The Green Bay Packers struggled at Lambeau Field against the Jacksonville Jaguars yesterday. Many of their problems included an inability to make good decisions (especially offensively), difficulty in executing plays, and the recurring penalties. Green Bay gave up over 100 yards yesterday due to penalties. In a 28-25 loss, the Packers ended their regular season at Lambeau with a 4-4 record.
But the bigger story was the fairness of the judging staff. Ed Hochuli must be the greatest NFL referee in the league today. He always watches the game unbiased and makes some of the fairest calls. I was especially impressed with two decisions that he made.
First, Jaguars safety Donavin Darius clothelined Packers wide receiver Robert Ferguson in a nearly-debilitating manner. Ferguson was unable to get up after that hit. When Darius hit him, he jumped with his forearm extended and contacted Ferguson across the neck, knocking his helmet right off (chin guard and all). Hochuli first called an unnecessary roughness personal foul against the Jaguars. But even more impressive was his decision to eject Darius from the game (only five minutes after I suggested that he should be ejected). Intent or not, it was a move that could have resulted in something fatal. Ferguson was hospitalized and diagnosed with a strained neck (fortunately, it was not something worse).
Second, the Packers had just been called on a false start penalty. Packers quarterback Brett Favre tossed the football to the umpire so he could set it on the new line of scrimmage. The umpire was obviously not paying attention, and the ball hit him in the head… he immediately threw a yellow flag. Favre’s face showed that he didn’t have any intention of hitting the umpire, but it seemed like a lost cause. Hochuli told the umpire that it was not a penalty, and the Packers were able to save a little face (despite their loss).
If anything could have gone wrong for the Green Bay Packers yesterday, it did. But despite all of their troubles, it was good to see one of the best referees presiding over the game. I just hope that the errors and penalties are out of the players’ systems now… it’s two more games to the playoffs, and Green Bay needs to be tough and accurate to remain in the game.