Mike McCarthy hadn’t watched the tape yet, but the Green Bay Packers coach knows what he saw on James Jones’ offensive pass interference penalty in the second quarter of Thursday night’s 17-13 loss to Chicago.
McCarthy maintains his veteran receiver didn’t set a pick when he came over the top of fellow receiver Randall Cobb and Bears cornerback Bryce Callahan on a slant. Callahan bumped into Jones’ defender, Kyle Fuller, but recovered to tackle Cobb at the Chicago 1.
Head official Ed Hochuli and his crew flagged Jones for a 10-yard penalty. While Cobb wouldn’t have scored, it pushed the Packers back to second-and-15 instead of third-and-goal. Green Bay ended up settling for a Mason Crosby 22-yard field goal after striking out on its next two chances at the end zone.
“The one play on Randall's (catch) is just a flat poor call,” McCarthy said. “He missed the call. You can shake that any way you want. They’re looking for it.”
The NFL placed an emphasis this year on calling illegal picks, though the Packers had been fortunate prior to Thursday. According to ESPN.com, it was only the second time this year Green Bay has been called for offensive-pass interference.
The Packers ran a similar play at midfield in the fourth quarter except this time Davante Adams came on the slant and was bumped off his route by Chicago cornerback Chris Prosinski. The contact threw off the timing of the route, leading to Tracy Porter’s interception. No flags were thrown, suggesting the officials felt Prosinski’s coverage was permissible.
McCarthy believes the fact it was in the middle of the field and not in the tight confines of the red zone might have played into the non-call.
“Obviously down there in that tight red-zone area, they were in tight man-to-man where the one out there in the field, the interception, the safety’s coming down on the drag route by (tight end) Richard Rodgers,” McCarthy said. “There was contact there, I don’t know if it was (within) 5 (yards), I haven’t seen the film yet. The one in the red zone, the defender on J.J. bumps the defender on Randall.”
The recent NFL crackdown on free plays also has hurt the Packers. They were able to take advantage of one off-sides penalty — it led to an illegal contact call — but had two other plays blown dead on neutral-zone infractions.
One of those happened in the fourth quarter when Rodgers got former Green Bay defensive tackle Bruce Gaston to jump and found Cobb on a lengthy completion across the middle of the field. The referees called it off and said the play was over before the ball was snapped. McCarthy said the explanation that was given to him from Hochuli on both neutral-zone infractions was a reading of the rule.
“Word for word, yeah,” McCarthy said.
It’s the second time this season McCarthy has voiced his disapproval with officiating. Last month, he said the team must play above the officials in an eventual 27-20 win over San Diego after what he felt should have been a false-start penalty during a Chargers’ touchdown before halftime.
Still, McCarthy acknowledged a lot of factors went into Thursday night’s loss to the Bears.
“We had some tough breaks from the officials, but that’s all part of the game the officials, the weather, you can’t control that,” McCarthy said. “You just have to keep playing over that. We still had opportunities to be more productive.”
firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @WesHod.