Scab NFL refs under fire for last-second call 0
Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate (C, obscured) catches the 14-12, game-winning touchdown in the endzone while he is swarmed by Green Bay Packers' Tramon Williams (38) and M.D. Jennings (R) during the remaining seconds of the fourth quarter of their Monday night NFL football game at Centurylink Field in Seattle, Washington, September 24, 2012. (REUTERS)
Maybe they'll call it the Immaculate Non-Interception.
In a nightmare scenario for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell -- and in what will surely go down as one of the most controversial, egregiously blown game-deciding calls in league history -- replacement officials Monday night awarded a Hail Mary touchdown catch to Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate with no time left, which defeated the visiting Green Bay Packers, 14-12.
With eight seconds left in the game and Green Bay ahead 12-7, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson heaved a high desperation pass into the end zone from the Packers 39-yard line.
There, Green Bay defensive back M.D. Jennings grabbed the ball first, and appeared to have sole possession of it as players from both sides fought to get their hands on it. But as Jennings was coming down, Tate got one or both of his hands on the ball as well. He yanked as the two hit the ground.
Jennings fell on top of Tate.
Two replacement officials ran toward the two players, who continued fighting for the ball on the ground, with Jennings on top of Tate. Then the two players rolled, each with both hands still on the ball. A few seconds later, one official appeared to wave his arms over his head, as if to indicate he was about to motion for a touchback -- meaning interception.
But another official ruled touchdown first, presumably based on the simultaneous-catch rule.
A couple of minutes later, a video review upheld the call, as the Seahawks and nearly 70,000 fans went bonkers.
The Packers were as incredulous as they were livid.
Five minutes at least went by before Packers players fished their helmets out of a travel bin to line up for the mandatory, but superfluous, extra point.
Later, Packers guard T.J. Lang probably spoke for many of his teammates when he tweeted, "Got f---ed by the refs.. Embarrassing. Thanks nfl.
"F--- it NFL. Fine me and use the money to pay the regular refs."
The simultaneous-catch rule states:
"If a pass is caught simultaneously by two eligible opponents, and both retain it, the ball belongs to the (passing team)."
The rule, however, further states: "It is not a simultaneous catch if a player gains control first and an opponent subsequently gains joint control."
That is exactly what appeared to have happened.
The Twittersphere immediately went insane, with the near unanimous opinion being that the Packers got jobbed.
Slow-motion replays appeared to show that only Jennings had both hands firmly on the ball all the way to the ground, and that Tate might have had one — or even both hands — on the ball at one or more points on the way to the ground, but not both the whole way, as Jennings had.
Furthermore, Tate was reaching in toward Jennings to pull the ball out on the way to the ground, another indication it was Jennings' catch to begin with.
Once both players were on the ground fighting for the ball, however, it did appear to be a case of simultaneous possession. Perhaps the official who ruled touchdown believed neither player had control until that point, or perhaps he had no idea who had possession until that point — and thus decided it was a case of simultaneous possession, and thus a touchdown.
I watched it live on TV, and on first viewing it looked for all the world like an interception to me. Every replay I've seen supports that view.
Even more upsetting to Packers fans, no doubt, is that before Seattle's Tate leaped for the ball, he clearly shoved Packers defensive back Sam Shields forward and out of the way — obvious offensive pass interference.
But, it must be said, even regular referees rarely ever throw a flag for pass interference against either side on a jump-ball Hail Mary pass. That one was a particularly extreme transgression, however.
Seattle thus improved to 2-1, and Green Bay dropped to 1-2. If the winning pass had been ruled an interception, the team's records would be swapped.
Packers head coach Mike McCarthy refused to comment on the officiating afterward, but did confirm his defenders told him that Jennings came down with the ball.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who was sacked eight times in a first half dominated by the Seahawks' great defence, appeared extremely upset in his post-game news conference.
"It was awful," Rodgers said of watching the deciding play on a replay in the locker room. "Just look at the replay. And the fact that is was reviewed. It was awful.
"It sucks to lose, and it's even worse when it goes that way. But we'll go home and get ready for New Orleans ... It's frustrating."
There were blown calls all game long — ticky-tack penalties for things seldom ever flagged, penalties called on legal actions, and non-calls of egregious fouls.
ESPN's game commentator, ex-coach Jon Gruden, said it was the worst officiated game he could remember seeing.
This game was the last of Week 3 of the NFL's regular season. Replacement officials have been used in all 48 games, as well as in all four weeks of pre-season games in August.
The NFL has locked out is regular officials, as both sides remain miles apart on a new collective bargaining agreement. Talks resumed on the weekend in private, with little if any progress reported.
The replacements — recruited mostly from the lowest ranks of American college football — are each pocketing either $3,500 (referees) or $3,000 (all other officials such as linesmen, umpires, back judges, et al) per game.
Egregious errors by the replacements have occurred with greater frequency, and amid increasing outrage, with each passing week. Coaches and players have spoken up with greater frequency too, on the field and off.
After Sunday's debacles, everybody's patience with the replacements appeared to be at a breaking point in the hours before Monday's debacle.
Now? Off the charts.
Goodell repeatedly has stated the replacements are doing an "admirable" job.
Few believed him before Monday. No one will believe him if he ever says it again.