If NFL commissioner Roger Goodell wasn't watching the Monday Night Football matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks and cringing, then he truly doesn't care about preserving the integrity of the game.
Several missed calls leading up to the finish forced both teams to change their strategy down the stretch, and the game concluded with a wild Hail Mary in the end zone. Green Bay's M.D. Jennings appeared to have the interception and the Packer victory in his grasp, but the replacement referees ruled that Seattle's Golden Tate made the catch and scored the game-winning touchdown.
The controversial finish wasn't the only call that had an impact on the game; the very thing that the NFL hoped to avoid with replacement officials has come to fruition, and this game was a prime-time example of why these officials aren't prepared to run professional games.
Before you send death threats to referees No. 26 and 84—the two guys involved in the end-zone skirmish—take a look at the league office. It's not the fault of the replacements that they are having problems. They're under-prepared, under-coached and lack the experience to deal with guys in this league.
If anyone is making a killing off these games, it's not the NFL. They should be embarrassed by the outcome of tonight's finish. The regular officials are reaping the benefits of these mistakes, and with each passing day, the leverage the NFL has over them disappears.
Unless, of course, the NFL just doesn't care, and that's a theory that's been floated quite a bit, too.
Even LeBron James had something to say about the officiating tonight, and it didn't affect the outcome of his favorite team, the Dallas Cowboys.
These replacement refs gotta go man!! Packers just got game took from them. I LOVE NFL football to much to see this type of work.— LeBron James (@KingJames) September 25, 2012
Here's a breakdown of several missed calls in Monday night's game, keeping in mind the situation and how it affected the outcome of the finish.
10:00 in Fourth—Pass Interference on K. Chancellor defending J. Finley on 3rd-and-2
It appeared Seattle had made a big stop on third down and left the Packers offense with a decision to make, but P.I. was called on Chancellor knocking the ball away from Finley.
The penalty allowed Green Bay to keep the drive alive and go on to score a touchdown on the same drive. Cedric Benson punched it in from a yard out to give the Packers a 12-7 lead, but who knows if they would have been in that position had the flag stayed in the official's pocket.
8:36 in Fourth—Roughing the Passer on E. Walden after INT
Green Bay made a huge interception on an ill-advised throw by Russell Wilson, appearing to get the break to be in field-goal position and potentially stretch the lead to a touchdown and two-point conversion.
But after Wilson threw on the run out of the pocket, Walden took him to the turf, drawing a penalty from the white-hat official. Did it fall into the realm of taking out a QB's feet, the rule that came to be after Tom Brady's injury? Maybe, but Walden wasn't doing anything but making Wilson throw under pressure.
I'd keep the flag in my pocket there, too, but you could certainly make a case that Walden violated the rules. Still, with eight minutes and change and in Seattle territory, you'd have to figure Green Bay would at least push the distance after the turnover.
6:11 in Fourth—Pass Interference on S. Shields defending S. Rice on 1st-and-25
The only thing worse than this one was the final play, but you could argue that this one was the penalty that kept Seattle alive when all seemed lost. Shields had inside position, wasn't holding Rice and was looking back at the ball.
If anything, Rice pushed off for position. But it was Shields who took the penalty, virtually erasing the holding penalty the previous play from Russell Okung. The Seahawks then took the ball at the Green Bay 25 before stalling out near the goal line.
It was an important play, however, because it forced Green Bay to shorten their playbook in their own end zone. Seattle was able to force a punt, gain good field position and set themselves up for a final score all because of a play that should have made it 1st-and-35.
:00 in Fourth—Offensive Pass Interference on G. Tate/Dual Possession between M.D. Williams and G. Tate results in TD, 14-12 Seattle Win
In the call of the night that will be seen, talked about and debated all week, Golden Tate hauled in a deep Hail Mary throw from Wilson as time expired, although it appeared Williams intercepted the ball first before Tate was able to get a hand in there.
To make matters worse, Tate mauled Shields on an apparent over-the-back move he must have learned playing basketball earlier in his life.
Both ruling officials, No. 26 at the pylon and No. 84 on the back line, ruled differently. The side judge ruled it a touchdown, and upon review you could tell why he thought it was dual possession. But the back judge came in giving an apparent touchback sign, waving his hands to stop the clock, not signaling for a touchdown.
Without conferring, the officials took to the replay, letting the scoreboard tell us that the ruling on the field was a TD. Even after looking at it, they confirmed the ruling on the field, and Seattle was able to win.
To make matters worse, they forgot that an extra point had to be attempted, and the audience had to wait for both teams to finish the game, even after Green Bay stormed off the field.
There were a handful of bad calls in this one, but they were calls that normal officials don't miss. Pass interference has gotten worse and worse over the years, but missing calls like that make you wish this lockout was finally over.
What is it going to take for the NFL to swallow their pride and pay these men? Do they have enough blood? The credibility of the league is going by the wayside, and it seems we've just seen the beginning of officiating directly affecting the outcome of final scores.