KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Golden Tate’s game-winning touchdown pass that gave the Seattle Seahawks a last-second 14-12 win over the Green Bay Packers on Monday night was so controversial that it has joined the pantheon of the most questionable finishes in sports annals.
It could be argued that Tate and Green Bay defensive back M.D. Jennings had simultaneous possession, which means the ball is awarded to the offensive player, but most analysts believe it was an interception.
The NFL in a statement Tuesday said the simultaneous possession call was correctly made by the officials on the field and that it was a reviewable play. Officials upheld the call Monday night after a replay review. But the statement also said officials missed an offensive pass-interference penalty on Tate, which, if called, would have ended the game with the Packers winning.
The saddest part about the play was that two replacement referees appeared to disagree on how to call the play with one signaling touchdown and the other indicating an interception and touchback.
Even full-time referees and umpires have been guilty of blunders, and right in our own backyard. Remember these?
1985 World Series
Cardinals fans will argue the most egregious call of all time occurred in the 1985 World Series, when umpire Don Denkinger called the Royals’ Jorge Orta safe at first when he was clearly out in the bottom of the ninth of Game Six against St. Louis. The Royals went on to win the game 2-1, square the series at three games each and win Game Seven the next night.
The United States lost the gold-medal men’s basketball game of the 1972 Olympics when the Soviet Union was awarded a second possession after the final buzzer had sounded. The Soviets scored a game-winning basket as time expired again.
Hand of God
In the 1986 World Cup, Argentina superstar Maradona scored the first goal of the game in a quarterfinal against England by using his hand, but no foul was called. He later scored a second goal by dribbling past six English players on a play that was later voted Goal of the Century. Argentina won the match 2-1 and went on to win the Cup.
Ed Hochuli, one of the NFL’s referees involved in the current labor negotiations, blew a call in 2008 with Denver trailing San Diego 38-31 with 1:17 to play and the Broncos at the Chargers 1. The ball slipped out of Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler’s hands, and it was recovered by the Chargers, but Hochuli blew his whistle, signaling the play was an incomplete pass, not a fumble. The play was not reviewable under then-replay rules, and the Broncos went on to score a touchdown and two-point conversion for a 39-38 win. Hochuli admitted his mistake at the time but he could not change the call.
The Tuck Rule
A 2001 AFC playoff game between the New England Patriots and Oakland Raiders became known for The Tuck Rule. Playing in a heavy snowstorm in Foxborough, Mass., Oakland led 13-10 with less than 2 minutes left to play. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady dropped back to pass and lost the ball when he was hit by Charles Woodson. Raiders linebacker Greg Biekert recovered the fumble, but a new rule had been introduced, saying if the quarterback is “tucking the ball,” it is considered a throwing motion, so it was called an incompletion. The Patriots eventually tied the game and won 16-13 in overtime on the way to their first of three Super Bowl titles in the next four years.
Jeffrey Maier game
In Game One of the 1996 American League Championship Series, 12-year-old Jeffrey Maier, sitting in the outfield stands, deflected a ball hit by the Yankees’ Derek Jeter, denying a chance for Baltimore’s Tony Tarasco to catch the ball. The resulting home run allowed the Yankees to tie the score. New York went on to win the series.
With 14 seconds left in a 1978 game against San Diego, Oakland quarterback Ken Stabler fumbled the ball forward, and it rolled toward the Chargers’ goal line. Raiders running back Pete Banaszak, from the San Diego 12, shoved the ball forward, and tight end Dave Casper batted it into the end zone, where he fell on it for a touchdown and a 21-20 win. Stabler admitted he fumbled on purpose on the play, which became known as the Holy Roller, and the NFL passed a rule in the offseason saying if a player fumbles after the 2-minute warning in a half or on fourth down, only the fumbling player can recover and advance the ball.
In a 1972 AFC playoff game, Pittsburgh’s Franco Harris caught a pass thrown by quarterback Terry Bradshaw that ricocheted off teammate Frenchy Fuqua and into Harris’ waiting hands. Harris returned it for the game-winning touchdown. At the time, NFL rules did not allow the ball to be touched by two offensive players unless a defensive player touched it, and there was a question whether the ball bounced straight off Fuqua or if it struck Oakland safety Jack Tatum.
Instant Replay Game
In 1989, Green Bay’s Don Majkowski was ruled to have thrown an illegal forward lateral on a game-winning touchdown pass, but instant replay overturned the call and Chicago lost 14-13. The Bears argued Majkowski was over the line of scrimmage when he threw the ball and marked the game with an asterisk in their media guide and the note “Instant Replay Game.”