Green Bay Packers special teams coach Shawn Slocum disputes illegal-formation penalty on Dolphins punt

Oct. 18, 2010
Green Bay Packers-Miami Dolphins postgame analysis
Green Bay Packers-Miami Dolphins postgame analysis: Kareem Copeland addresses a costly illegal-formation penalty on a Dolphins' fourth-quarter punt and the alarming amount of time the Packers' defense is spending on the field.
Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy complains to an official about an illegal formation call during a Miami punt, which gave the Dolphins a first down. / Dan Powers/Gannett Wisconsin Media


Shawn Slocum came to his postgame interview armed with pictures.

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The Green Bay Packers’ special teams coach had what he believed was visual evidence that linebacker Robert Francois was lined up legally and shouldn’t have been called for the illegal-formation penalty in the fourth quarter on a Miami punt that gave the Dolphins the ball back, allowing them to score a touchdown in their 23-20 win at Lambeau Field.

The rule, put in place this offseason, states a player cannot line up directly over the long snapper on the line of scrimmage. He either has to be outside the snapper’s shoulders or more than 1 yard off the line scrimmage.

“I’ve got this picture that shows (Francois) 1½ or 2 yards (off the line),” Slocum said. “He’s considerably away from the football.”

Slocum’s picture was a sideline shot taken just before the ball was snapped.

Slocum even reminded Francois, who was playing his first game since being promoted from the practice squad, to make sure he lined up more than a yard off the line.

“You have to be a yard off of the snapper, and I was more than a yard off of the snapper,” Francois said. “I was lined up right.”

Packers coach Mike McCarthy also believes Francois was lined up legally.

“Robert was lined up a yard and a half from the snapper,” McCarthy said. “The intent of the rule is to protect the snapper and why and how that was called at that critical point in the game, it was obviously a big play in the game for Miami. But the picture everybody saw on the scoreboard, the communication on the sideline, the officiating crew took plenty of time to discuss it between the series change on whether to throw the late flag.

“We tried to communicate to them that he was a yard off the ball, a yard and a half off the ball. But they felt they couldn’t, the communication that was given, they could not change that back. So they felt that he was head up on the snapper.”

Referee Ed Hochuli told an NFL pool reporter that the 1-yard cushion is judged by whether a player has “a foot or any part of his body up within, if you look from the sideline, up within the linemen that are down on the ground. And he did. So that was what the penalty was, a 5-yard penalty.”

The penalty didn’t become apparent until after the Packers’ offense and the Dolphins’ defense had taken the field and were huddled near where Tramon Williams fair-caught the punt at the 8-yard line. There was further delay in calling the penalty because there was a TV timeout, and CBS had gone to a commercial.

“It is a penalty that takes more than one person to actually see,” Hochuli told the pool reporter. “You’ve got one official who’s looking, and he sees that there’s a man directly over the center. After the play, then he has to check with the two guys that are on the line of scrimmage to see if that man was up within a yard of the line. And so it takes that communication between the officials. I had already gone to commercial for after the punt, which we went out, we punched out. So that’s why everything was then done after we came back from commercial.”

Poor punting

Slocum said Tim Masthay needed to do better on the 37-yard punt in overtime that gave the Dolphins the ball at their 48-yard line on the drive that set up the game-winning field goal.

“He needs to punt the ball better than he did today,” Slocum said.

That punt had 4.15 seconds of hang time and was fair-caught but was not far enough considering he was kicking from his 15-yard line. On five punts, Masthay had a gross average of 38 yards and a net of 33.4. He had two punts downed inside the 20.

When asked whether he’s concerned about Masthay’s production, Slocum said: “I’m concerned about what we just did out there with a 33-yard net average.”

Another LB down

Already without Clay Matthews (hamstring), Brandon Chillar (shoulder) and Nick Barnett (who on Friday was placed on injured reserve because of a wrist injury), the Packers lost another linebacker late in the second quarter, when Brady Poppinga left the game with a left knee injury and did not return.

That’s the same knee Poppinga injured in 2005, when he tore his anterior cruciate ligament.

“I just planted and felt like something went wrong a little bit,” Poppinga said. “Something didn’t feel right.”

Poppinga said he was scheduled to undergo an MRI Monday.

That was the only injury McCarthy reported.

Packers statistics  |   Other NFL statistics  |  Standings  |  Matchups/Odds

Tough day for Bulaga

Rookie Bryan Bulaga started at right tackle in place of Mark Tauscher for the second straight week and had a rough time with Dolphins outside linebacker Cameron Wake.

Wake has a good combination of speed and power for an undersized (6-foot-3, 250 pounds) rusher and beat Bulaga for two of his three sacks — he beat fullback Korey Hall for the other — and had six hits on quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Bulaga said he had more problems with Wake’s bull rush than his outside speed.

“I was conscious of the speed, I knew he had it,” Bulaga said. “My pads were probably too high on both of them.”

Bulaga also was penalized for holding Wake late in the fourth quarter, though the Packers recovered to score the game-tying touchdown. On that play, Wake bull-rushed close to Rodgers while Bulaga legally held the front of his jersey, and when Rodgers scrambled outside them, Wake tried to turn around and pursue the quarterback. Bulaga maintained his grip on the jersey, so it became a penalty.

“I’ll go back and watch and see what I did wrong on it,” Bulaga said. “I guess when (Rodgers) rolls out that way, just let (the rusher) go and kind of mirror him.”

Odds and ends

In addition to Matthews, Chillar and Tauscher, guard Nick McDonald, guard/tackle Marshall Newhouse, defensive end Ryan Pickett, tight end Jermichael Finley and defensive end Mike Neal were inactive. … Backup offensive lineman T.J. Lang’s two snaps on the defensive line on a late third-quarter short-yardage stand Sunday were his first plays on defense since he was a defensive lineman as a freshman at Eastern Michigan. The Packers stopped Miami on back-to-back runs on third and fourth downs with only a yard to go for the first down. “It’s easier knowing what the offensive line is supposed to do,” Lang said. “I know all the fundamentals and techniques they use, so it’s easier for me to counteract that. I was just trying to plug a gap.”

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