The lasting image of the Seattle Seahawks beating the Green Bay Packers Monday night will forever be Golden Tate's 24-yard touchdown "catch" as time expired, a controversial decision from the replacement officials that gave the Seahawks a 14-12 win over Green Bay.
The call will stand as an iconic moment in the NFL's ongoing labor strife with the real referees, who have been locked out for almost nine weeks (with Week 4 approaching, plus five more in preseason).
Overall, Monday night was a football game marred with questionable officiating decisions that went against both sides. Several of the decisions, especially late in the game, had a direct impact on the final score of the contest.
Below, we break down the worst of the bunch from Monday night. There are at least six that deserve discussion in this forum.
Situation: Seattle has 1st-and-25 from their own 43-yard line. Packers lead 12-7 with 6:14 left in the fourth quarter.
Call: Packers cornerback Sam Shields is penalized for defensive pass interference on Sidney Rice at the Green Bay 25-yard line.
Rice runs a go-route down the near sidelines and Shields remains stride-for-stride as Wilson makes the throw. Shields has perfect technique, playing inside leverage and getting his head turned around well before Wilson lets the pass go.
As the ball is in the air, most (if not all) of the brief and minimal contact is initiated by Rice, who never comes close to the pass as Shields reaches one arm out to disrupt the throw. It's perfect coverage—exactly how cornerbacks are taught to play that route and throw.
The side judge, who has a perfect view of the play, calls a 32-yard defensive pass interference penalty, giving Seattle a new set of downs after facing a 1st-and-25.
Without consideration of the circumstances, this call far outweighs the final play in terms of disregard to the actual rule.
Situation: Seattle has 1st-and-10 from its own 20-yard line. Packers lead 12-7 with 8:44 left in the fourth quarter.
Call: After Packers safety Jerron McMillian intercepts a deflected pass along the sidelines, linebacker Erik Walden is whistled for a roughing the quarterback penalty on Russell Wilson.
On the Seahawks' first play after Green Bay took their fourth-quarter lead, Wilson runs a play-action bootleg to his right. The action is smartly away from Clay Matthews, but Walden, the opposite outside linebacker on the play, stays home and reacts to the boot.
He launches at Wilson before the throw is even attempted. The ball eventually bounced off the hands of tight end Evan Moore and into the waiting arms of McMillian. There is no complaining from Wilson, who thinks he just threw a back-breaking interception.
The head official is standing no more than a foot away from the play and he drops a yellow flag. The Seahawks retain possession. The Packers would have taken over at the Seahawks' 26-yard line.
NFL's official rule on roughing the passer (Rule 12, Section 2, Article 8):
Pass rushers are responsible for being aware of the position of the ball in passing situations. If a pass rusher clearly should have known that the ball had already left the passer's hand before contact was made, unnecessary roughness will be called. The Referee will use the release of the ball from the passer's hand as his guideline that the passer is now fully protected. Once a pass has been released by a passer, a rushing defender may make direct contact with the passer only up through the rusher's first step after such release (prior to second step hitting the ground); thereafter the rusher must be making an attempt to avoid contact and must not continue to "drive through" or otherwise forcibly contact the passer. Incidental or inadvertent contact by a player who is easing up or being blocked into the passer will not be considered significant.
On one-step rule outside the pocket:
When the passer goes outside the pocket area and either continues moving with the ball (without attempting to advance the ball as a runner) or throws while on the run, he loses the protection of the one-step rule and the provision regarding low hits, but he remains covered by all other special protections afforded to a passer in the pocket. If a passer outside the pocket stops behind the line and clearly establishes a passing posture, he is covered by all of the special protections.
The official rule on rounding makes this arguably the worst call of the night.
Situation: Green Bay has 3rd-and-2 from the Seattle 47-yard line. Seahawks lead 7-6 with 11:31 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Call: Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor is called for defensive pass interference on a short pass to tight end Jermichael Finley.
The Packers face one of the biggest third downs of the game, down one point and with the fourth-quarter clock ticking. Aaron Rodgers has a four-receiver set that is spread wide, with John Kuhn in the backfield. Finley is lined up far to the right, with Chancellor playing off man-to-man coverage.
Rodgers knows where he's going with the football from the very start, so he fires a frozen rope on the slant to Finley. Chancellor, who times the pass perfectly, sticks his hand in and knocks away the ball before Finley has a real chance to corral the throw.
But just as you think the Packers will face a crucial fourth down, a flag comes flying in.
Finley thinks he drew a legitimate flag, while Chancellor can't believe the call. The Packers get a new set of downs, which eventually leads to a leading touchdown.
Like Shields a series later, Chancellor could not have played this down any better from a defensive standpoint.
Situation: Green Bay has 1st-and-10 from the Seattle 27-yard line. Seahawks lead 7-6 with 10:41 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Call: Unsportsmanlike conduct on both Packers receiver Greg Jennings and Seahawks cornerback Brandon Browner. No penalty yardage is awarded in either direction because of the double foul.
The Packers line up in a three-receiver set, with Jennings positioned in the slot to the left of the formation. Rodgers takes the snap, looks right initially, and dumps off to Cedric Benson after James Jones is covered up on his first progression. Jennings never gets a look from Rodgers.
He does, however, get a look from Browner, who takes the cheap shot of the game by leveling Jennings 20 yards away from the play. It's a dirty, unnecessary hit that has no place in the game.
Jennings charges Browner in retaliation, and is subsequently tackled to the ground once again. Again, the back judge has a clear view of both acts. He throws a flag first. A second referee then comes into the picture late, just as Jennings pushes Browner away as the two are being separated. The second referee throws a second flag.
The official calls unsportsmanlike conduct on both players, resulting in no yardage lost or gained for either team. For better or worse, the referees made the decision to essentially declare that nothing had happened.
Browner deserved a solo 15-yard penalty and should have been under consideration for ejection.
Situation: Green Bay has 3rd-and-1 from the Seattle 2-yard line. Seahawks lead 7-6 with 9:24 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Call: Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers runs for zero yards to the right. Officials measure and determine Rodgers to be short of the first down. Green Bay challenges, ruling overturned. Officials award Green Bay a first down without re-measuring the new spot.
An interesting play all-around, as the original spot on Jennings' catch one play later looked iffy. But Rodgers' heads up play to extend the football as he's going to the ground gets him close to the first down, and ESPN's unofficial yellow line also makes it a close call.
The refs rightfully overturn the original decision, but not having another measurement is a baffling choice. The refs could not be certain, even after the first measurement, that Rodgers' got the first down with his new spot. The change in spot via replay was only fractional.
Benson scores a touchdown one play later to give the Packers its first lead.
Situation: Seattle has 4th-and-10 from the Green Bay 24-yard line. Packers lead 12-7 with eight seconds remain in the fourth quarter.
Call: Simultaneous catch by Golden Tate in the end zone. Touchdown Seattle. After review, replay official upholds the original call on the field.
No further explanation of the play or result is needed here. You make the call on a video you've probably watched hundreds of times already.
Note: All screencaps courtesy of NFL's Game Rewind.