Let’s go back in time for a couple minutes. It’s Week 3 of the NFL season. It’s Monday Night Football, and the Green Bay Packers are visiting the Seattle Seahawks. The Packers are leading the Seahawks 12-7 late in the fourth quarter. Oh, and the replacement referees are still running around the field in pinstripes.
We all remember what transpired next in what may go down as one of the worst blown calls in NFL history. Seattle’s rookie quarterback, Russell Wilson, took the snap on 4th-and-10. After buying time for his receivers to get into the end zone, Wilson unleashed a Hail Mary as time expired.
With the ball sailing towards the end zone, a herd of Seattle and Green Bay players leaped into the air for the ball. Coming down with the football was Packers safety M.D. Jennings as Seattle receiver Golden Tate tried to wrestle the ball away.
The video replay clearly shows Jennings with possession of the ball, so Green Bay should have won the game. However, here is where everything went south for the Packers.
Head official Wayne Elliott viewed the replays and determined both players had simultaneous possession of the ball, meaning the offensive player receives credit for the catch.
Instead of a Packers win, the Seahawks won. That win, though it occurred back in September and seems like a lifetime ago now, is dictating the NFC playoff race.
The question must be asked: How would the NFC playoff race change had that call not been blown?
Current NFC playoff picture
The San Francisco 49ers (10-3-1) currently hold the No. 2 seed and will earn a bye if they can win out.
The Packers (10-4) are the No. 3 seed and need the 49ers to lose a game to have a chance to earn the first-round bye by winning out.
The Washington Redskins (8-6) are the No. 4 seed, but the NFC East is a jumbled mess and could go any which way.
The Seahawks (9-5) and Minnesota Vikings (8-6) are the No. 5 and No. 6 seeds.
How the blown call impacts the NFC playoff picture
Had the refs gotten the call right back in Week 3, Green Bay’s record would sit at 11-3, and Seattle would be 8-6.
If the Packers win that game, they become the No. 2 seed and have a realistic shot to earn a bye. Instead, Green Bay will most likely earn the third seed behind San Francisco.
Where the blown call has the greatest impact is the wild-card race. In defeating New England Sunday night, the 49ers all but won the NFC West, so the only way Seattle gets into the playoffs is with a wild-card spot.
Well, since the replacement refs gifted the Seahawks with a victory, they are now in the driver’s seat for a wild-card spot, holding a one-game advantage in the race for those two spots. Had the referees gotten the call right, Seattle’s record would sit at 8-6 instead of 9-5.
Seattle would be one of five teams with a record of 8-6; its journey to the playoffs would not be as easy. Instead, Seattle’s season will most likely continue after the regular season ends in two weeks.
So, Seahawks fans, send a Christmas card to Wayne Elliott this week thanking him for gifting the Seahawks with an inside track for one of the wild-card spots when he blew that call back in September.
Contact Kyle Oland at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow @NFLWaterCooler