Packers continue penalty-prone ways under McCarthy
The Green Bay Packers were penalized an eye-popping 18 times in Monday night's 20-17 loss at Chicago, setting a dubious franchise record. The penalties directly affected the game, wiping out a potential touchdown and two possible interceptions in the second half.
Since Mike McCarthy took over as coach in 2006, the Packers have become one of the NFL's most frequently penalized teams. And after a miserable Monday night, the problem doesn't appear to be fixed.
"We'll take a look at the film, but (18) penalties, that doesn't cut it," McCarthy said after the game. "You can't play football like that, so we need to evaluate that and apply that to our preparation for Detroit."
The Packers came into this season embracing Super Bowl expectations, but showed plenty of flaws Monday night.
Their special teams units still look like liabilities; they gave up a punt return for a touchdown by Chicago's Devin Hester; new punter Tim Masthay was shaky; and a field goal was blocked.
The Packers also showed for the second consecutive week that they might not be able to run the ball without Ryan Grant, who is out for the season. The Packers had 63 yards rushing Monday night, getting 20 of those yards from quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Brandon Jackson, the player expected to replace Grant, had seven carries for 12 yards.
Without all the penalties, the Packers might have been able to overcome their other problems.
"I don't think, overall, we are a totally undisciplined team," linebacker Nick Barnett said after the game. "But we had some undisciplined plays out there. I'm not going to say I agree with every call out there, but bottom line is, we've got to clean those things up."
Rodgers said it was "uncharacteristic" for the Packers.
Statistics tell a different story.
Although the Packers have had plenty of success under McCarthy, they've also become more penalty-prone every year. According to STATS, they were tied for the league's 20th-most penalized team during McCarthy's first season as head coach in 2006 — then became the fourth-most penalized team in 2007, second-most penalized in 2008 and had the most penalties in the league, 118, in 2009.
Then came Monday night:
— With the Packers leading 10-7 and facing third-and-9 at the Bears' 15-yard line in the third quarter, Rodgers threw an apparent touchdown pass to tight end Jermichael Finley. But the play was called back on a holding penalty on right tackle Mark Tauscher. A subsequent 37-yard field goal try was blocked by Chicago's Julius Peppers.
— With the Packers leading 17-14 in the fourth quarter, Barnett intercepted a pass from Jay Cutler. But Frank Zombo was called for roughing Cutler, allowing the Bears to keep the ball.
"You've got a guy beating his man on his block and getting to the quarterback, and you get a roughing the passer call," Charles Woodson said. "You can't take that play away. As a referee, you can't look at that play and call that."
A subsequent unnecessary roughness penalty on Nick Collins extended the drive, and the Bears kicked a game-tying field goal.
— With the game tied at 17 and the Bears driving in the final minutes of the game, Collins intercepted a pass from Cutler. But rookie safety Morgan Burnett was called for interference, putting Chicago in position to eventually kick the game-winning field goal.
"There has to be something done in this league about allowing quarterbacks to just throw the ball up for grabs and both players being engaged and the defensive guy getting the penalty," Woodson said. "I just think it's absolutely wrong."
Defensive coordinator Dom Capers wasn't complaining about officials.
"You can't make as many penalties on defense as we did tonight, OK?," Capers said. "In a close, hard-fought game, it's just that simple."