Aaron Rodgers wishes replacement officials knew the rules. (AP)
Despite facing one another just eight times, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers accounts for 12.5 of the 105 sacks that Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen has during his nine-year career. They may be rivals on the field, but one thing that Rodgers and Allen have in common is that they were both unimpressed with the performance of the replacement officials in Week 1. Another common bond is that both have been willing to discuss their thoughts about the replacement refs with media outlets this week.
On Tuesday, Rodgers lamented the officiating in the Packers' 30-22 loss to the San Francisco 49ers during an appearance on 540 ESPN Milwaukee, even pointing out a mistake that went his team's way.
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"They're under a lot of scrutiny, and the one's we had last week deserved the scrutiny," Rodgers said via Jason Wilde of ESPNWisconsin.com. "You have to understand the rules...You have to try to curtail some of your frustration I think. It's just frustrating when you're positive that there's either a missed call, or that the rule was not interpreted the way that it's supposed to be interpreted. There were multiple instances of that, and when you watch the film back it's frustrating.
"That being said, there were just some bizarre calls on both sides. Anybody who watches the TV copy, I mean I saw it from the sidelines, but we scored a touchdown on a legit [illegal] block in the back. I don't know what happened on that. It has to hopefully get better."
He expounded further in an interview with Deion Sanders of the NFL Network. "You might appreciate this, but I don't think the illegal contact [calls] were being enforced the right way," Rodgers said of the 49ers' tendency to play aggressive man coverage.
"That looked like it played a vital part in the game, because it looked like they were really throwing the receivers off the routes," Sanders responded.
"They did a good job of that, but when you play a lot of man coverage, there's going to be times where they're either pushing or holding or grabbing after 5 yards," Rodgers said. "And when it's blatant, and that [receiver] is number one or two in the progression, and it's not being called ... the rules weren't exactly being followed."
Jared Allen had 22 sacks and felt he should have the NFL's single-season sack record after not being credited with a sack of Rodgers last season. Coming that close to rewriting the record books clearly has Allen on high alert. During a 26-23 overtime win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, the four-time Pro Bowler had a sack of Blaine Gabbert negated when a replacement official flagged him for being offsides.
Naturally, Allen disagreed with the call.
"I moved, but I didn't think I broke the neutral zone before the ball was snapped," Allen said in an interview on ESPN via Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com. "When a guy doesn't move, I think it was his lack of movement -- the offensive lineman's -- that made it look worse than it was.
"I think I've got a rapport with the other refs. They might have given me some leniency and let me get away with a tight call."
I recorded that game (don't ask) and upon hearing Allen's remarks, went back and reviewed that play. On the second defensive play of the Vikings' season, Allen perfectly timed Brad Meester's snap, blew right by left tackle Eugene Monroe -- who spun around and threw his right arm out in an attempt to impede Allen as a measure of last resort -- and hit Gabbert just as the quarterback was finishing his drop. Was Allen moving before the snap? Absolutely, but from the broadcast angle, Allen did not appear to cross the line of scrimmage or enter the neutral zone until the ball was in motion.
The whistle on Allen is an example of the one of the concerns people around the league have about these replacement officials. With all due respect to the Frontier Conference and Lingerie Football League, a few preseason games was never enough time for these officials to adjust to the speed of elite athletes in a meaningful NFL game.
According to official playing-time documents, Allen has logged 2,849 snaps over the previous three seasons (93.9 percent of Minnesota's 3,032 defensive snaps over that span) and has just four offsides-related penalties (offsides, encroachment, neutral zone infractions), including none in 934 snaps in 2010. So it's fair of us to say that an experienced line judge would have called what he or she saw, not the appearance of what occurred. And when a player gets that good a jump, on the eighth play of that officials' first NFL game, an erroneous flag gets thrown and a legitimate sack by one of the few players in the league capable of threatening the sack record is erased.
Rodgers and Allen do not meet on the field until December. Rodgers hopes the officiating gets better during the season. We hope the replacement officials are a past tense topic of discussion during the holidays.
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