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Flags Fly At Worst Times

For a team that has been at or near the league lead in penalties in 2008, Sunday’s six infractions for 65 yards did not constitute the Packers’ worst day. But the flags certainly flew at the worst possible times in the 24-21 loss to Houston, none worse than a highly questionable holding penalty on backup right tackle Tony Moll late in the game that wiped out a run for a first down into the red zone by Ryan Grant. - More Packers-Texans Game Center


RB Ryan Grant gained 104 yards on 19 carries on Sunday.

For a team that has been at or near the league lead in penalties in 2008, Sunday's half-dozen infractions for 65 yards by the Green Bay Packers did not constitute their worst day.

But the flags certainly flew at the worst possible times in the 24-21 loss to Houston at Lambeau Field, none worse than a highly questionable holding penalty on backup right tackle Tony Moll. It came with just under 3 minutes to play that wiped out a run for a first down into the red zone by Ryan Grant and contributed to the offense sliding back and out of field-goal range with the game on the line.

The Packers, trailing all day, had just tied the score at 21 with 5:56 left and gotten the ball back after a three-and-out. Starting from the Green Bay 16, Donald Driver's 59-yard catch-and-run put the ball on the Houston 25 with 3:46 left.

Well within Mason Crosby's kicking range, the Packers looked like they would either finish the drive with a go-ahead touchdown, or burn as much clock as they could before kicking a go-ahead field goal.

After Grant gained 3 yards on first down on a run left, he took the handoff on second down off right tackle, where Moll had been playing since early in the second quarter. Starter Mark Tauscher had gone down with what is likely a significant knee injury, and Moll stepped in.

His play had largely gone unnoticed, normally a good thing for an offensive lineman, until Grant's second-down run in crunch time. Moll was blocking Houston's star defensive end, Mario Williams, and Grant cut inside his block for a 9-yard gain that would have given the Packers a first down at the Houston 13-yard line with under 3 minutes left.

But Moll was called for holding Williams, wiping out the gain and making it second-and-17 from the Houston 32. Replays showed Moll didn't appear to hold Williams or hook him with his arm significantly, and on the sidelines Head Coach Mike McCarthy was visibly upset with the call.

"I don't want to comment about the officials," McCarthy said after the game. "I think if you watched the game, you know how I felt about it. It's disappointing when you're in that position."

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was even clearer about how he felt by saying even less.

"Next question, please," was Rodgers' response during his press conference.

Moll was a bit more diplomatic, but he didn't sound as though he felt he had committed any penalty.

"If I blocked him correctly, it wouldn't even be a question," Moll said. "We wouldn't be in this situation.

"I personally don't think it was that much. There's not a whole lot of jersey you can grab. That thing's pretty tight. It's very unfortunate. It's a tough call."

Had the Packers stayed at the 32, Crosby might have been able to try a 50-yarder despite the wind and cold. But when Rodgers was sacked on the next snap, pushing the Packers back to the 41, and a third-and-26 pass netted just 3 yards, the chance to score was out the window.

"All we were trying to do was get Ryan down there, little by little," Moll said. "All we had to do was run the clock down and kick a field goal. It's tough and it really hurts a lot.

"There's quite a few penalties that really set us back a lot in this game, and unfortunately mine came and put us right out of field-goal range."

Moll's right, there were other costly penalties too. Penalties have plagued the Packers all season, with Moll referring to the problem as a "bee" that won't go away and continues to "sting" the team.

The first two infractions on Sunday came on the same drive in the first quarter.

Driver was called for offensive pass interference to nullify his own 45-yard completion, getting caught bumping Houston cornerback Jacques Reeves back a tad with a one-arm slap on a fly route. Three plays later, a 12-yard completion to Jordy Nelson to convert a third-and-10 was wiped out by a holding call on tackle Chad Clifton, who hooked Williams on his pass rush.

A holding call on Jarrett Bush later in the first quarter canceled Will Blackmon's 10-yard punt return, in effect costing the Packers 19 yards, as they started the drive from their own 24 instead of the 43.

That only set the stage for an even bigger return to get wiped out. Right after Houston had taken a 10-7 lead late in the second quarter, Blackmon took the ensuing kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown.

{sportsad300}But on the runback, he flew right past teammate Jason Hunter, who appeared to have a clear shot to block the would-be tackler but wrapped his arms around him instead, drawing the obvious flag.

The defense was penalized just once all game but it was also costly. Early in the third quarter, on a 21-yard gain on a swing pass to Houston fullback Vonta Leach, Green Bay linebacker Desmond Bishop got hold of his facemask, adding 15 yards to the play. It put the Texans on the Packers' 32-yard line, leading to a field goal.

"The penalties were big," Grant said. "I think it just was a microcosm of our whole day of missed opportunities, of not taking advantage of opportunities when we needed to."

Grant's red-zone run being Exhibit A, at least on this day.

"We have been in some tight situations where things haven't gone our way, but we need to find a way to make them go our way," said Grant, who finished with 104 rushing yards on 19 carries. "I don't know what the answer is to that. The only thing I can say is to make more plays.

"It is frustrating, and you can say what you want about different things, penalties or whatever, but I think we just as a whole at some point in time have to find a way to get a win, regardless of whatever the situation is, whatever is thrown at you. We've got to get it done."

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