I ate a press box hot dog Sunday. I know hot dogs are not healthy, but Sunday was the final Carolina Panthers home game of the season and I didnt want to be rude.
Still, I didnt expect to be penalized. The official threw the flag and offered a terse explanation: Personal foul, devouring a defenseless piece of meat.
There was a lot of defenseless-ness going on at Bank of America Stadium. The Panthers were penalized 10 times for 97 yards, the Oakland Raiders six for 70. Six personal fouls were called, along with a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.
The Panthers came in as the leagues ninth least penalized team. The Raiders were 22nd. I suspect Carolina no longer is in the top 10.
On one play there were as many flags on the field as there were officials.
It was flag happy, Carolina defensive end Charles Johnson says.
There was nothing happy about it. The game, which the Panthers won 17-6, moved like a road full of orange construction cones. A business meeting with talkative coworkers offers more flow. The game was tough to watch and tougher to play.
Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis is asked about a first-quarter personal foul against teammate Greg Hardy for a hit that knocked Oakland quarterback Carson Palmer out of the game.
Although Hardy did not hit Palmer in the head he appeared to lead with his helmet. Officials will call that every time. And they should.
You saw what happened, you saw what happened, he says. Hardy hit the quarterback hard so thats why he caught the penalty.
Adds Davis: The way were getting fined and the way that theyre making these calls it kind of makes you hesitate when youre going to make a tackle because you dont want to hit a guy too hard and you dont want to get that penalty and you dont want to take that fine. So it definitely takes the edge off a little bit.
I ask Davis if, when tape recorders and cameras arent around, players talk about officiating.
Absolutely, absolutely, says Davis. Its a must that we talk about it because we cant talk about it anywhere else.
Thomas, you can talk about it right here right now.
Nah, I wont, you wont get it out of me, Davis says.
Some of the calls made sense. How do you change the NFL's head-first tackling culture if you dont throw the flag?
But two calls were incomprehensible.
One was an unnecessary roughness penalty against Oakland rookie linebacker Miles Burris for hitting Carolina tight end Greg Olsen, who apparently was defenseless. Burris did nothing but make a tackle.
The other call was against Carolina rookie linebacker Luke Kuechly for a hit on Oakland receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, who also was deemed defenseless.
After the yellow flag flew Kuechly was livid. Suddenly he couldnt be blocked. He was video-game good.
When I ask about the call, however, Kuechly does everything but invite the refs to his house for eggnog and carols. How about, Im dreaming of a yellow Christmas?
Its not like its slow motion for the referees, says Kuechly. Theyve got a tough job and you know its easy when you look at the screen (and) ah, maybe it was good, maybe it wasnt. But they called a great game they kept everybody under control.
Carolina cornerback Captain Munnerlyn is the most candid of the Panthers.
I disagree with flags on us all the time, he says. I never think its a flag.
What about the flags on opponents?
I never disagree, Munnerlyn says.
The most controversial call was against Carolina quarterback Cam Newton. Oakland safety Mike Mitchell took Newton to the ground after he released the ball and get this a penalty was not called. Newton jumped up and made contact with referee Jerome Boger.
Boger says he penalized Newton for disrespectfully addressing him, not for making contact.
When there is contact between a player and an official its supposed to result in an automatic ejection.
The official should have been ejected.