The bizarre ending of last night’s Packers-Seahawks game has been cited as the ultimate example of the NFL replacement refs’ incompetence. I am as frustrated by the replacement refs as anyone on the planet (well, maybe short of Packers coach Mike McCarthy), but I saw plenty of blame to go around last night.
Let’s start with a summary of the events. Seahawks down by five, eight seconds to go, fourth down. Russell Wilson scrambles, tosses a prayer toward the end zone where several Packers and Seahawks await its arrival.
Packer MD Jennings goes up and apparently makes the catch, but by the time he comes down, both he and Seahawks receiver Golden Tate seem to have possession. One official runs in and signals touchdown, the other calls a touchback.
A TD is declared on the field and replay supports the call. Seahawks win, the Pacific Northwest erupts with glee, but there is no joy in Mudville (aka Green Bay, Wisconsin).
The airwaves are alive that this is the epitome of incompetence by the replacements, but I say yes and no.
First, hardly anyone is talking about what happened in the end zone as the scrum of players awaited the arrival of that celestial object. Golden Tate, noticing that the Packers' Sam Shields is in his way (I think that’s why they call him Sam Shields), pushes him in the small of the back with two hands and he goes down. It’s as obvious a call as humanly possible, it’s offensive interference, and everything else is moot.
Except apparently the men in the striped shirts are, like everyone else, looking skyward at the descending spheroid—even though it is their job to watch things like contact in the end zone before the ball arrives.
All I can say is that was a tough call, and it’s why replay was instituted. Also, the guys making the ultimate call in the booth were the “real” guys, the non-locked out officials who have been retained by the NFL.
The rules that apply are far more bizarre than even the play, but let’s give it a try:
Rule 8, Section 3, Article 1, Item 5: A simultaneous catch goes to the offensive team, BUT it’s not a simultaneous catch if one player had it first and then the other player gains joint control. So far, interception, Green Bay.
However, because the call on the field was a touchdown, the rules further say that replay cannot reverse possession, so once it was ruled on the field that Golden Tate was at least in possession, the fact that the Packers’ Jennings had it first could not be overturned. Result, TD Seattle.
In essence, it was a tight call by the on-field officials—although a wrong one—on a bang-bang play, one that was backed by the arcane rules of the NFL. It never would have come down to this if the push in the back had been noticed (which, of course, is also not subject to review, no matter how obvious).
I hate it, but on that play the real travesty was the missed interference call, and to some extent, the bizarre technicalities of the replay rules, not the TD call.
I can’t wait for the real refs to get back, that is, until we get them back on the field and they start blowing calls.
If everyone would just give a dollar for research to the American Heart Association every time they hear, “These guys are just as awful. Bring back the replacements,” nobody will ever die of a heart attack again.
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