It started in last week's Sunday Night game against Seattle; as Seahawks coach Pete Carroll noted days later, a mid-game "free play" on which Richard Sherman was called for a 52-yard pass-interference penalty should never have been allowed to continue past the snap:
Carroll is simply correct: under the NFL's Rule 7, Article 4(b), it is a neutral zone infraction whenThat play came near the end of the first half. Carroll's argument wasn't about whether or not the Seahawks had jumped offsides, which defensive end Michael Bennett clearly did. It's what happened afterward – or more precisely, what didn't happen – that he believes constituted an officiating error.
"We jump offsides, their offensive line, the right guard and tackle stand up, the play's dead," Carroll said. "That thing never happened. It never should have happened."
The right side of Green Bay's offensive line popped up after Seattle jumped offsides but before the ball was snapped. As Carroll noted, that should have resulted in the play being whistled dead. Instead, Rodgers threw deep into double coverage -- knowing he had a free play -- and cornerback Richard Sherman was flagged for pass interference.
The Packers were on their own 13-yard line at the time, leading 10-3 with 52 seconds left in the second quarter. They didn't have any timeouts remaining, either, which means their only realistic shot at scoring was with a big play. They got one by virtue of a pass-interference penalty that also stopped the clock. The Packers kicked a field goal five plays later to take a 13-3 halftime lead.
- "Pete Carroll laments 'total mistake on the officials' part' vs. Green Bay"
Illustrative example A.R. 7.22 addresses the situation as well:a defender enters the neutral zone prior to the snap, causing the offensive player(s) in close proximity (including a quarterback who is under center) to react (move) immediately to protect himself (themselves) against impending contact; officials are to blow their whistles immediately.
Unfortunately, this is not what happened last Sunday night; even though two Green Bay offensive linemen false-started as the result of (or with the intent of calling attention to) Bennett's offsides, the officials simply ignored it, allowing Rodgers to put up a bomb that resulted in Sherman's pass-interference penalty.Second-and-10 on B30. Defensive tackle B1’s initial charge into neutral zone makes offensive guard A1 directly across from him flinch and draw back.
Ruling: Blow the whistle immediately. Penalize B1 for a neutral zone infraction. A’s ball second-and-5 on B25.
On the NBC studio halftime show, Tony Dungy actually obliquely pointed out this officiating mistake. No one else on the network followed up on the problem, and the commentators at Lambeau never mentioned it.
Well, to add double insult to the Seahawks' injury, the same thing happened again TWICE last night, in the Packers' win over Kansas City. Rodgers was gifted two free plays—a 26-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter and a 52-yard bomb early in the fourth—when Chiefs defenders jumped offside and one or more Packers offensive linemen (LT Tony Bakhtiari both times, LG Josh Sitton on the first play) moved before the snap. Rather than stop play, as the rule above requires, and award the Packers a five-yard neutral-zone-infraction penalty, in both cases the officials wrongly allowed play to continue, to the home team's overwhelming benefit.
It is most infuriating that the Green Bay Packers are allowed to play by different rules than the rest of the league is.