Monday Night Football (US Presswire)
By USA TODAY
The inevitable replacement ref disaster finally happened Monday night when the Seattle Seahawks were awarded a last-second touchdown on a bizarre Hail Mary scrum in which Green Bay Packers safety M.D. Jennings came down with an interception that was somehow deemed to be a Golden Tate game-winning reception. That score gave Seattle an eventual 14-12 victory.
"That was two of the worst calls at the end of a football game that I can remember," an incensed Jon Gruden said on ESPN.
Tate had also blatantly pushed off a Seattle defender with two hands before making his disputed catch. At no point did he ever appear to have possession of the ball. Jennings told reporters that he had it the whole time and Tate barely had an arm on it. How did that clear catch go from a Packers interception to a Seahawks touchdown?
Here's how it went down: The players went up for the ball and Jennings grabbed it first. He came down with it and pinned it against his body. Tate had a hand on it too, but Jennings clearly had the pass. The official with the best view of the pile (at left) looked down at Jennings pinning the ball to his chest and appeared to wave his hands over his head. It looked like he was set to signal a stoppage of the clock and a touchback. But the other official ran in, saw his colleague's arms about to move and put his own arms up to signal a touchdown. Based on the many camera views ESPN had of the pile, that official (No. 26) couldn't have seen which player had possession. His signal looked like it was an instinctual reaction to the other official moving his hands.
Call it what you want: A disgrace, a robbery, a pox on the integrity of the NFL. It all fits. Green Bay had a win stolen by replacement refs and by a commissioner more intent on a small part of his bottom line rather than the good of the sport.
"From my vantage point, the referee in the back, I saw wave his arms over his head, which means he was a calling a touchback," Aaron Rodgers said after the game. "I have no idea how the other guy [called touchdown]."
The officials conferred for a moment before officially signaling for a touchdown. From that moment on, the simultaneous catch rule was not reviewable, by rule. The call on the field had to stand.
"I've never seen anything like that in all my years of football," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said after the game.
The chaos went on for 10 minutes while players milled around the field during discussions and reviews. Both teams had gone into the locker room before they had to be called out for the extra point.
Hall of Famer Steve Young seemed more disappointed than angry. "It's still the NFL," he said of the current league, "but it's reducing it, and it's a problem. Now it's not just a problem, it's an emergent situation. And I pray that an emergent result and a solution comes literally overnight because it's affecting the NFL that we all love very much."
There is no gray area here. If the NFL cares about protecting the shield, it must make a change this week. Protecting the shield doesn't mean nickel-and-diming the refs union. It means putting the best product on the field for players and fans. Whatever trust is held between America and the NFL is quickly eroding. All great things must come to a fall and we're far from that, but the steady erosion of faith in the NFL could be the start of a downslide for the league that is years past its Pax Romana status. But one official, with his sight obscured by a huge scrum of humanity, raised his arms for a touchdown formation and unleashed hell.
"They should give Green Bay the game is what they should do," Gruden said. "There's no way Green Bay should fly 6,000 miles home after losing a game like this. That's what instant replay is for. I don't like the way this game ended. I have a bad taste in my mouth."
The NFL should too. Then they should do something about it.