As NFL brings back refs, Packers set to host Saints at Lambeau Field

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GREEN BAY — The 1-2 Green Bay Packers are set to take on the 0-3 New Orleans Saints at Lambeau Field Sunday, September 30th in Week Four of NFL regular-season play.

This game comes after the Pack took on the Seattle Seahawks at Century Link Field last Thursday, September 20th. The call by NFL “replacement refs” ending Thursday’s game was hotly debated all week, with some football fans even calling for a boycott of the NFL.

Replacement refs had officiated games during the first three weeks of the NFL season, after talks broke down regarding referees’ contracts.

In Monday’s game between the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks, Seattle faced a 4th-and-10 from the Green Bay 24 with eight seconds remaining in the game.

Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson threw a pass into the end zone. Several players, including Seattle wide receiver Golden Tate and Green Bay safety M.D. Jennings, jumped into the air in an attempt to catch the ball.

While the ball is in the air, Tate can be seen shoving Green Bay cornerback Sam Shields to the ground. This should have been a penalty for offensive pass interference, which would have ended the game. It was not called and is not reviewable in instant replay.

When the players hit the ground in the end zone, the officials determined that both Tate and Jennings had possession of the ball. Under the rule for simultaneous catch, the ball belongs to Tate, the offensive player. The result of the play was a touchdown.

Replay Official Howard Slavin stopped the game for an instant replay review. The aspects of the play that were reviewable included if the ball hit the ground and who had possession of the ball. In the end zone, a ruling of a simultaneous catch is reviewable. That is not the case in the field of play, only in the end zone.

Referee Wayne Elliott determined that no indisputable visual evidence existed to overturn the call on the field, and as a result, the on-field ruling of touchdown stood.

Sunday’s game against the Saints kicks off at 3:25 p.m.

Sunday’s game marks the fifth time the Saints and Packers have met over the past eight seasons. This will be the second straight year that the Packers and Saints have squared off at Lambeau Field in the month of September.

Last season, in a meeting of the two most recent Super Bowl winners, Green Bay topped New Orleans, 42-34, in a Thursday night contest that kicked off the NFL season.

In that game, QB Aaron Rodgers threw for 312 yards and three TDs on 27-of-35 passing and became just the second quarterback in NFL history to throw three TD passes in the first quarter of a season opener, joining Buffalo’s Jack Kemp (Sept. 13, 1964).

WR Randall Cobb tied an NFL record with his 108-yard kickoff return for a TD in the third quarter, matching the mark set by New England’s Ellis Hobbs vs. the N.Y. Jets on Sept. 9, 2007.

With the Saints on Green Bay’s 1-yard line, LB Clay Matthews and S Morgan Burnett led a swarm of Packers defenders that stopped Saints RB Mark Ingram short of the goal line on the final play of the game.

With the victory, Mike McCarthy became the first head coach in franchise history to win five consecutive season openers.

The Packers hold a 15-7 edge against the Saints in the all-time series, including a 9-2 mark vs. New Orleans at home.

Sunday’s matchup features the only two teams in the league to finish in the top 10 in total offense each of the past six seasons (2006-11). The Packers (35.0) and Saints (34.2) finished No. 1 and No. 2 in the league, respectively, in scoring last season. It was the first time in NFL history that two teams each scored 525-plus points in the same season.

Including playoff games, both teams have identical 41-16 records (.719) since 2009, tied for No. 1 in the league over that span.

This Sunday’s game vs. the Saints is Green Bay’s lone home contest over a five-week stretch (Weeks 3-7). The Packers won’t play at home again until they host the Jacksonville Jaguars on Oct. 28 (Week 8).

Saints’ coach Aaron Kromer is in his first year as the Saints’ interim head coach. New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton was suspended without pay for the entire 2012 season and former Saints defensive coach Gregg Williams was suspended indefinitely in a series of NFL punishments for the team’s bounty program against opponents. Kromer began his career in New Orleans as running backs coach in 2008.

Packers head coach Mike McCarthy served as the Saints offensive coordinator from 2000-04.

Through three games this regular season, Green Bay has been one of the best defenses in the league when it comes to getting off the field on third down.The Packers have allowed their opponents to convert just nine of 35 opportunities on third down in the opening three contests, a 25.7 conversion percentage that ranks No. 3 in the league behind only Houston (22.2, 8-of-36) and Chicago (24.3, 9-of-37).

CLICK HERE for more stats on the Packers vs. Saints matchup via the Packers Week Four Dope Sheet at Packers.com.

CLICK HERE for additional coverage on the replacement refs controversy following Monday night’s Packers game.