Notebook: 'Emotional decision' by McCarthy nearly costs Packers 7 points

Dec. 30, 2012

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Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy challenges a call during Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis. Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette Media


MINNEAPOLIS —Jordy Nelson and apparently Aaron Rodgers knew the rule. Mike McCarthy forgot it and was fortunate his replay-review gaffe didn’t cost his team seven points Sunday.

The Packers coach picked up an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty when he threw his red flag to challenge receiver James Jones’ goal-line fumble that the Minnesota Vikings recovered. McCarthy was penalized because it’s illegal to challenge a play that’s automatically reviewed, as all turnovers are.

Besides the 15 yards, the penalty also prohibits the play from being reviewed, as was the case earlier this season, when Detroit coach Jim Schwartz challenged an 81-yard touchdown run by Houston’s Justin Forsett. The touchdown stood because the penalty prohibited officials from reviewing the play even though replays clearly showed Forsett’s knee hitting the ground after a short gain.

McCarthy, though, caught a break on the timing of his challenge. Referee Mike Carey announced that McCarthy threw the challenge flag after the replay official had buzzed Carey that the play needed to be reviewed, so the Packers were penalized 15 yards but the review would proceed. After looking at the replay, Carey ruled that Jones had crossed the plane of the goal line before losing the ball, which gave the Packers a touchdown and cut Minnesota’s lead to 27-24 late in the third quarter.

McCarthy was called for the same penalty in the preseason against Cleveland.

“Emotional decision by me,” McCarthy said of his error. “Shouldn’t have did it.”

Just after McCarthy threw the flag, Nelson tried to pick it up quickly and discreetly in hopes the officials didn’t see it.

“Yeah, knew the rule,” Nelson said. “I think there might have been miscommunication if they called him down or called it a turnover, so once I heard it was a turnover, I knew it’s automatically reviewed. Everyone’s seen the Detroit play. Luckily we were able to prevent that.”

Just after Nelson picked up the flag, Rodgers bounded over toward the Packers’ bench flailing his arms and appeared to be yelling toward McCarthy.

“I was real frustrated that the call was not a touchdown immediately,” Rodgers said. “James obviously thought it was. That, to me, didn’t look like a turnover in live speed. I know they're erring on the side of calling it a turnover because you can review the play, but that looked like a touchdown from my vantage point, from about the 7-yard line. I was just surprised that after a conference they decided to call it a touchback.”

Ross' returns in

With receiver Randall Cobb inactive because of a sprained ankle, Jeremy Ross had a strong day as the Packers’ return man.

Ross, who is 6 feet and a solid 215 pounds, showed good speed and excellent strength on both punt and kickoff returns. He averaged 28.7 yards on three kickoff returns, with a long of 44 yards, and 20.5 yards on two punt returns, with a long of 32 yards.

That might be enough to get him a shot at one or both jobs even if Cobb returns for this week’s wild-card playoff game.

“I watched a lot of film on these guys,” Ross said. “They do a great job covering down the field, they come down the field with a lot of speed. You have to attack speed with speed. You can’t dance — I watched (Chicago’s Devin) Hester, when he went side to side they just shut him down. So I was like, I’ve got to get vertical fast.’”

Injury report

The Packers may have lost rookie defensive end Jerel Worthy for the playoffs.

He sustained what appeared to be a serious left knee injury in the fourth quarter. Worthy needed crutches to get out of the locker room and wore a full leg brace after the game.

Receiver Jordy Nelson sustained a knee injury but returned only after another receiver, Jarrett Boykin, dropped out because of an ankle injury. Boykin replaced Nelson in the fourth quarter and caught a 7-yard pass to convert a fourth-and-1 but appeared to get hurt on that play. Nelson returned later in the drive and caught the 2-yard touchdown pass that tied the game at 34-34 with 2:54 remaining.

“Doc just wanted to be cautious about it, but when Boykin went down, there was no choice,” Nelson said of his return. “I knew I could get through it. I told them I was going back in. We were down to Jeremy Ross, who has been here for two months. I told them if they wanted to go zebra (three receivers) down in the red zone, I would be able to do it.”

Nelson, who returned after missing the last three games because of a hamstring injury, said he expected to play in Saturday’s playoff game against the Vikings. Nelson had three catches for 87 yards, including a 73-yard reception in the third quarter.

Crosby comes through

Packers kicker Mason Crosby wouldn’t say that he feels like his old self again because he said he never felt any differently despite his struggles.

But when Crosby nailed field goals of 51 and 40 yards on Sunday at the Metrodome, he was more demonstrative than he has been all season. After both kicks, he gestured by fist pumping with both arms. His 51-yard kick came on the final play of the first half, while his 40-yarder tied the game at 27-27 early in the fourth quarter.

“It felt good,” Crosby said. “Obviously, they were crucial situations, too. At the end of the half, it gave us some momentum. We came out and scored right after (halftime). And then to tie it there, those were big. It felt good to hit them through and give us a chance. That’s the important thing. The last two weeks, I’ve done my job, and that’s what I’m going to consistently keep doing.”

After a stretch in which he missed at least one field goal in nine games in which he had attempted one, he has now made four in a row over the last two games.

“The last two weeks, I’ve made the kicks in games I’ve needed to,” Crosby said. “I’m just doing my job, and that’s what I’m doing here. For me, I felt (like) myself all year. These last two weeks, I’ve been hitting them through the uprights, and that’s what I’ve got to keep doing.”

Crosby started the season with five straight field goals and then went through a stretch in which he made just 12 of 24 attempts before making his last four to finish 21-of-33 for the season. At 63.6 percent, that’s the lowest conversion rate of his six-year NFL career.

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