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McCarthy discusses 'gray area' on roughing the passer

Officiating big part of day-after discussion, but Packers trying to focus on themselves


GREEN BAY – Taking the emotion out of the controversy a day later, Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy stressed on Monday there needs to be some clarity from the league on how roughing the passer is being officiated.

Discussing the controversial call on Clay Matthews late in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 29-29 overtime tie with the Vikings, McCarthy "felt he did what he was coached to do," by hitting Minnesota quarterback Kirk Cousins in the midsection and then bracing himself as he went to the ground to avoid landing with all his weight on the QB.

Referee Tony Corrente explained after the game that he flagged Matthews for "lifting" Cousins and "driving him into the ground," the same call he made earlier in the game on Minnesota linebacker Eric Kendricks for a hit on Packers QB Aaron Rodgers.

With replays showing both quarterbacks on the plays in question being somewhat airborne as a result of throwing the ball downfield before the hits came, McCarthy is "not sure all the variables are clear right now."

"Both penalties called in the game, the quarterbacks are trying to throw the ball. If you're trying to throw the ball and you're totally exposed, you have to potentially factor that into the action," McCarthy said. "I think that's where a little bit of gray area is in the judgment of the defender hitting the quarterback.

"I get what the goal (of player safety) is, and we're all for the goal being achieved, but at the same time, you have to make sure it's not a competitive disadvantage to the pass rusher trying to hit the quarterback."

As for whether calls like the one on Matthews, with less than two minutes remaining in the game, should be subject to replay review, McCarthy isn't necessarily opposed to the idea.

"I think anytime a play can change a game, and that kind of covers a lot of area, with instant replay, that's a constant discussion," he said. "I wish instant replay would be used when we think it's going to be used."

In that vein, McCarthy was referring to the fourth-quarter pass to the end zone for Davante Adams that was close to a touchdown reception, with Kendricks dislodging the ball at the last second. The Packers were waiting for the play to go to review, but it didn't, and they ended up taking a delay of game, losing five yards.

All that said, the call McCarthy was most frustrated about in the game actually occurred in the third quarter, when left guard Lane Taylor was flagged for holding, wiping out a third-down TD pass to tight end Jimmy Graham that would have put the Packers up by three scores.

"When you've got a team on the ropes there, that was the time to get the ball in the end zone," McCarthy said. "The call on Lane was tough. It's a T-E (tackle-end) stunt, and the tackle goes to the ground. But that's football.

"The lesson learned is we have to convert there. Get on to the next series of downs, get down there and score again. That's really what you have to focus on from a coaching perspective.

"There's always going to be those plays that can go either way. As a coach, you can't really worry about that. You can't sit there and count on a call to win a game."

As the offense's missed opportunities piled up, McCarthy said defensively the Packers "didn't handle cornerback Kevin King's injury very well," allowing too many explosive plays in Minnesota's comeback.

King's groin injury will be updated later in the week, as will Rodgers' knee injury, which he played through with more mobility than in the second half of Week 1's victory over the Bears.

McCarthy said Rodgers is understandably sore, but he doesn't know how things compare to a week ago coming off the initial injury. Also, McCarthy expects running back Aaron Jones to be activated to the 53-man roster this week following his two-game suspension.

Coming off a 70-minute overtime marathon in 80-degree heat on Sunday, the Packers are headed to Washington, D.C., in Week 3. Getting physically recovered and ready for another potential weather-related challenge.

"We're anticipating a hot game down in Washington, too," McCarthy said. "That's definitely part of the planning."