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Packers vs. Seahawks: Understanding the NFL Statement on the Controversial Call

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 24:  Wide receiver Golden Tate #81 of the Seattle Seahawks makes a catch in the end zone to defeat the Green Bay Packers on a controversial call by the officials at CenturyLink Field on September 24, 2012 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
Todd PheiferAnalyst IIINovember 22, 2016

I have a feeling the disputed call that ended the game between the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks will be referenced for years. 

What will be discussed? The mistakes made by the replacement referees?

Or is it possible that people will scrutinize the entire process, which starts with the officials making a call on the field and ends with the official in the booth deciding whether to overturn the call? This is not just about the specific play. It is a much broader issue of how we interpret and understand our surroundings.

This is all about the power of words. 

I do not want to get too philosophical here, but look at the statement from the NFL, via NFL.com. The league admits that Golden Tate should have been flagged for pushing off, and that if he had been flagged, the game would have ended with a Packers win. 

However, here is the key. The NFL states, “Referee Wayne Elliott determined that no indisputable visual evidence existed to overturn the call on the field.”

Indisputable visual evidence. A powerful collection of words. 

Now I know what fans are going to say.  They will suggest (passionately) that M.D. Jennings clearly has the ball. I can certainly buy that argument. 

However, it does not matter if he has the ball. The call on the field was a touchdown.   

Hear me out. Golden Tate also has something amounting to possession of the ball.  Again, I know what fans are going to say. They are going to say that when one player clearly has the ball and another player has an awkward arm in the tangle, it should not count as shared possession. 

Remember those powerful words. Indisputable visual evidence.

What is “indisputable visual evidence?” There are obviously easier situations than this one. For example, video evidence of a ball clearly bouncing off the turf under a receiver who is trying to make it look like a catch. A toe that is clearly over the line. A receiver who is juggling the ball as he goes out of bounds.

Maybe the phrase should be “fairly” indisputable evidence. 

Is the rule the problem? Not necessarily. People are upset because the refs on the field got the call wrong. This put the booth in a position where there had to be a clear (indisputable) reason to reverse the call. If the call on the field were an interception, it probably would have been reviewed. In that case, I believe the booth would have upheld that call as well.

It is all about the call on the field. It is not about the booth. The booth is not staffed by replacement refs.

The NFL is an imperfect game. Bad calls are made. Have the fans forgotten that the “real” referees have made a few questionable calls over the years? Do fans think that if the real refs return, we will have perfectly called games?

Remember Super Bowl XL, when the Seahawks got the game taken away from them? I believe those were the regular officials.

Ah, the power of words.   

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