SEATTLE — In a crazy game of often bizarre and sometimes unbelievable moments, the craziest moment of all was the last one.
Facing fourth-and-10 at the Green Bay 24 with eight seconds to play Monday night, the Seattle Seahawks conjured up a miracle with a Russell Wilson-to-Golden Tate touchdown pass as time expired, setting off a few minutes of pandemonium at CenturyLink Field. Tate had gone up for the desperation pass in the end zone and came down with the ball, though Green Bay safety M.D. Jennings had an equally good, and maybe an even better grip.
Two minutes later, after an obligatory video review of the play, referee Wayne Elliott confirmed that it was a touchdown, giving Seattle a 14-12 victory over the Packers and setting off a renewed celebration by the Seahawks and their fans.
“That’s the most memorable ending to a game I’ve ever been a part of at any level,” Seattle tight end Zach Miller said. “It was crazy.”
“I was just telling one of the coaches, ‘Is this real? Did this really just happen?’” said Seahawks fullback Michael Robinson.
“I’m still in shock,” added Seattle running back and kick returner Leon Washington.
The Packers, meanwhile, were openly furious about the officiating on the final play. “It was awful,” said Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rogers. “Just look at the replay and then the fact that it was reviewed (and not overturned). It’s awful, and that’s all I’m going to say about that.”
That Seattle had a chance to win was a credit to an offensive unit that struggled badly in the second half, going without a first down until midway through the fourth quarter, and then had a potential go-ahead scoring drive ended on downs at the Green Bay 10 with 1:54 to play.
But the Seahawks’ defense forced a punt and Seattle used two timeouts to get the ball back at the Packers 46 with 46 seconds remaining. A 22-yard completion from Russell to wide receiver Sidney Rice moved the ball to the 24, though Russell’s next three passes all fell incomplete.
On fourth down, Wilson rolled to the right and then circled back to the center of the field. He lofted a pass to the left side of the end zone, where Tate and teammate Charly Martin were bunched with a trio of Packers defenders. The ball was up for grabs and Tate gave himself a chance by shoving away Packers cornerback Sam Shields a moment before the ball arrived.
Tate then went up with Green Bay’s Jennings, and both players got their hands on the ball. It appeared that Jennings was closer to an interception than Tate was to a reception — it was probably 70 percent-30 percent, advantage Jennings — but using the rule of simultaneous possession, which favors the offensive player, two officials raised their hands to signal a touchdown.
And the stadium erupted in bedlam.
“I just ran my route on the back side, kind of sat there as a spectator for a few seconds, and I saw the ball come up,” Tate said. “It was time to compete for the ball and do my best to come down with it. To make some kind of play.”
“We all know how special he can be,” Washington said of Tate. “This guy has made some of the most amazing catches in practice, so I’m not surprised (he can do it) in the game.”
Added Miller: “It was just an amazing play by (Russell and Tate). Last play of the game, no time left, just an insane play.”
The Seahawks spilled onto the field, going crazy with jubilation. The Packers, meanwhile, were beside themselves with outrage.
Asked to comment on the officiating — remember, these are replacement officials, due to a league lockout — Packers coach Mike McCarthy said: “Don’t ask me any questions about the officials, all right? We’ll cut to the chase right there.”
Jennings, meanwhile, insisted that he had the ball “pinned to my chest the whole time, even when we were on the pile.”
Adding to the wacky finish, both teams left the field and then were brought out a few minutes later to kick a completely meaningless extra point, per league rules.
Seattle coach Pete Carroll was ecstatic at the end. After seeing his team come up with an improbable, even astonishing win, he ran off the field in jubilation with his hands upraised in triumph.
“It was a simultaneous catch, that’s how (the officials) called it,” Carroll said of the final play. “Tie goes to the runner. Good call. It gives us an extraordinary win, and an extraordinary message about hanging to the very last second.”
Though the officiating was a huge topic on the final play, it was an ongoing issue throughout the game. The Seahawks were flagged 14 times for 118 yards, the Packers 10 times for 127 yards, and there were other penalties that were declined.
“I’m sick about that,” Carroll said. “We have got to play football where we don’t hurt us. Whether they should have been called or not, I don’t care about that. These (replacement officials) are busting their tails and trying to get it done, and it’s so hard for them. So it’s us. We have to do a better job, and that stunk tonight.”
Still, the bottom line for the Seahawks was a victory, their second in three games this season, which allows them to keep pace in the NFC West with Arizona, which is 3-0, and San Francisco, also 2-1.
“This is a great win,” Tate said. Green Bay “is a very, very good team with a great quarterback (Rodgers), so it’s good to beat a team like that. … Any win is a good win in this league. So we’re going to enjoy this, but then we have to get ready for St. Louis next week. That’s our focus.”