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Seahawks, Packers, NFL, referees, history collide in end zone

Stephen Brashear
Packers defenders fight for possession of a jump ball with Seattle Seahawks wide receivers Charly Martin (14) and Golden Tate, right, in the final seconds of last night's game.

Special post from SportsPress Northwest

As the parabola of Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson’s final pass became apparent – in play, in the end zone –  there was no doubt that the Seahawks, the Packers, a stadium of fans, and the world that cares about Monday Night Football were about to witness the worst collision between clown cars in the history of the circus.

Boom! Floppy shoes, orange hair, red noses flying across the Pioneer Square landscape. Oh, the greasepaint!

And grinning in the bottom of the mayhem was a hero named Golden.

Does it get more loopy?

Yes. Loopy went overtime, grabbed a snack and came back on the field to kick a pointless point. Ten minutes after the game was over, it was over-over:  Seattle 14, Green Bay 12, but the controversy over this outcome will finish the moment the sun goes supernova.

The game was everything absolutely right and absolutely wrong with the industry at the moment. A superb thrash of a match that ended with the wrong team winning. Yes, the wrong team, Seahawks fans – Green Bay’s M.D. Jennings had the interception in the air and on the ground. But by the time the referees arrived, they made it the scene of a sporting crime.

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I know – the football gods owed Seattle one from a little travesty in Detroit a few years ago. But let’s not go there. Let’s go to the man of the moment, Golden Tate, who caught Seattle’s first touchdown, fouled up a potential second TD pass, then became semi-immortal with the third chance.

"The guy who was fighting me (Jennings) for it, he’s strong,” said Tate. “I was just trying to hold on to it until they pulled guys off me. I had a lot of Green Bay Packers scratching, clawing and pulling at me.

“I didn’t know if it was a touchdown, interception, completion. I didn’t know what was going on. Couldn’t hear anything.”

Golden, replays show Jennings above you catching the ball and coming down with until he hit the ground with you.

“Maybe he did,” said Tate, nonplussed. “But I took it from him.”

Laughter erupted from the reporters around him.

Funny to some, not others

Across the way in the Packers quarters, no laughter erupted. As TV screens in the locker room showed a replay of the final moment to the Packers players for the first time, groans and curses filled the room and towels were hurled against the TV screens.

“I felt like I had total control of the ball,” said Jennings, a second-year pro from Arkansas State. “It was pinned to my chest the whole time. I was very shocked (at the call). But the refs got the last say, so it is what it is.”

What the rule is, is that a simultaneous catch between offensive and defensive players goes to the offensive player. But it wasn’t a simultaneous catch; Jennings had first possession and Tate reached in. But not only was the miscall made, it was upheld on replay review by regular replay officials, not replacements.

After several tense minutes, referee Wayne Elliott emerged to a still nearly full stadium that fell silent.

“After further review, the call on the field is upheld . . .” As his hands shot up to signal touchdown, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll was five feet away, mimicking him.

The roar shook the place: For the first time in the 664-game history of the Monday Night Football series, a game was won on a touchdown with no time left on the clock. And it was wrong.

Ferocious defense, painful offense

Packers coach Mike McCarthy could barely contain his fury. Asked whether he was walking a fine line about criticizing the officiating, he said, “I’m not walking it. Don’t ask me questions about the officials, alright? So we’ll cut to the chase right here. You want to talk about the game?”

Ah. The game. Splendid affair. The Seahawks defense in the first half knocked the snot out of all-world quarterback Aaron Rodgers (eight sacks, one shy of the NFL record), who came back in the second to lead drives that produced two field goals and a touchdown to take a 12-7 lead.

Ferocious defense, painful offense and a cavalcade of officiating errors that would take a Google algorithm a month to sort.

“It was the most unusual football game that I have been a part of,” McCarthy said. Even Carroll, the victor, who rarely says anything sour, had had it.

“It’s time for this to be over – it’s time for this to be over,” he said of the labor dispute with the veteran officials that is slowly eating away the game. “My hat’s off to these officials. They’re doing everything as well as they can. They’re working their tails off. It demonstrates how difficult it is.
“It’s a very, very complex process to handle these games and make these decisions. There’s nothing easy about it. It takes years and years of experience to pull it off properly and in a timely fashion.
“It’s time to be over. The league deserves it, and everybody deserves it.”

Give McCarthy the last word: “I’ve never seen anything like that in all my years of football.”

He meant it in the harshest way possible. The Seahawks need not be ashamed to claim it, but the NFL needs to be ashamed to own it.

Art Thiel is a co-founder and writer for the rising sports website Sportspress Northwest. In 2003 Thiel wrote the definitive book about the Seattle Mariners, “Out of Left Field,” which became a regional bestseller. In 2009, along with Steve Rudman and KJR 950 afternoon host Mike Gastineau, Thiel authored “The Great Book of Seattle Sports Lists,” a cross between and Mad Magazine that has become mandatory reading for any sports fan who has an indoor bathroom.
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