The NFL replacement officials stole a football game from the Green Bay Packers on Monday Night Football and handed it to the Seattle Seahawks in one of the most confusing and controversial calls in NFL history.
If one hasn't seen the play yet, be prepared for mind-blowing stupidity made possible by an NFL that has made the choice to lock its trained employees out and go with unqualified scab referees.
First, let's get some extraneous matters out of the way.
Yes, the Packers shouldn't have been anywhere near the point of being beaten by a last-second play. It's hard to really listen to any complaints when Green Bay put up such a poor performance in the first 30 minutes of Monday night.
Yes, there were calls that went both ways. Seattle didn't benefit from every bad call in this contest, but excusing a terrible call because of other previous terrible calls seems counter-intuitive on its face and makes this columnist question just how much grain alcohol he would have to imbibe to achieve that impressive level of dead brain cells.
Yes, too, is it true that the replay official up in the booth is a "regular" employee. He failed to overturn the ruling, and many feel that fact takes the burden off the replacement refs here. Of course, that's silly because the "replay official" is an invention of this replacement ref system. Normally, the head ref on the field is the final word on replays and would spend more than 40 seconds under the hood to make such a weighty decision.
Also, the replay official did not confirm the ruling on the field, nor did he even take the requisite time to view every possible angle that would be available—especially on an ESPN-produced Monday night game.
That other people messed up does not absolve the replacement official who prematurely ruled this a touchdown, nor does it absolve the head replacement ref that failed to huddle up with his crew before making a binding decision.
Let's break down just how much of a travesty that decision was.
ESPN put the "simultaneous catch" rule up on SportsCenter following the game, and that's probably the first thing we should take a look at.
There's the crux of the issue we're dealing with, but it's important to also remember that the NFL has some pretty specific rules about what a "catch" is. You can't catch a ball in mid-air without also coming down with it.
That means in an NFL where fans barely know what a catch looks like anymore, a simultaneous catch is even more specific. These should be incredibly rare occurrences and should be awfully clear when they happen.
This instance was not clear, because this instance was not a simultaneous catch.
This was, more than anything else, a clear-as-day example of offensive pass interference.
Golden Tate pushed a defender with both arms (extended) right in the back, right in the clear view of the officials who hadn't swallowed their whistles at any other point in the fourth quarter. The second Tate pushed the Packer so violently, the game should've been over. Don't take my word for it; the NFL said as much.
Yet one could argue that it is almost commendable that the NFL "let them play." Calling a penalty like that, even when it's so blatant, puts the game in the refs' hands. Of course, if the referees aren't going to call the penalty, they should probably get the actions afterward correct.
In this shot, one player has possession (M.D. Jennings) and one player is touching the ball (Golden Tate). This almost automatically disqualifies this play from being a simultaneous catch. There is nothing simultaneous about how they got the ball. Jennings has it here; Tate does not. It is understandable if the refs don't get the rule book, but the definition of a common English word like "simultaneous" shouldn't elude them so easily.
It gets worse.
This reverse-angle shot of the same moment above shows that Tate's hands aren't even around the ball! He's got one arm around Jenning's arm with his hand potentially on the ball, but it isn't clear. His other hand is off in no-man's land. If this is a simultaneous catch, it is the most miraculous half-handed catch ever, and we should send Tate's gloves to the lab for Stickum testing.
Or, more simply, he didn't catch the ball. He didn't do so simultaneously with Jennings, and he didn't do so at all.
I lovingly call this still shot "The Bizarro Tyree."
Tate can claim off this shot (and really only this shot, until he takes the ball from Jennings on the ground) that he has possession. Of course, to gain "possession" he's pinning the ball against Jennings with one hand and tackling Jennings with the other.
At this point, if this is a catch by Tate, every single tackle in the history of the game is a "simultaneous catch" by the defender. He's bringing Jennings down, not catching the ball. There is no control by Tate that is anywhere near the crystal-clear control Jennings has of the ball he is clearly intercepting.
Look ma! No hands!
Here, we get as good of a look as any at the mythical no-handed catch. Like a unicorn or a dollar bill NFL owners didn't want, this creature has never before been witnessed in such HD quality. Tate has neither of his arms on the ball, yet was determined (both live and on replay, sort of) to have maintained possession as he "completed the process" of the catch.
If Tate is catching the ball in the above screen shot, he should be tested for telekinetic powers and/or possibly burned at the stake because he is clearly a witch.
Going to the ground, Tate has gotten his hands back on the ball. Never mind the fact that Jennings clearly has possession and has maintained possession from the very first frame above. Don't you dare look behind the curtain—this is the great and powerful Oz!
Seriously, calling what Tate is doing in this play "possession" is the loosest possible definition of the word. Having your hand on a ball doesn't mean you're possessing it. Remember that this is the NFL, which demands absolute perfection on every catch.
This isn't perfection. This isn't close.
This is the nonsense we are left with from this officiating travesty: a referee with no professional experience calling a touchdown from an angle at which he should've clearly seen everything we've discussed above.
The head ref came in and refused to concur with the ref (the correct ref) who signaled touchback. This left the replay official no choice but to hastily refuse to overturn the call on the field and the NFL to issue one of the biggest middle-fingers to the general NFL fan we have ever seen.
This is one of the worst refereeing displays any of us will ever see, in any sport.
Bring back the real refs, now.
Michael Schottey is the NFL national lead writer for Bleacher Report and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Find more of his stuff alongside other great writers at "The Go Route."