Vindication never tasted so sour.
My prediction of a two-point Seahawks victory came to fruition late Monday night. As Russell Wilson heaved the ball into the Seattle sky, with the clock hitting double zeros, a very small part of me wanted the Seahawks to come down with a miracle touchdown. The rest of me wanted justice.
The rest of me felt betrayed.
Like milk gone past its expiration, Golden Tate's game-winning "reception" leaves an awful taste in your mouth. Even for those who predicted or rooted for a Seahawks win, there is no celebration today. There are clearly bigger issues here.
Imagine what it's like to be a Packers fan today. Many probably hoped that it was all a dream, that they would wake up and find a big "Packers Win!" stretched across their morning newspaper. They would breathe a sigh of relief and say "Of course I was dreaming! No officials could be so incompetent."
Yes, yes they can.
A weekend that saw one official trip a Cowboys player with his hat and another refuse to give Bill Belichick a ruling on a questionable field goal was capped off beautifully with one of the worst officiated games in NFL history.
Forget about the controversial last play for now, we'll get to that. It wasn't the only bad call that was made. It probably wasn't even the worst.
We can pick up the action after halftime. All you need to know about the first half is that Seattle sacked Aaron Rodgers a whopping eight times, and held a 7-0 lead on a 41-yard bomb to Golden Tate.
After a completely miserable offensive first half, Rodgers was able to lead three long drives deep into Seahawks territory in the second half. The Seahawks would eventually stiffen on two of these drives and hold the Packers to two field goals. On the third, they allowed a touchdown on a Cedric Benson 1-yard plunge.
During these drives, many questionable flags were thrown against Seattle. There were three, count 'em, three penalties called on Seattle that extended the Green Bay drive on third down.
One of them was a "too many men in the huddle" call, which is hard to argue against. But the other two left you scratching your head. An illegal contact flag was dropped on Brandon Browner because he jammed a receiver off the line and his hand was vaguely in the vicinity of the opposing player's face.
Then, during what seemed, at the time, to be the biggest drive of the game, Kam Chancellor was called for a highly questionable pass interference call. He appeared to time his swat at the ball perfectly, but the yellow hankie was thrown anyways.
At this point, the Packers led 12-7 (following a failed two-point conversion) and it seemed that all the calls had swung in Green Bay's favor. What happened over the last eight minutes and 44 seconds of the game would undo all of that, and then some.
First, Russell Wilson throws a woefully crushing interception at his own 26-yard line, but it is called back for a "roughing the passer" penalty on Erik Walden. We have seen over-protection of quarterbacks before, but all Walden did was dive to make a shoestring tackle while Russell still possessed the ball. He threw it, Walden tackled his legs a split second later. Not a penalty. Game should have been sealed right there.
Next, the Seahawks find themselves in 1st and forever after multiple holding penalties. But the refs bail them out with an egregious pass interference call. If you watch the play, Sam Shields literally does not touch Sidney Rice. He does not have his back turned to the ball, he does not impede the receiver, he has a right to the ball. Again, we have seen terrible pass interference flags before, but this was right up there with the worst.
After the Packers held the Seahawks out of the endzone on 4th down, it seemed that justice had been served, but the Packers had to punt the ball back with just under a minute remaining. Seattle had the ball at the Green Bay 45-yard line, and one last chance at a comeback.
Let us pause here to consider how we arrived at this point. Undeniably, poor officiating flipped what should have been Packers possession at the Seahawks 26 to a Seattle possession at the Green Bay 45. Even though the Seahawks did not score on the penalty-riddled drive, they were set up with an opportunity they should never have had.
Then came the already-notorious Hail Mary play. The last, fatal nail in the Packers coffin came in the form of a blatant, yet ignored offensive push-off and the incorrect ruling of shared possession between Seahawks receiver Golden Tate and Packers defender M.D. Jennings. It was not shared possession. There was no "tie goes to the offense." Tate never possessed the ball at all. It was a blown call. That's all there is to it.
The backlash has come out against Roger Goodell and the NFL owners, calling for the return of the locked-out referees. NFL fans the world over assume that because we have crossed into the territory where bad calls are determining games, that should spur a resolution to be reached.
But it doesn't work that way.
This is fundamentally a financial issue. It's all about money. The NFL does not want to pay referees more money. Simple, right? This isn't about good officiating. This isn't about the integrity of the game. Above everything else, the NFL is a corporation concerned with making profit. Welcome to America.
The telltale sign was the veritable explosion of social media following on the game's finish. Ratings are not going down. Viewership is not going down. NFL fans are not going to abandon their post because of bad penalty calls. Not when it makes for such good discussion.
Any press is good press.
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