Sunday’s debacle ending in a 29-29 tie between our Green Bay Packers and the hated Minnesota Vikings is not just a reflection of our team’s shortcomings and vulnerabilities early in the 2018 season — problems it very well may overcome as the season progresses. It represents yet another wrongdoing perpetrated against the Packers and their fans by the NFL.
The series of horrible calls by Tony Corrente and his crew created an 11-18 point swing (as well as kill another drive with a horrible offensive pass interference call against Geronimo Allison). The calls coincided with a team playing beyond their capacity and finally starting to sputter in the wake of mounting injuries, inexperience and sweltering heat. In the wake of so many adverse circumstances, the Packers continued trading would-be touchdowns for field goals while their valiant, overperforming defense finally succumbed to 85-plus degree weather and sheer exhaustion ONLY because these calls were made.
In this way, this game should represent for Packers fans a perverse hybrid between the Fail Mary game and the dreaded collapse in the 2014 NFC Title Game. That was a game that smacked of the bad juju that this misfortune infected the Packers with. In that title game the Packers also traded too many touchdowns for field goals.
That the Clay Matthews’ roughing-the-passer call is comparable to the Fail Mary should not be disputed. While fouls such as these are regarded as “subjective” and not eligible for review, that every corner of sports punditry is questioning it is evidence enough that it cannot be seriously defended by any reasonable person.
Which of course is precisely why commissioner Rodger Goodell and his cronies have decided to defend it.
Again, though, it was not just this call. There was the dubious holding penalty on Lane Taylor whereby the referees stole a game-clinching touchdown because an opposing player fell down. The offensive pass interference call against Geronimo Allison on what should have been a 15-yard pass completion from the 8-yard line further prevented a struggling offense to find real momentum.
The Vikings were favored by most. The Packers had to contend with a sprained knee on their star quarterback. They had to contend with a young defense that is in a transitional period, both in absorbing Mike Pettine’s new scheme and personnel. In the most valiant fashion, that defense limited the Vikings to seven points through three quarters of “adversity football.” They could not fully overcome 85-plus degree weather. They could not fully overcome the groin injury of walking-wound cornerback Kevin King, but held on long enough. They could stop the Vikings with a game-clinching interception. But with the referees stepping on the scale so much, this exhausted unit could not do it twice. But they should not have had to.
In other words, Corrente, his crew, and now the NFL were the boulder that broke the camel’s back. It was this malfeasance that ultimately changed a heroic effort that was good enough to muster a hard-fought victory over a team that is currently more dynamic to a tie. It was this malfeasance perpetrated against the Packers that was the deciding factor. Yes, ultimately, in the very end, after officiating deprived the Packers of multiple scores, the team faltered on both sides of the ball. The Packers were only put in that position by way of a series of game-deciding calls from which points were directly taken off the board for the Packers and put on the board for the Vikings.
And if this game feels like a loss, it should. For the purposes of deciding which team will the division, the Packers still need to overcome a two-game deficit, unless they can win in Minnesota. Looking at the teams’ schedules, one can hope that one game will be picked up by Minnesota losing to Philadelphia and the Packers winning against Washington. In this team’s current state, one should not hold too much hope for the Saints beating the Vikings, as the Packers will also have their hands full with the Falcons at Lambeau Field. Otherwise, the Packers will need to beat either the Rams or Patriots away or hope the Vikings drop a game against the inferior competition in the division that is the Bears or Lions.
Maybe in the end this team is rebuilding, and we are legitimately in a transitional year where the Packers are not a truly a Super Bowl contender. On the other hand, perhaps this team could develop and grow stronger on both offense and defense as the year progresses and reclaim the Lombardi Trophy a year ahead of schedule. If that proves to be the case, the bogus, game-losing calls put our team at a great disadvantage to winning the division and thereby enjoying home field advantage during the playoffs.
For this reason, Packers fans and indeed football fans should be no less outraged about this than the Fail Mary. In some ways, we should be more outraged because Corrente and his crew are to be held to the standard of professional NFL referees. Corrente should stand right next to Lance Easley in the Eighth Circle of Hell, particularly if that tie is the difference between a division championship or a first-round bye.
This author encourages everyone to send the NFL a nasty letter if not outright hate mail, and if one can find Tony Corrente’s contact information, to him as well. Phone calls and emails are also encouraged, but only with great vitriol and bite.
NFL Office of Commissioner
345 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10154
In the end though, Packer fans — rendered so docile by beer brats and Wisconsin polka, and deluded by starry-eyed good nature that is a little too kind for our own good — are probably going to just sit and take this on this chin.