Regular refs' return helps Packers pick up pace
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The regular officials' return to the NFL could boost the Green Bay Packers' offense in a small but important way.
The regular refs are able to spot the ball and keep play moving in a more timely fashion than the replacements were, allowing the Packers to use a fast-paced tempo that can get Aaron Rodgers in rhythm and unsettle opposing defenses.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy went into the season wanting to use a lot of no-huddle. But it simply wasn't as effective when replacement officials were spending extra time getting things sorted out between plays.
With the regular refs back, the Packers were able to dictate their preferred faster pace in Sunday's 28-27 victory over New Orleans.
"I thought their communication did make a big difference, clearly," McCarthy said. "The professionalism of the officials, the communication, the management of the game -- it was definitely a totally different atmosphere.
"I think that was very evident if you paid attention to how fast the offenses were playing, and the management of the game was able to keep up. It was great to have that part back for us and great to have them back."
McCarthy added: "But let's not be foolish here -- there's going to be calls every week that not everybody agrees with."
Certainly, the regular officials' return didn't spare the Packers from some controversial calls Sunday -- most notably an apparent fumble on a late kickoff return by the Saints' Darren Sproles, who was ruled down by contact.
The Saints kept the ball and were in position to kick a go-ahead field goal. But after a pair of penalties, Garrett Hartley missed a 48-yard attempt and the Packers held on for a win.
"When you start having consecutive losses, you can't help but having that thinking of, `Here we go again' at times," Rodgers said. "Unfortunately, there was a little bit of that tonight with some of the calls, but we were able to overcome it. I think it says a lot about the character of this team. This was an important win for us."
Refereeing complaints aside, the Packers could be much better off on offense in the long term with the regular officials in place.
The Packers had only four offensive touchdowns in their first three games and hadn't scored in the first quarter all year -- some of which was likely a function of playing three tough defenses: San Francisco, Chicago and Seattle.
That all changed against the Saints' struggling defense Sunday.
"The offense (was) playing more the way we're accustomed to playing here the last couple years," Rodgers said. "Felt good to get back on track. Felt good to score in the first half and first quarter. ... It was important for us to start fast."
The Packers scored on their second possession and put up a season-high 28 points. Rodgers had his best game of the season, throwing for 319 yards with four touchdowns and an interception.
"You get back to Week 1, we were in a no-huddle offense the first series -- I think the game was stopped three times. ... I'm not making an excuse," McCarthy said, "but my point is I wasn't worried about scoring points in the first quarter."
Packers tight end Jermichael Finley said he saw the Saints' defense getting tired when the Packers went no-huddle.
"If we keep that going, we can run the table here," Finley said.
Finley enjoys the fast-paced offense so much that he suggested the Packers use it all the time.
"With the receiving corps we've got, why not do it?" he said. "With the quarterback we've got, why not do it?"
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Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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