The NFL is reviewing what happened in the closing seconds of Sunday's Green Bay Packers' home loss to Pittsburgh.
The Packers said they were confused by what the officiating crew did after they called guard T-J Lang for a false start on second-and-goal from the Steelers' one-yard line. Referee Carl Cheffers blamed the penalty on tackle Don Barclay. Ten seconds were taken off the clock. And with 10 seconds to go, Packers' coach Mike McCarthy said the officials instructed center Evan Dietrich-Smith not to snap the ball until he got a signal from the umpire. TV replays showed that the signal came with three seconds left. By then, McCarthy said quarterback Matt Flynn and the offensive line got nervous -- because they were planning to run two plays to at least tie the game with a touchdown and an extra point. That didn't happen, as Flynn's pass fell incomplete as time expired. The NFL confirms that its vice-president of officiating, Dean Blandino, is reviewing the scenario. The league won't change the outcome of the game, of course. But as it turned out, it did not hurt the Packers' playoff chances. They'll still play for the NFC North Division title against the Bears on Sunday in Chicago.
Green Bay Packers' coach Mike McCarthy says the team will not string out a decision on whether Aaron Rodgers can play on Sunday at Chicago for the NFC North title and a playoff berth. McCarthy said yesterday the decision will be made "sooner than later." It could come today, since the Packers are practicing on their normal day off -- and will take Christmas off tomorrow. Rodgers was injured in the Packers' first game with Chicago on November fourth, when he broke his left collarbone on a sack during the first series. Since then, Green Bay has gone 2-5-and-1 without him -- and there's been an almost weekly soap opera about his chances of playing. McCarthy said it's been stressful for the team. He said he wants them to know who will be at quarterback for Sunday's win-or-go-home game. Rodgers' replacements -- Seneca Wallace, Scott Tolzien, and Matt Flynn -- have combined for eight touchdown passes and 10 interceptions.
The Packers may have to move forward without linebacker Clay Matthews. He re-injured his previously-broken right thumb in last Sunday's home loss to Pittsburgh. Coach Mike McCarthy said yesterday that his training staff quote, "didn't feel good about the injury, so we're still working through the process." Matthews broke the base of his right thumb on October sixth against Detroit. The four-time Pro Bowler leads Green Bay with seven-and-a-half sacks this season -- four-and-a-half of which came in the seven games since he returned from his initial injury. Also, the Packers are not sure whether they'll have running back Eddie Lacy for Sunday's divisional showdown at Chicago. Lacy aggravated his sprained right ankle against the Steelers. McCarthy said Lacy won't practice until Thursday, and they'll have a better of his status then. Receiver-and-kick returner Randall Cobb will get more practice time this week. He broke a bone in his right leg in mid-October, and he remains on the injured reserve-designated to return list.
The season could be over for Wisconsin native Tony Romo. The Dallas Cowboys' quarterback from Burlington said he felt back pain on a hit during last Sunday's comeback win by Dallas over the Washington Redskins. ESPN said Romo has a herinated disk in the lumbar region of his back -- and he'll need surgery. Cowboys' coach Jason Garrett has not confirmed the extent of the injury, and he's now ruling Romo out for Sunday night's home game against Philadelphia that will decide the NFC East title. Garrett did say the Cowboys would bring in another quarterback this week, since Kyle Orton is the team's only back-up at the moment.
Basketball can be a game of inches. Just ask the Milwaukee Bucks, who lost at Charlotte last night 111-110 in overtime. Khris Middleton made what he thought was a three-pointer in the corner at the buzzer, with the idea of sending the game to a second OT. But a video review showed that Middleton had a foot on the three-point line -- so it was only a two-point basket, and the Bucks fell one point short. Milwaukee's last three defeats all came in OT, and the Bucks now have a 1-5 overtime record this season. The Bucks blew an 18-point lead early in the game, and Charlotte used a 13-to-2 run to get within two at the half. The score was tied at 78 going into the fourth quarter. Brandon Knight had 26 points, 14 assists, and eight rebounds for Milwaukee -- which has now lost four straight in Charlotte. Kemba Walker almost had a triple-double for the Bobcats with 25 points, 10 assists, and nine boards. Charlotte shot 58-percent from three-point range, while improving to 2-0 in overtime this season. The Bobcats have won four-of-their-last-five overall. The Bucks fell to 6-22 on the year, and they blew a chance to win their first back-to-back games. Their next game is on Friday night at Brooklyn.
The University of Wisconsin has the nation's top men's basketball RPI ranking this week. The rankings are based on a series of factors that include team records, road records, and strength-of-schedules -- and they help determine whether teams make the NCAA Tournament in March, and where they're seeded. The Badgers are 12-0. They remain at Number-Four in the A-P poll for the third straight week. Wisconsin is also sixth in the USA Today coaches' poll. Marquette is nowhere to be seen in either poll, after losing to five higher-echelon teams in the RPI's -- including the Badgers. Marquette is 7-and-5, with an R-P-I of 111. That's just four places above UW-Milwaukee, which is 115th with a 10-4 record.
Milwaukee Brewers' reliever Michael Olmsted has been sent outright to the Brewers' Triple-"A" farm club in Nashville. The move created a spot on the 40-man roster, thus allowing Milwaukee to get help they've been seeking at two positions -- first base and the bullpen. The 26-year-old Olmsted struggled at Nashville last season, going 1-1 with a 6.71 ERA. He had a walks-and-hits-per-innings-pitched ratio of one-point-seven-nine-six. Olmsted was sent down to Double-"A" Huntsville at the end of last season, where he made six scoreless appearances. Also, the Brewers have released former top pitching prospect Cody Scarpetta. He underwent Tommy John elbow reconstructive surgery in 2012. This year, Scarpetta went 0-5 for Class-"A" Brevard County with a 7.15 ERA.
University of Wisconsin women's soccer freshman Rose Lavelle is joining Team USA in a qualifying tournament for next year's Under-20 World Cup. Lavelle is one of 20 players named to the American roster for Women's Championships to be played January 9th-through-19th at George Town in the Cayman Islands. Lavelle was named the Big Ten Conference freshman-of-the-year, as well as the coaches' All-Great Lakes Regional squad. She led all conference freshmen with seven assists this past season, while scoring six goals and 19 points. Eight nations will compete in the upcoming tournament. The Americans will open against Costa Rica on January 9th. The top-three finishers will earn spots in the Under-20 Women's World Cup in Canada later in 2014.
Katie Vanden Avond of Saint Norbert College is the only player from Wisconsin named to D3soccer.com's women's All-America teams. Vanden Avond was a second team selection, after scoring 37 goals this season -- the fifth-highest season total in the history of the NCAA's Division III. In just three seasons, Vanden Avond's 91 career goals are the most among any active player in all NCAA divisions. No Wisconsin men's players were named as D3.com All-Americans. The Web site chooses three teams each for both men and women.
Justin Williams of Edgewood is the men's basketball player-of-the-week in the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference. And Kristen Schulz of Wisconsin Lutheran is the top women's player. Williams, a senior forward, had season-highs of 21 points and 17 rebounds in an Edgewood victory over Rockford. He also had two assists and a pair of blocked shots. Schulz, a junior center, had 20 points and 21 rebounds in Wisconsin Lutheran's win over Maranatha Baptist. It was Lutheran's first 20-20 performance since 2000. Schulz also scored 22 points against Concordia-Wisconsin with eight rebounds and seven blocked shots.