That's the one.
The image of one referee signaling interception while his counterpart signals touchdown while presiding over the deciding, final play of a nationally televised game has given the NFLRA the first true leverage in the continuing standoff between the league and its referees.
All throughout the process, conventional wisdom has held that "the only way the NFL even begins to cave a little bit is if the replacement referees cost a team a game."
Tonight, it happened.
Week 3 of the 2012 NFL season seemed to generate many more painfully bad calls than the previous two weeks, but Sunday night's farce in Baltimore followed by Monday night's travesty in Seattle has sealed the deal.
On a clear—CLEAR—interception, not only could the replacement referees not get the call right...well, OK. One of them did...but they couldn't even get the interpretation of the simultaneous possession rule correct when the replay official buzzed down and had them look at it again. To make things even more laughable, the guy upstairs? He's not a replacement official. He's a league employee.
Simultaneous Catch. If a pass is caught simultaneously by two eligible opponents, and both players 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. If the ball is muffed after simultaneous touching by two such players, all the players of the passing team become eligible to catch the loose ball.
No reasonable human being can look at that final play after reading the definition above and think anything other than "M.D. Jennings intercepted the ball."
The NFL currently has less credibility than the now-defunct XFL ever had. The Vince McMahon-founded league may have been cheesy and filled with subpar talent on the field, but at least that league tried to make sure the football games weren't compromised.
The NFL can no longer say it is doing the same.
What's even worse is that this game could have serious reverberations throughout the NFC as the playoff race heats up. Both the NFC West and NFC North could, and probably will, be affected.
Speaking of the playoffs, stop and think about this for a second: Imagine this WAS a playoff game, and the outcome had been the same. You think the stink wafting off of "The Shield," as Roger Goodell is fond of calling it, is bad now?
Goodell is at the mercy of the owners. It's time for him to find a coalition of sane voices amongst that fraternity and broker a deal with the NFLRA. Tomorrow.
Because the NFL is no better than the XFL right now. In fact, it's worse.