Millions of us around the country witnessed something quite inconceivable Monday night. The NFL football game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers came down to a final and literal toss-up catch. The ball goes up, two players from either team go up to catch it and what happens after that will go down in history. The Seahawks were down by five points and a touchdown in the final seconds of the game would have given them the win. The ruling on the field was touchdown for Seattle. They would go on to win the game. But the controversy would start immediately. What happened in the catch was when the two players went to get the ball, it looked to many people that the defensive player caught the ball for an interception but the offensive player had his hand on the ball and wrestled it away on the ground. The ruling on the field was simultaneous catch, touchdown Seahawks. But the ruling in public opinion was they got it wrong.
The scrutiny rest on the shoulders of officiating crew, who as everyone knows are not the normal referees who officiate games in the NFL, whereas the regular referees are involved in a contract dispute and have not been with the league since the start of the season. The replacement refs, are not professional referees, they have not officiated a game on the level of NFL professional football and may not be as adapted to calling a game properly. Its been one of the hot topics of discussion this year as many calls have been missed and some just called wrong. Specifically regarding the final play in Monday night’s game between the Seahawks and the Packers, there are two calls that could be up for debate. One call was when the wide-receiver Golden Tate pushed another defender in the back. While that was an obvious offensive pass interference, a flag in that scenario was not likely. But it was not an easy play to call for the referees. There’s even two referees with two different calls on the field, one signalling touchdown and another signaling no touchdown. Perhaps if the proper refs were on the field there may have been one call, the right one.
The NFL stands by their decision, that the right call was made on the field. The official rule states: “If a pass is caught simultaneously by two eligible opponents, and both retain it, the ball belongs to the passers. It is not a simultaneous catch if a player gains control first and an opponent subsequently gains joint control.” Going by that rule, that’s what the refs ruled on. Joint possession and the tie goes to the receiver. Even by the rule where all touchdowns have to be reviewed, the officials in the booth upheld the call, meaning they did not find enough evidence to overturn it. The NFL Officiating Department reviewed the play again the next day with a fresh set of eyes and determined that the on-field ruling stands and released their statement Tuesday morning.
The game after the catch was technically not over, but the fiasco caused disruption and no one knew what was going on. Media interviews were being conducted in the middle of the field, players were going off in the locker rooms, referees had left the playing field. All of this when the game had to be finished. If a touchdown was the ruling on the field, then every touchdown in regulation time has to be concluded with an extra point or a conversion attempt. It took several more minutes for players to come back and the field to clear before that could happen.
In the aftermath of “the catch” we’re seeing an outcry from fans, players, coaches, analyst, and essentially everyone who saw the play. There very well could be some Seahawk fans who didn’t see the play the way the referees called it Monday night. Again, a lot of the protest is being directed to the replacement referees. Replay after replay of the final play of the game has been play thousands of times across network and cable television shows Tuesday morning. Some say it was an obvious interception by the defender M.D. Jennings. Yet there are some who see it the other way. Seattle played their best against one of the top teams in the league and when it came down to it the advantage went to them. The Green Bay Packers are saying that they should not have let the game get into that position and they should have played better to win the game where a last second touchdown wouldn’t have been applicable. But for those who have no allegiance one way or the other a blatant atrocity to the integrity of the game was made. Now all that’s left is blame and pointing fingers.
Not for nothin’ but I can deal with the two teams playing to the final minute, makes for a good game. I can take that referees called the game as the saw it, regular refs are making judgement calls too, you got to call it like you see it. And I’ll accept this even being a bad call, worst calls have been made on a larger impact scale. But my issue has to lay with the review of the play. The replay officials are not replacements. Are we being led to believe that after further review there was absolutely no way that the play on the field was the wrong call? Replacement refs have nothing to do with reviewing the play. If the NFL wants to stay with the stance that there was no interception, that Jennings did not have control of the ball when his feet were on the ground, and that some how Tate had control of the ball, then there is a fault in the system. Unfortunately there isn’t anything anyone can do about it at this point. The product of professional football that the NFL puts out is a business and a sport that millions of us pay money to watch week after week. And the sad part is that even if instances like this continue we’ll still likely to keep watching and rooting.