SEATTLE — As he walked through the tunnel towards the field following one of the craziest — and most controversial — endings anyone could possibly dream up, Seahawks owner Paul Allen shook his head in disbelief while staring at the ground.
Even this man, the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft, the man who saved the Seahawks from relocation, the man who revitalized Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood, the man who has helped filmmaker James Cameron explore the ocean at depths never before seen by man, the man who has beaten back cancer, even he couldn’t make any sense of what just happened.
Thanks to a desperation heave that Golden Tate caught (sort of) in the back of the end zone on the final play of the game, the Seahawks beat the Packers 14-12 on Monday night… Wait, or was it 13-12? Are we even sure this game is over yet?
But as big as this result was for the Seahawks, who improved to 2-1, and as much as we should be praising a first-half defensive performance by Seattle that yielded eight sacks, or questioning an offense that was able to do so little save for two long passes to Tate, or criticizing the Seahawks for committing 14 penalties, we are left, like Allen, shaking our heads in disbelief.
What the heck happened out there? Well, what happened is the Seahawks, on football’s biggest regular-season stage, won in a game that almost instantly became a P.R. disaster for the NFL. With the league’s regular officials locked out, one of the ongoing storylines this season has been mistakes made by replacement officials. This was, football fans can only hope, the tipping point that gets a deal done between the league and officials.
More than football, more than what either team did, this night will be remembered as a huge black eye for the NFL. Like any game, this one had controversial calls and non-calls throughout, but things got particularly ugly in the fourth quarter. There was a dubious pass interference call on Kam Chancellor, then a questionable roughing the passer call on Green Bay that negated a Russell Wilson interception. That same drive was kept alive by an iffy, at best, pass interference call on a pass intended for Sidney Rice. On Seattle’s final possession, the refs let some much more physical coverage on Evan Moore go without a call.
Then there was the final play. With time remaining for only one play, Wilson heaved a desperation pass to the back of the end zone in the vicinity of Tate, Charly Martin, and five Packers defensive backs. Before the ball arrived, Tate got away with a pretty blatant two-handed shove of Sam Shields to the ground. When the ball arrived, Packers safety M.D. Jennings got his hands on the ball first, but Tate managed to get his hands on the ball also as they went to the ground.
Officials ruled touchdown, and pandemonium ensued, at least momentarily. Not surprisingly, officials decided to review the play. The play was upheld — officials said it was a case of “simultaneous catch” in which case the offensive player is awarded the catch. Then, several minutes after both teams had left the field, players had to come back out for Seattle to kick the extra point. Seahawks guard John Moffitt noted that he and several other players had to put their shoulder pads and jerseys back on.
Not surprisingly, nobody in the Green Bay locker room was happy with the way the game ended.
“It was pinned to my chest the whole time,” Jennings told reporters.
Tate’s take was a little different: “Maybe he did (have it), but I took it from him.”
Added Packers receiver Greg Jennings: “I think if you asked Golden Tate to take a lie detector test and ask him did he catch that ball or did M.D. catch that ball, M.D. caught that. It was clear as day.”
The comments from some Packers players on Twitter were, well, let’s just say, not suitable for a newspaper.
Even Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, whose team ended up winning on such a questionable final call, has seen enough of the replacement officials.
“It’s time for it to be over,” Carroll said. “It’s time for this to be over. My hat’s off to these officials. They’re doing everything they can to do as well as they can; they’re working their tails off. It demonstrates how difficult it is. It’s a very, very complex process to handle these games and make these decisions… It’s time for it to be over. The league deserves it. Everybody deserves it.”
The story of any game, in any sport, shouldn’t be about the officiating. This one most definitely was. The Seahawks will certainly take the victory, controversial or not, and being 2-1 after wins over Green Bay and Dallas is significant, but unfortunately for the NFL, this was a fiasco, plain and simple.
“I’ve never seen anything like that in all of my years of football,” said Packers coach Mike McCarthy.
Neither have we, Mike. Monday was a very memorable night for the Seahawks, and a very bad day for the NFL.
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.