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Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012

Those Were the Real Ones, Right?

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The Packers didn't just stabilize their season by edging New Orleans, 28-27, at Lambeau Field. They also salvaged part of the weekend for fans who'd suffered through the Badgers' come-from-ahead loss at Nebraska and the Brewers' exit from the playoff race.

But Sunday's success sure wasn't easy, for the guys in green and gold or the emotionally invested half of the Observers.


Frank: Can you have any energy left at all?

Artie
: I honestly don't know what I just saw. I think I have an ocular migraine. It's like 100 flashbulbs went off in my face. That stolen game in Seattle supposedly forced the NFL to make a deal with the real referees. But were those guys at Lambeau really for real?

Frank
: After that horrendous call made the Packers 1-2, I was a little bemused by the depth of the outrage. "The most heinous injustice since Dred Scott," or whatever people were saying, struck me as ju-u-u-st a bit of an exaggeration about the importance of pro football.

Artie
: If you're saying it would be nice if people got worked up that much about homeless people or outrageous medical costs, of course sports are meaningless by comparison. But just like Mike McCarthy said "the game of football is not perfect," I say this ain't a perfect world.

Frank
: Right now I say that as I watched the Saints game—after attending the Brewers' 7-0 burial by Houston—I was asking, “What have McCarthy and his team done to deserve all this officiating incompetence?”

Artie
: Especially since McCarthy conducted himself so well last week.

Frank
: Basically by keeping his mouth grimly shut. But then his team was getting jobbed again. There was the push-off that should have negated New Orleans' first touchdown...

Artie
: Just like the push-off that should have negated the Hail Mary play in Seattle.

Frank
: And in the third quarter there was the catch on the Saint's hip, clearly aided by the turf, that was not overturned. And that led to a field goal.

Artie
: That was so obvious, I was thinking, “Are the zebras just trying to establish their authority again?” But worst of all was the fumble on the kickoff in the fourth quarter where the “down by contact” ruling was blatantly, indisputably wrong.

Frank
: But McCarthy couldn't do anything because he was out of challenges. There are “booth reviews” in the final two minutes, but before that a coach is out of luck if he's out of red flags.

Artie
: And here's another thing. Did the Saints suddenly get permission to go back to their "Bountygate" crap? When Aaron Rodgers got hurt in the third quarter, that guy didn't just grab his face mask, he made sure he got his finger into Rodgers' eye.

Frank
: Whoa, I think you were seeing with your heart. I can't believe he was trying to hurt Rodgers; he couldn't be that precise at that speed.

Artie
: But I really think the zebras were letting the Saints knock guys around after the whistle a lot.

Frank
: B.J. Raji apparently did some knocking on that field-goal attempt, which drew a personal foul.

Artie
: As they say, it's always the second guy that gets flagged.

Frank
: Or maybe for once they did spot the first guy?

Artie
: I'm not buying that.

Frank
: It's true there was chippy stuff all day. And we agree that the genuine refs looked rusty—although they got it right on the holding call that forced the Saints to re-kick, and miss, what would have been a go-ahead field goal. But let's discuss the Packers' performance. Did almost 500 yards of New Orleans offense leave you worried about the defense?

Artie
: Dom Capers' schemes sure seem to leave the middle wide open, and teams always find a way to exploit that. Especially in the first half, the Pack didn't blitz a lot, kept guys back, but the Saints were still getting open.

Frank
: Whether it was the defense or the goofy calls, by the end of the game you could sure see the exhaustion on McCarthy's face.

Artie
: His face was nothing compared to mine!

 

Stumblin’ and Fumblin’

Frank: The Badgers led by two touchdowns after a few minutes and 27-10 in the third quarter, but then Nebraska scored 20 straight.

Artie
: But I look to those missed kicks in the first half—an extra point and a field goal. Those four points would have made it a very different game.

Frank
: Theoretically, the Huskers would have had to go for a touchdown instead of a field goal to go ahead in the fourth quarter. But the reality is that UW just isn't looking good at 3-2.

Artie
: It seems typical of the Badgers. In a year where you think they can really be something special, they're not. But in a year where they lose a lot of key guys, they surprise you.

Frank
: But this year they lost a key guy in Russell Wilson, and they're clearly worse off at quarterback.

Artie
: And on the offensive line, where they lost a couple of mainstays. Montee Ball scored three TDs from short range but wasn't getting sprung otherwise.

Frank
: On Ball's fumble that ended UW's final drive, I thought right away that the handoff looked goofy; Ball never tried to wrap up the ball. And it turned out that he apparently wasn't expecting the ball because QB Danny O'Brien didn't make it clear that he was changing the play from a bootleg.

Artie
: He wanted to audible but didn't do it audibly? That's just bizarre.

Frank
: If the Packers had lost, I'd have called it a fumbled weekend, given that Rodgers' eye problem put Graham Harrell on the field, and when he got tripped up by his own lineman it caused the fumble just when it looked like the Packers would make it 28-17. And soon it was 24-21 Saints.

Artie
: Oh man, if that had turned out to be the deciding factor, I'd be out in the woods and never seen again.

 

Fun While It Lasted

Frank: It was bad enough that the Brewers lost two of three to Houston, but to end their playoff hopes by getting drilled 7-0 was painful to see.

Artie
: Still, to make up all that ground and finish over .500, after all the injuries and the bullpen meltdowns, is a pretty good achievement.

Frank
: The last few losses had a common factor: giving up home runs. First John Axford got smoked in Cincinnati when he was one out away from a big save. Friday night Yovani Gallardo gave up back-to-back shots with two out, then the bullpen got taken deep twice in what turned out to be a one-run loss. And Sunday Mike Fiers struck out 10 but got tagged four times, including one by the opposing pitcher.

Artie
: Throw in three dingers in the ninth inning Saturday night and that's 11 homers in three games to a team with 100-plus losses.

Frank
: Last year the Brewers gave up 147 homers, ranking eighth in the National League in that category. With three games left this year, they'd given up 166 and were 12th-worst in the league.

Artie
: It was clear the last couple of weeks that Fiers was burning out. They should have shut him down like Mark Rogers and given Tyler Thornburg a couple of starts.

Frank
: He got scheduled for one against San Diego, but that game just lost its meaning.