Analysis by Rich Madrid
A potentially controversial sequence of events occurred late in the second half of the Packers-Falcons game when it appeared that two different players possibly threw punches that could’ve have warranted ejections.
Late in the second quarter as the Packers were driving down the field before half time, quarterback Aaron Rodgers scrambled up the middle before sliding. He was contacted at the last second by nickel defensive back Brian Poole (No. 34), a hit that is legal since the slide was late and contact was imminent.
Poole did not make contact with Rodgers in the head or neck area, criteria in the rules that protect quarterback even on late slides.
Tempers flared in the ensuing melee when Packers left guard Patrick Lucas (No. 62) came in late to shove Poole in the back as players were gathering to scrum. The game officials briefly lost control of the situation as players came in to separate each other from the pile that gathered around Poole and Lucas. Falcons linebacker Deion Jones then jumped on Lucas’ back and tried yanking him to the ground.
During the ruckus, Jones was yanked off the pile by Packers left tackle Jason Spriggs (No. 78), prompting Jones to turn around where he then appeared to swing at Spriggs’ helmet. It’s clear he connected but what isn’t clear is whether or not he threw and open palm or closed fist.
While this was going on with Jones, Packers center Corey Linsley (No. 63) tagged himself into the ring and immediately tossed Falcons safety Sharrod Neasman (No. 41) to the ground. The two stayed engaged with each other and Linsley swung and connected with Neasman’s head as well in front of three officials, two of which threw flags immediately after. In this case it also wasn’t clear if he hit Neasman with a fist or open palm.
Both Jones and Linsley could’ve have been ejected for fighting and throwing punches but there are no clear angles with which to determine if punches with closed fists were thrown.
Instead of ejections, Walt Coleman and his crew flagged both Jones and Linsley for unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. Under the replay protocol for disqualifications, officiating central in New York has the authority to issue ejections and likely would have ejected both for fighting if there was clear evidence. Instead, it’s unclear if that part of the scuffle was reviewed by officiating central.
Player safety was also put risk during the scuffle. The idea of having replay get involved is so that they catch exactly this type of behavior, which can be difficult to see in the middle of it all at ground level. Had they been ejected, both Linsley and Jones would’ve been the 14th and 15th player ejections this season. There has been only one player ejected via replay that we know of.