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Aaron Rodgers' season-ending facemask

The Green Bay Packers 51-45 loss to the Arizona Cardinals has taken a bit to digest, but we know three things for sure.

First, it was a great game. I don’t think anyone can argue with that.

Second, the Packers shit the bed. The league’s second-ranked defense gave up 531 yards of offense to the Cardinals, and made 38-year-old Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner look like the Messiah himself. Warner had more touchdowns on the day (five) than incompletions (four), but more on the defense’s failures later today.

Third, the game ended on a play that should have been an Arizona penalty.

I can hear the sour grapes calls now, but a penalty is a penalty and Cardinals cornerback Michael Adams clearly grabbed Aaron Rodgers facemask on the play that ended the Packers’ season – a blitz and sack by Adams that caused Rodgers to fumble into the arms of Cardinals linebacker Karlos Dansby, who scored a touchdown for the winning margin.

Why wasn’t a penalty called? Incompetence? Idiocy? The game was rigged? I really don’t know. Maybe the referees were just as stunned as the rest of us when the play happened. Maybe they were too tired from all that running up and down the field. Maybe they had to catch a plane and needed to get to the airport.

Had the facemask penalty been called, the Packers would have gotten the ball and 15 yards on third-and-five. Who can say if they would have scored, but the way the Packers’ offense was moving the ball in the second half, the chances of a score looked pretty good. In any case, it would have been nice to have the opportunity.

Unfortunately, there’s nothing the Packers can do about it, except wait until next season. It’s now just less than seven months before the first players report for training camp.

Monty McMahon

Monty McMahon is one of the founders of Total Packers. He is probably the most famous graduate of UW-Oshkosh next to Jim Gantner.



  1. Nick January 11, 2010

    Im pretty sure the facemask doesnt matter once the ball is loose, correct me if Im wrong.

  2. Carl January 11, 2010

    Correction for Nick: If possession hasn’t changed hands yet, the penalty is enforced. It was a face mask.

  3. Craig January 11, 2010

    I was cheering for the Cards, but there’s no doubt that was a penalty. I don’t know how it would have ended, but it shouldn’t have been on that play.

    Tough loss, but Packers fans as a whole seem to be taking it better than most other teams’ fans would.

  4. Tim January 11, 2010

    It DOES matter, because the ball was not in the possession of the Cardinals yet. Therefore it happened BEFORE the Cardinals had possession, making it a penalty while its still the Packers ball.

  5. CowboysRule January 11, 2010

    No facemask was called because they just said the ball was out. The ref “assigned” to look at the QB has a 1st priority of the ball. They said if the ball is out, he is looking at that 1st because that is his job then. Ball 1st….so no penalty is called because the ball is out of Rodgers hand. -NFL Network

  6. David Jones January 11, 2010

    You’re wrong nick, Facemasking is a personal foul that applies any time.

  7. Steffen January 11, 2010

    Well, if we really want to toss some sour grapes around, there was the play prior to this one – a clear helmet to helmet hit on Rodgers. No call.

    Or how about Cullen Jenkins being called for roughing the passer as he was be tackled to the ground by the offensive lineman who also had his facemask firmly in grasp? Also on that play Fitzgerald blatantly pushed off of Woodson…

    The Packers had opportunities to win and they put themselves into a hole in the first quarter, but they still got jobbed.

  8. Rick Serva January 11, 2010

    Packer fans should stop crying abut a face mask that did not have any effect on the play. You should cry about your vaunted defense giving up more than 50 points in a play-off game.

  9. Nick January 11, 2010

    Which of the two plays Larry ran over Charles are you talking about? Those refs should be demoted to pre-season only games. They tainted what could have been the greatest game many have ever seen, but Rodgers missed Jennings in OT. It never should have come to the fumble. Its all just sickning…….

  10. Sarah January 11, 2010

    Nah. It was incidental contact IMO. Not enough twisting to draw a flag.

  11. Ed January 11, 2010

    Well lets look at it this way. The Packers were given the ball to start OT, so they get an unfair advantage right there. Rodgers fumble was not caused by the facemask, as the ball came out before the facemask occured. So in my opinion, they gave the Packers a big advantage and then evened the playing field with the no-call. One last though.. PLEASE CHANGE OVERTIME

  12. Sarah January 11, 2010

    And yes, Nick. You’re absolutely right. It never should have come down to the fumble.

  13. Gig January 11, 2010

    The refs always lean one way or the other. Obviously they are betting on games and making it swing in their favor. Nothing we can do about it. They didn’t really do anything about the basketball ref who was betting on games, and ruined many teams seasons for his own personal gain. They won’t do anything about this either.

  14. Brady January 11, 2010

    What was odd was how the announcers saw that over and over and didn’t mention it. It was as if they didn’t want to taint the great game by suggesting that it ended with a missed penalty.

  15. Steffen January 11, 2010

    Forget the facemask call – it was actually roughing the passer. Jenkins got flagged for his hand grazing Warner’s head. 9 times out of 10 thats the call you get if you even barely touch a QBs head. What made this play different? maybe some people in Vegas have an explanation.

  16. Nick January 11, 2010

    I cant say anyone was payed off to call this game one way or another. Warner too at least one maybe two head shots that were not called. One for sure on the Fitz one hander in the endzone Warner took a head shot. Cant denie that one. And twist or not Sarah the ref(s) missed that call because they were looking at the fumble and stopped paying attention to the QB. Even if they call facemask it gives Rackers another chip shot attempt and who thinks he would miss a second time??? Not me. It doesnt matter now, Pack had the O to win and the D layed a bigger egg than they did in Pitt. Dont blame Capers totally, he wasnt hitting guys and not wrapping up. When a team puts up 38 points on you and you cant respond more than once after being a top two Defense that shows a lack of heart. Woodson is great and Barnett talks shit but no one showed any leadership on Defense sunday.

  17. Mark January 11, 2010

    You know what would have won the game for the Pack? Not turning the ball over on the first play of the game, or on the second drive of the game…

    Pack played well after a rough start, but figuring that they put themselves in a 17 point hole, they sealed their own fate.

    Bad calls and missed calls happen every game to every team. You plan for it to happen eventually and hope that you didn’t screw yourself up so badly by bad play earlier in the game that you can overcome the inevitable bad calls.

    Sour grapes indeed.

  18. Craig January 11, 2010

    Those who believe the refs were gambling on the outcome of the game sound foolish. If that was the case, do you think they would have allowed the Packers to even force overtime where anything could have happened?

    The refs stunk in that game, but I’d blame it less on gambling and more on poor skills. Anyone who has reffed knows that you’re going to miss calls – I know I tanked a fumble call in a high school game that decided the outcome – but to miss that many is inexcusable.

    However, the gambling angle is laughable given that the game was already in overtime. Sometimes people make horrible mistakes. Don’t look for conspiracies where none exist.

  19. GBFan January 11, 2010

    Rick Serva… and the Cards gave up 45 points in a play off game. Whats your point????

  20. Chris January 11, 2010

    The Cardinals should have been flagged in Overtime. The 1st flag should have been on the helmet to helmet hit on Rodgers. (That would have given them 15 yards and a first down) The 2nd flag should have been on grabbing the facemask. (Personal foul & 15 yards & first down) The 3rd should have been too many men on the field for the Cardinals. (But the excessive people had on different shirts. They dressed up like zebra’s. Oh well… The Referees had to get out of there. They were in a hurry to get to Vegas to pick up their money.

    How can the referee’s blow 2 calls in less than 2 minutes? Time for the NFL to get these guys some glasses or some further training. Both teams start the OT with challenges why not allow “These challenges to be used for missed penalties? They allow the use of challenges for all the other things such as ball placement, ball control, completions or INT’s. The reason they went to challenge system is to correct things that the officials have possibly missed. Why not take it one step further?

  21. Norton January 11, 2010

    Lotsa chit chat here but I have yet to see ( hear ) any “crying” nor any “sour grapes” Rick Serva.

    Should there have been a F M call ? Yeah, probably but there wasn’t. There were several other missed calls too. Fact is K W had his way with the Pack’s pass D THAT’S what won them the game. I’m a bigtime Packer fan but that’s the way it goes. Whoever said the Pack blew it on the first two turn overs was probably right. The Pack couldn’t get it done is all there is to it.

    Can’t believe I’m saying this but GO BRETT & the VIKES !

    Bite your tongue Norton, bite your tongue …..

  22. Harry Harrelson January 11, 2010

    GBFan…Exactly what I was thinking. Sure the Packers D gave up a lot of points, way too many, but so did the Cardinals. People always say the Packers didn’t deserve to win,it shouldn’t have came down to that play, if they were better it wouldn’t have gone to OT, blah blah blah. But the Cardinals gave up just as many going into that horrible call, so why do the Cardinals deserve to win, and the Packers don’t. Horrible call.

  23. Chad January 11, 2010

    The game would have been fair if the refs had been letting GB get away with all the stuff AZ did. Seriously, watch the calls against Woodson for pass int. and then watch Fitzgerald blatantly push Woodson to the ground more than 10 yards from the line of scrimmage and score a TD. That TD should not have happened, period. Prove to me using logic and reason that that play, and in addition the facemask at the end, were not game changing blunders by the refs . I dare you. GB won the game fair and square and refs gave it to AZ, who played well, but didn’t deserve the W. End of story. And by the way, Packers fans don’t care about this game cause we’ve known all season it’ll take another 2 years before the league’s youngest team is ready for the super bowl.

  24. Pirate January 12, 2010

    Call it anything you want as often as you will, but it all comes out the same way—THE PACKERS GOT SCREWED!!!. Hope the Saints eat the Cardinals’ lunch and chuck it all over ’em.

  25. Jeremy January 12, 2010

    I am indeed a die hard packer fan and fact is we lost. Cant blame the defense to much, Warner is a HOF QB and he had an awesome game. However I called that facemask when it happened and than the next day i watched the replay on ESPN and you can see the ref right there, LOOKING RIGHT AT RODGERS! I honestly believe the better team lost on Sunday, all bias aside. Them refs should never ref another game, in fact should have some charges filed against them. You are paid to ref a game, probably one of the easiest jobs there is, there is no excuse for that many missed calls. Either way whats done is done, I can’t wait til next year!

  26. Chitter January 12, 2010



  27. Chitter January 12, 2010

    Here’s an excerpt:

    NFL Notebook: Arizona win resuscitates sports books
    (January 12, 2010 7:09 AM) –

    NFL Notebook by Micah Roberts |

    There haven’t been ooh’s and aah’s in Las Vegas sports books all season like what was witnessed by the thousands who saw Sunday’s Packers-Cardinals Wild Card matchup. The game resembled like Arena Football league type of game with non-stop action, surely not an NFL game, at least by the standards set from the three previous uneventful Wild Card games over the weekend.

    However, unlike the old Arena league games, this game was the most heavily bet game of the weekend.

    Usually, the final game of the playoff weekend always has the most wagers just because of all the repeat wagers after the other games are over. Sometimes, their winning bets from earlier games are rolling over from someone feeling lucky, or sometimes it’s the unlucky who are trying to recoup their losses from the other games.

    By Friday of last week, before any of the games started, several sports books were already reporting that the Cardinals game had the most action of the four games by far – both from the Sharps and small money. The ticket count ratio was 6 to 1 at many books in favor of the Packers and the actual cash wagers resembled the same ratio.

    When the opening line came out last Sunday night, many opened the game with the Cardinals a 3 (EVEN) or 2½-point favorite. That number continued to slide down all week until finally making the Packers a 1-point or 2-point favorite by Thursday. By kickoff on Sunday, most books closed with the Packers as a 3-point favorite – a 6-point swing in many cases.

    Everyone had Packers fever. The public had just witnessed the same game last week in Arizona with Green Bay winning easily 33-7, despite the Cardinals not playing many of their starters. They had just seen the Jets dispose of the Bengals like they did last week and the same with the Cowboys thumping the Eagles again … so, why not the Packers, too.

    The Packers offense had been so crisp the last few weeks led by Aaron Rodgers and the defense had been almost equally as strong.

    The variable missing from the Cardinals loss last week was Kurt Warner, who played one of the best games of his dazzling career leading Arizona to the 51-45 overtime win. Talk all week had been about how Warner said he may retire at the end of the season, a hope all the Packer-backers wished he had done before the game.

    At the conclusion of the game, everyone had to catch their breath from the frenzied pace of the game, and the cashier windows in the sports books looked more like a Tuesday morning during basketball season than an NFL Sunday.

    The sports books’ entire weekend rested on that one Packers decision.

  28. Mark Halvorson January 12, 2010

    According to NFL.com, had the penalty been called, it still would have been cardinals ball, just not a touchdown.