It's been a popular year for criticizing the NFL for protecting quarterbacks too much. About a million times over the last four months, I've heard things like, "Come on, quarterbacks are football players, too!" and "Why don't we just put skirts on them?!"
First, on second-and-10, Rodgers dumped the ball off to Jarrett Bush(notes) on a play that went for about 15 yards. We actually did see a flag there, but it was for holding on the Packers, not the blatant helmet-to-helmet hit Rodgers took after getting rid of the ball.
Bertrand Berry(notes) got to Rodgers and jammed the crown of his helmet right up under Rodgers' facemask. In a year when we've seen guys penalized 15 yards for having their knuckles graze a quarterback's facemask (and just for the record, I'm fine with calls like that, as long as they're called consistently), it was a bizarre no-call.
The holding call stood, negated the gain, and pushed the Packers back to their own 10-yard line. Obviously, that had a huge play in the game.
Secondly, and this no-call seems to be generating more controversy, on the game-ending fumble return play, Cardinals defensive back Michael Adams(notes) hit Rodgers and then facemasked him on the way down. Again, it drew no yellow laundry. You can see it in the picture above, and you can see it in the video here. It wasn't glancing, incidental contact. That hand was on the facemask for awhile.
Hands to a quarterback's face are illegal, period, let alone grabbing his facemask and not letting go for a couple of seconds. On Twitter, the great Peter King explained how and why the call wasn't made. You're going to love this.
The referee, Scott Green, stands behind the pocket and has to watch first for the loose ball. Once the ball is out, Green's job is to watch ball for possession. He can't watch the QB then. If he saw the facemask, it'd mean he wasn't watching ball. It's a quirky rule, but it's the referee's call -- and the ref is charged with possession once the ball is loose.
Basically, the guy wasn't watching because it wasn't his job to watch. That's a great tip for all you young defensive players out there: After the quarterback fumbles, it's the ideal time to stab him with a sharpened toothbrush. No one's looking!
It all felt an awful lot like one of those basketball games where, at the end, the officials swallow their whistles, and you'd have to hit a guy with a steel folding chair to get a call. There were two blatant violations committed, in a year where we're emphasizing those exact points, and neither of them were called.
Special thanks to Doug Farrar for his help with this post.