Move over Cheeseheads, there was a new yellow craze taking over Lambeau Field Monday night.
Bright yellow penalty flags.
In a battle between two of the NFL's most-penalized teams, referees' yellow flags went a long way in determining the Ravens' 27-14 loss to the Packers.
The Ravens and Packers combined for 310 yards in penalties, tied for second-most in NFL history with a game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Seattle Seahawks in 1976.
Pass interference penalties were the hot item. The Ravens were flagged for it five times, the most any team has received in a single game since 2001.
And this isn't a one-game fad. Baltimore entered Monday with eight defensive pass interference penalties and left with a league-high 12.
"There are some things we just have to cut out," linebacker Ray Lewis said.
Entering the game, the Ravens ranked fourth in the NFL with 78 accepted infractions. They had nine penalties last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers. This week, the Ravens were hit 12 times for 135 yards, including 90 yards on pass interference calls alone.
Green Bay wasn't much better. The Packers were called for four pass interference penalties, including two in the end zone – one of which led to a Ravens' touchdown. Green Bay was flagged 11 times for 175 yards, adding to its NFL lead.
"The penalties were unbelievable for both sides," Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said. "I thought it was a tightly-officiated football game [with] two competitive, physical football teams."
Ravens cornerbacks Domonique Foxworth, Frank Walker and Lardarius Webb and safety Dawan Landry each picked up a defensive pass interference call while wide receiver Derrick Mason tallied one for the offense as well.
Walker's penalty was the defense's most costly. Early in the second quarter, Walker reached out and tugged wide receiver Greg Jennings' hand after Jennings gained a step on the Ravens' backup. Jennings may not have had a play on the ball even without Walker's blatant grab.
It was quite similar to the penalty Walker committed in Minnesota that led to the Vikings' eventual game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Instead of third-and-10 from Green Bay's 27-yard line, the Packers were in business in Ravens territory. Five plays later, the Packers were in the end zone celebrating a 10-0 lead.
"They definitely accounted for some of the large chunks they were able to accumulate," Foxworth said of the pass interference penalties. "That penalty is, by nature, not clear cut. Week-by-week and year-to-year, it seems like it is leaning more towards the offense. So it's important for us to adjust and roll with the changes."
Perhaps more damaging than Walker's error was the offensive pass interference garnered by Mason.
With the Ravens on a 14-point tear and with the momentum in their corner, Mason went deep on a third-and-17 pass. Joe Flacco threw the ball a little short and Mason cut behind Packers All-Pro cornerback Charles Woodson. But as Woodson swept past Mason, the veteran wide receiver reached out and touched Woodson's hips with both hands.
Woodson fell to the turf, allowing Mason to make the reception standing over top of him. It appeared to be a game-changing 46-yard gain that would have put the Ravens at the Packers' 33-yard line, down three points with about 14 minutes remaining.
Instead, the penalty – which was compounded by an unsportsmanlike conduct call given to Mason for arguing with a referee – pushed the Ravens into a third-and-32 situation from their own six yard line.
"We just need to figure it out and keep on moving," Lewis said. "The bottom line is we have to keep playing football and not let that stuff get to you."