If you feel about referee Jeff Triplette as I do, you may have wondered if the NFL was punishing the Green Bay Packers for their comments following Monday night's officiating atrocity, in which receiver Golden Tate of the Seattle Seahawks was awarded a game-winning touchdown under highly questionable circumstances. That call essentially ended the logjam between the NFL and NFL Referees Association that had the actual game officials locked out.
Triplette, a longtime "real" referee for reasons that elude us, was sent to Green Bay for the Packers' follow-up game with the New Orleans Saints, and his buffoonery nearly cost the Packers their second-straight officiating-aided game.
The madness started with 7:00 left in the game, when Packers kicker Mason Crosby booted the ball to Saints receiver Darren Sproles after Aaron Rodgers' 11-yard touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson. The Packers were up, 28-27, at that time. Sproles took the ball 4 yards in his own end zone, came out 35 yards to the 31-yard line, and clearly fumbled the ball before he went down.
However, Triplette ruled that Sproles was down by contact, and since the Packers were out of challenges, Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy could not contest the obviously bad call. Packers safety Charles Woodson got into a scrum and had to be physically restrained by his teammates.
The Saints went down the field, and New Orleans kicker Garrett Hartley went onto the field to attempt a 43-yard field goal with 2:58 left in the game. However, Triplette called holding on the Saints on the first try, which was good. It was an unusal call, and Triplette did not name the offending player, as he was supposed to.
A make-up call? Probably. Was Triplette icing Hartley so he could make it out of Lambeau Field alive? Stranger things have happened.
And then, to even the score, Triplette called encroachment on the Packers when Hartley got set to attempt what was now a 48-yard attempt. That pushed the ball back to the 43-yard line, and Hartley missed the re-try wide left.
The Packers walked off the field victorious after they ran out the clock, but you couldn't blame them if they were in favor of playing the game without officials at all at this point. Had the Saints won, it would have been double trouble for Triplette -- in the first quarter, Saints receiver Marques Colston pushed Packers defensive back Morgan Burnett to the ground just before catching a touchdown pass.