’t know. I’m trying to bite my tongue, but obviously I don’t agree with it.”