Officials called tight end Martellus Bennett for offensive pass interference with 55 seconds left in the second quarter, wiping out a 36-yard gain by Randall Cobb. Two plays later, Aaron Rodgers threw an interception, giving the Falcons the ball at Green Bay’s 36.
“I don’t know how you call pass interference on that when Marty is running a drag route, Cobb runs a shake route, and Marty is looking back at me and gets run into,” Rodgers said.
Bennett’s story lined up with Rodgers’. “I didn't see the guy. I was running my route,” Bennett said via ESPN. “He ran into me. It was incidental contact. I didn't see him. I was looking back for the ball. I was running a flat route, so I don't know. I'm not a referee.”
Four plays later, the Falcons scored on a pick play to make it a 24-7 lead, and Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy was heated. He ended up being called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for arguing so vehemently.
“I was looking for clarification on the penalty (pass interference) that was called on Marty Bennett and didn’t get any clarification,” McCarthy said via the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “and the penalty resulted from that situation.”
The Packers got the short end of the stick again in the third quarter when Geronimo Allison contacted the Falcons’ defender beyond the 1-yard limit. It wiped out a Randall Cobb touchdown, and Allison disagreed with the call.
“I don’t think it was offensive pass interference,” Allison said via the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I think it was a natural rub and I was getting into my route.”
That Packers drive ended up resulting in a field goal instead.
The rule against pick plays shows up in Article 4 of the NFL’s 2017 rule book and reads as such:
ARTICLE 4. OTHER PROHIBITED ACTS BY THE OFFENSE. Blocking more than one yard beyond the line of scrimmage by an offensive player prior to a pass being thrown is offensive pass interference.
Note: It is also pass interference by the offense to block a defender beyond the line while the pass is in the air, if the block occurs in the vicinity of the player to whom the pass is thrown.
The pick play is a tough judgment call in a very similar way to that of charges and blocks in basketball. There are certainly some cases where some are more blatant than others, but the Packers felt they got a raw deal on Sunday night.