NFC West: M.D. Jennings

Closed mind? Tired of MNF talk? Skip this

September, 28, 2012
The Green Bay Packers was robbed Monday night, replacement officials were to blame, the Seattle Seahawks should be grateful for a gifted victory and anyone seeking to justify the outcome needs to move on already.

How dare anyone challenge the narrative!

No one has done it more defiantly or resoundingly than Scott Kacsmar of Cold, Hard Football Facts.

Kacsmar loves to do his football homework. He's the man primarily responsible for separating fact from fiction on fourth-quarter comeback victories and game-winning drives for Pro Football Reference. A contrarian streak runs through his work.

Kacsmar's latest piece asserts that Seattle's Golden Tate controlled the football before Green Bay's M.D. Jennings controlled it, even though Tate had only one hand on the football while doing so. I've separately made available a series of photographs taken by Larry Maurer, who has had sideline access to Seahawks games since 2004. This one in particular stands out if you accept the "control" premise Kacsmar advances.

"The biggest travesty in the NFL this week comes from all the fans and media that have let a perfect storm of events shape the biggest overreaction ever to a call that was right, and a touchdown that was legitimate," Kacsmar writes.

The No. 1 question I have regarding Kacsmar's piece is to what degree the examples he provides of players gaining control of the football with only one hand apply to this particular situation.

The NFL has said the available evidence prevents a clear verdict beyond the statement released earlier in the week. I thought the Packers intercepted the pass, but I wasn't sure -- and I'm less sure now. Thankfully, there's no law against continued thoughtful discussions just because some have wearied of the debate.

Wrapping up (for now) the MNF controversy

September, 27, 2012
Touchdown scored by Golden Tate against Green BayKirby Lee/US PresswireEven with the lockout over, issues remain over the call at the end of the Seahawks-Packers game.
Week 4 is nearly upon us, but Week 3 will not die.

Seattle Seahawks fans continue to present evidence attempting to validate replacement officials' controversial Monday night ruling on Golden Tate's disputed touchdown catch against Green Bay. The comments continue to pile up in the "Rapid Reaction" item published immediately following the game. We're past 5,000 and counting.

I'll address a few of the lingering issues here.

New visual evidence

Fans have pointed toward reverse-angle video of the play, as shot by local Seattle affiliate KCPQ.

Steve Gallo extrapolated stills from the video to show how Tate, not the Packers' M.D. Jennings, could have been the player coming down with the football. Here's a clearer still photo showing Tate's feet on the ground, Jennings' feet in the air and Tate's left arm between the ball and Jennings' body.

Another in-depth review of the footage reaches a similar conclusion: Tate had two feet down and Jennings had no feet down when both players controlled the ball.

My feeling watching the play live was that Jennings appeared to make the interception, but that replays were not conclusive. The reverse-angle footage and breakdowns strengthen my feeling that there wasn't enough evidence to reverse the call. There wouldn't have been clear enough evidence to overturn an interception ruling, either.

Jennings should have batted down the ball. Tate showed remarkable strength by grabbing the ball with only his left hand before getting his right hand on the ball later in the sequence.

Did Tate have his right hand back on the ball before Jennings established possession by getting both feet down? Did he need to have both hands on the ball? Are there degrees of possession? Does having two hands on the ball trump having one hand on the ball?

The NFL's statement on the play notes that "a player (or players) jumping in the air has not legally gained possession of the ball until he satisfies the elements of a catch."

Those elements are satisfied when a player:

  • "Secures control of the ball in his hands or arms prior to the ball touching the ground." Note the plural. Hands or arms. Not hand or arm. Is that a meaningful distinction, or semantics?
  • "Touches the ground inbounds with both feet or any body part other than his hands." Tate did this before Jennings did this, but did he have the ball?
  • "Maintains control of the ball long enough to perform any act common to the game (i.e., maintaining control long enough to pitch it, pass it, advance with it or avoid or ward off an opponent, etc.)."

The league also cited the rule governing a simultaneous catch.

"If a pass is caught simultaneously by two eligible opponents, and both players retain it, the ball belongs to the passers," the rule reads. "It is not a simultaneous catch if a player gains control first and an opponent subsequently gains joint control."

The 2011 rulebook contains an example that does not appear in the 2012 version. The example from the 2011 rulebook falls under a "not a simultaneous catch" heading. It reads, "First-and-10 on A20. B3 controls a pass in the air at the A40 before A2, who then also controls the ball before they land. As they land, A2 and B3 fall down to the ground."

[+] EnlargeMike McCarthy
AP Photo/Ted S. WarrenM.D. Jennings appeared to have both hands on the ball, but Golden Tate landed first.
Rulebooks change from year to year. The rule for simultaneous catches did not change, to my knowledge. The removal of this example from 2011 to 2012 might not be significant. Update: While the same example does not appear in the 2012 rulebook, it is part of the 2012 casebook, so it survives.

We know Jennings appeared more likely than Tate to have both hands on the ball. Tate definitely got both feet down inbounds before Jennings did.

A league spokesman told me Tuesday that the NFL "could not determine whether [the call] was correct."

All of us can reach the conclusion we want to reach if we're thorough enough in seeking evidence to support our claims. That goes for the players, too.

"I think everyone in the country, except for people who live in Seattle, saw it as an interception," St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford told reporters Wednesday.

And this from Arizona's Kevin Kolb: "Well, it was upsetting, because it does affect us. In my eyes, it was clearly an interception. Just like anybody else around, it's something that doesn’t sit well with us, because it directly affects us. That’s unfortunate at this level."

Offensive pass interference

Tate has admitted getting away with offensive pass interference before making the catch.

Some have correctly noted that officials generally do not call pass interference in Hail Mary situations, the implication being that replacement officials handled that call the way regular ones would have handled it.

I've gone through officiating records and found a few examples.

  • The New York Giantswon their 2001 home opener against New Orleans, 21-13, when officials nullified a Saints touchdown pass on the final play. The call was offensive pass interference. The pass covered only nine yards, however. This wasn't a Hail Mary heave."Referee Terry McAulay, who did most of the talking during today's Saints-Giants game, had one last speaking part," New York Times reporter Bill Pennington wrote. "McAulay announced a pass-interference penalty on [Willie] Jackson -- the last of 25 infractions called in the game -- nullifying the play. McAulay also declared the game over."
  • The Miami Dolphins lost their 2008 season opener, 20-14, after referee Mike Carey's crew called offensive pass interference against Ted Ginn Jr. on a play beginning with 10 seconds left. The Jets' Darrelle Revis picked off the pass, diminishing the impact of the penalty flag."The Dolphins started from their 39 with 1:43 left," The Associated Press story said. "They reached the Jets' 18, but when [Chad] Pennington tried to hit Ted Ginn Jr. in the corner of the end zone, Revis had position and made a one-handed interception."
  • Tampa Bay was trailing 33-20 during a 2009 Week 2 defeat to Buffalo when referee Ron Winter's crew called receiver Mark Clayton for offensive interference in the end zone on a deep throw in the final seconds. The pass fell incomplete.
  • In 2005, referee Peter Morelli's crew called Green Bay's Terrence Murphy for offensive interference with 19 seconds left, but this was on a 4-yard pass. The Packers scored on the next play, but still lost to Cleveland, 26-24.
  • In 2003, McAulay's crew called Atlanta's Peerless Price for offensive pass interference with 14 seconds left, but the Falcons trailed by a 31-10 score and nature of the pass -- short, deep, etc. -- was not noted in the gamebook.

The bottom line: Officials rarely call offensive pass interference in Hail Mary situations. I also cannot recall a receiver in a similar situation interfering as blatantly as Tate did in this one.

The Seahawks' response

Tate's initial postgame reaction seemed flippant.

"I don't know what you're talking about," he said more than once after the game regarding his obvious interference.

Coach Pete Carroll then struck an unsympathetic tone when he laughed at the controversy during an interview with 710ESPN Seattle. I used the word "unapologetic" to describe Carroll's stance. Unsympathetic would have been a better word.

Carroll and the Seahawks owe no apologies to anyone. Their defense played well enough to win the game. The officials ruled in their favor. The NFL upheld the game's outcome.

Packers guard Josh Sitton and others have suggested Seattle should have at least acknowledged its good fortune.

Carroll sounded much more sympathetic Wednesday. He opened his news conference with unsolicited comments on the matter.

"The first thing I want to get across is that I understand," Carroll said. "In all the years of coaching, we’ve been through this situation so many times, on both sides of the issues and it’s been always so difficult when it doesn’t work out. These games are so important, so crucial and so hard to come by and get wins that we fight across the board in the league with everything to make our way to a win, and it hurts when you don’t get it done.

"It’s awesome when you do. We just know that’s it really hard to be on the other side of this thing, and I’m sensitive to that and understand that."

Around the NFC West: Where's urgency?

September, 26, 2012
Seattle Seahawks owner Paul Allen rarely makes himself available to discuss the NFL, his team or much of anything.

Allen was unexpectedly available following the Seahawks' controversial victory over Green Bay on Monday night. He even discussed the NFL's ongoing lockouts of game officials.

Art Thiel of Sportspress Northwest caught up with Allen following Seattle's 14-12 victory. Allen on the officiating stalemate: "It's an unfortunate situation we have to work through. I know the league is working hard in negotiations. I know it will get resolved. These things always do. I think we’d all prefer it would be sooner than later. But we have to let the people negotiating at the league level do their work." Noted: One wouldn't expect much urgency from Allen following an outcome such as this one. I'm a little surprised the league and team owners haven't tried to discredit the regular officials by leaking information that could put the officials in a bad light. For example, they could paint the officials as wanting it both ways by seeking to continue their pensions without being willing to become full-time employees. Perhaps the league feels confident the officials will capitulate, or unconcerned about continuing on the current course. Recent events would seem to put pressure on the NFL to find a resolution.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times breaks down what happened from start to finish during the final play from the Seahawks' game against Green Bay. O'Neil: "Did (M.D.) Jennings establish possession of the ball before (Golden) Tate? If so, simultaneous possession does not apply. But establishing possession requires more than catching the ball with both hands. It requires the player to catch it, establish position inbounds and maintain control of the ball throughout contact with the ground."

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune weaves into his officiating column a few Seahawks-related notes. Boling: "While the Packers made effective adjustments at halftime, the Seahawks went depressingly one-dimensional in the second half. And they also relapsed into the undisciplined play that was such a problem last season, with any number of inexcusable procedure penalties. (I mean, will somebody check Russell Okung’s hearing? It’s obvious the man can no longer hear the snap count.)"

Chris Brown of takes a detailed look at Larry Fitzgerald's 37-yard scoring reception against the Eagles in Week 3. Nnamdi Asomugha was left alone in coverage after safety Kurt Coleman bit on a run fake. Smith: "While bursting upfield and keeping his shoulders ahead of Asomugha's to maintain his inside position, he also leans into the defender, pushing them both back toward the sideline. He does this for two reasons. First, it creates more space between Asomugha and the opposite safety, which leaves Kevin Kolb with a place to fit the ball. Second, it sets up Fitzgerald's move to get open. The old coaching adage is that to 'be covered early is to be open late,' and by pushing Asomugha to the outside, Fitzgerald is able to set up his own burst to the end zone."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic notes that many of the players Arizona has paid the greatest sums are producing at a high level for the team. Coach Ken Whisenhunt on the recently re-signed Daryl Washington: "I tell you what, signing him to an extension is looking better and better every week."

Darren Urban of suspects Cardinals fullback Anthony Sherman, an important role player responsible for forcing a fumble on special teams Sunday, could have an injury. Urban: "Apparently something happened, because the Cardinals added fullback Korey Hall to the roster. Reserve guard Rich Ohrnberger played a snap at fullback at the end of Sunday’s win, so it makes sense something is up with Sherman. I'm sure it will be addressed Wednesday. Hall spent four years with the Packers and last season with the Saints before the Saints cut him at the end of camp this season. Hall not only played with guard Daryn Colledge in Green Bay, but also at Boise State."

Bill Barnwell of leads his Week 3 review with a look at the 49ers' defeat at Minnesota. He also explains why he remains skeptical regarding Arizona. Barnwell: "If you want to know why the Cardinals have been 10-2 over the last 12 games, there is a simple explanation: They've won virtually all their close games. Ten of those 12 games have been decided by a touchdown or less, and Arizona has won nine of them. They've basically been the Baltimore Orioles of football over the past 12 games. If you want to count on that happening over the next 12 games, be my guest."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch offers thoughts on James Laurinaitis, among other subjects, during a recent Rams chat. Thomas: "Is he playing as well overall as he has in the past? Probably not. Is playing at the lighter weight making him less stout at the point of attack? Maybe. Did he look bad on the Cutler scramble? Sure. But again, he is not THE problem. He is not A problem. I saw him make several tackles at or near the line of scrimmage against Chicago. Apparently you missed those. He's had more coverage responsibilities in this defense, deeper drops in the Cover 2 scheme. So at times he's more off the line of scrimmage than he's been in the past."

Paul Petruska of Rams Herd says the Rams lost to the Bears even though they seemed to accomplish many worthwhile objectives during the game. The offensive line was simply overmatched. Petruska: "To emphasize how bad the line was, let’s look at Sam Bradford’s performance in the first half. The second half is its own story. In the first half, Bradford dropped back 19 times. He scrambled twice and was sacked three times. Two of the sacks were a result of quick pressure due to the Bears’ defender man-handling our offensive lineman. The other sack was caused by our own offensive lineman tripping Bradford. Thus, the sacks were not on Bradford."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee checks out the 49ers' presence at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He also made some finds during a special tour. Barrows: "On one of the shelves is a folded up piece of green carpet. Oh, that's the section of turf from Three Rivers Stadium on which Franco Harris made the Immaculate Reception. What's the significance of the dark green tote bag hanging just a few feet away? That? That's the bag that Pat Tillman used on road trips while with the Cardinals. On it is a tag with his name and his address, New Almaden, Ca. If that doesn't squeeze your heart and send a rush of blood to your head, you need to go to the doctor toute suite."

Also from Barrows: thoughts on the 49ers facing the Darrelle Revis-less Jets. Randy Moss has nice things to say about Revis, who once called Moss a "slouch" and said this about him: "In the second half, you could tell he was kind of like putting his foot on the brake. But everybody knows that's Randy -- sometimes he plays 100 percent, sometimes he doesn't."
A veteran NFL official mistook Vinny Testaverde's green-annd-white New York Jets helmet for the football crossing the goal-line plane back in 1998.

The gifted touchdown lifted the Jets to a 32-31 victory, dropping the Seattle Seahawks' record to 6-7 while severely damaging Dennis Erickson's chances for returning as head coach.

"Jet's win just plane crazy: Zzzebras call TD even though Vin can't crack goal," the New York Post proclaimed.

"Vinny falls short on Jets' final chance, but refs say it's ... CLOSE ENOUGH," the New York Daily News wrote.

Seven years later, officiating played a role in the Seahawks' Super Bowl XL defeat to an extent great enough for the referee, Bill Leavy, to issue a public apology years later.

Those two events frame reactions such as the one I received via Facebook from a Seahawks fan unmoved by suggestions officials handed a cheap victory to Seattle against Green Bay during the Monday night game at CenturyLink Field.

"In a time like this, Sando, we need a voice like yours to speak up for the alienated nation which is Seattle and tell the national media that we don't feel one ounce of regret and refuse to apologize to a league whose officials have cost us a playoff game (Vinny Testeverde's helmet TD) and a Super Bowl," Seahawks fan Floyd wrote. "This karma has been a long time coming."

First off, the defeat to the Jets was not, by itself, enough to keep Seattle from the playoffs that year. It put a damper on the season and might have played a role in the team finishing 8-8 instead of 9-7, but that is impossible to know.

What I'd like to do here is promote a better understanding for why fans feel the way they're feeling following what happened Monday night.

Floyd went first. Now, let's dive into the NFC West mailbag.

Ken from Yakima, Wash., disliked the way Seattle won but thought there were too many bad calls and non-calls to say for sure which team should have won the game.

Sando: I felt like the Packers did enough in the second half to win the game. They were the team trending in the right direction as the game progressed.

The frustrating part, from players' perspectives, was trying to figure out how officials were going to administer certain calls. Michael Robinson, the Seahawks' veteran fullback, said holding was one such penalty. He said the regular officials granted some leeway as long as offensive players kept their hands inside the frames of the players they were blocking. The officials working the game Monday night applied what Robinson thought were inconsistent and unreasonable standards.

Gary from La Conner, Wash., thinks Seahawks coach Pete Carroll is being disingenuous when he defends the call favoring Tate.

"Carroll knows the score," Gary writes. "Rather than manning up and saying, 'Yeah, we caught a break but will take it,' he defends what cannot be defended. Anyone who is remotely objective who watches the video of that play knows Jennings came down with the ball, clutched to his chest, on the ground, game over. The best Tate ever had was one arm on the ball and that was after the players were on the ground. That is obviously clear from the video. Any other coach in the league would have manned up. But not him. Yuck!"

Sando: I've heard quite a few people say it's not Carroll's job to apologize for what happened. I don't have a huge problem with Carroll's take on the matter. I do think Tate's repeated proclamations regarding his obvious push-off -- "I don't know what you're talking about," he said -- comes off as flippant and immature. The broader response from the Seahawks' locker room was less abrasive.

Joe from Anchorage, Alaska asks rhetorically how much preconceived notions about which team should have won affected the general reaction to bad calls.

"I know you were covering the Seahawks during Superbowl XL, so you could see how Seattle fans felt about the officiating in that game," Joe writes. "Here was a clear case of poor officiating affecting the outcome of a game, in the biggest game of the year; the official even apologized years later. There was nowhere near the coverage in one entire offseason that there has been regarding last night's play. I also don't recall any Seahawks players saying the Steelers needed to 'man up' and give the win to the Seahawks. What are your thoughts on the reason this particular play has incited so much controversy?"

Sando: The Packers' standing in the league affects the reaction, sure. Having the New York Giants, New England Patriots or Pittsburgh Steelers victimized would have resonated as well. When a lower-profile team beats a higher-profile team, the story often becomes about the higher-profile team losing, not the lower-profile one winning.

That wasn't what was primarily at work Monday night. The reaction to the Packers-Seahawks ending hinged on a single play changing the outcome with no time on the clock. When I covered Super Bowl XL from Ford Field, I left the pressbox for the postgame locker room without knowing officiating would be a big issue. The TV analysts had been talking about it. Seahawks fans were sensitive to it. I wasn't aware of their concerns and did not, on my own, see officiating as decisive in that game. I just wasn't conditioned to think that way. That situation was different in that fans were upset by a series of calls over the course of the game, not a singular, decisive call at the end.

ESPN's analytics team determined that the play Monday night carried the largest change in win probability for any play since the 2008 season, which is as far back as our win probability models go. The Super Bowl had no comparable plays.

Matthew from Bremerton, Wash., wants my thoughts on this statement: "Had the refs not called a phantom pass-interference penalty against Kam Chancellor on third down during the Packers' touchdown drive, which even the analysts said was a bad call, Green Bay never would have scored. Thus, the 'bad call' would have been a moot point. Both teams were screwed by the refs, so it's really unfortunate that they are making a big deal of the one play, and not even speaking of the other."

Sando: I've heard this one quite a bit, but it's ultimately unpersuasive. We could go back and replay the game a hundred times based on one play here or there. What about the ridiculous interference penalty against Sam Shields when Sidney Rice was clearly the one interfering? What about the roughing penalty against the Packers to nullify what would have been a killer interception by Seattle's Russell Wilson?

Brian from Seattle says he understands why the final play is getting so much attention.

"But why is it that with our defense playing as one of the best in the league, the Seahawks still don't get any love from the national media?" he asks.

Sando: Well, the Seahawks moved into the top 10 of our power rankings this week. Would people rather watch analysis regarding this highly controversial play or a show breaking down some of the better defenses in the NFL?

Hugh from Moss Landing, Calif., compares the Tate-Jennings replays to the Zapruder footage. He thinks Tate established possession first.

"When the two were in the air, Jennings touched it first, was the first to have both hands on it, then Tate managed to put both hands on it," Hugh writes. "Tate was the first to have both feet on the ground, at which point he did have both hands on, though not as securely.

"Then Jennings came down, and Tate let go with his hand to reposition it. Simultaneous catch. The question should be whether the rules should be changed. Should a replay allow the detection of a penalty? The league allowed that there was interference, which should be the disputed issue, I think."

Sando: I don't think we want officials watching replays to look for pass interference, holding or other more subjective penalties. I do wonder if there should be some allowances made on the final plays of games. Clearer language regarding simultaneous catches could be helpful. The interference from Tate was so blatant, however, that any official monitoring the situation should have seen it.

John from Bakersfield, Calif., agrees with my contention that the NFL had a clear disincentive against finding fault with how their replacement officials ruled on the question of a simultaneous catch.

"This season has turned very ugly, very quickly," he writes. "From the Saints fiasco and the unbelievably harsh penalties that ensued over supposed player safety, to watching unqualified officials make a mockery of the game and endanger all players, it seems the league is begging for the government/courts to step in and get a little fairness back into the game.

"The owners and their chosen man seem to think they can do what they want with impunity in all matters. It seems they are turning the game into a political statement, and I don't think they understand all the anger the 99 percent or the 47 percent or any other high percentage of average working people feel toward the ruling class these days. The nation could go Wisconsin in a heartbeat over this folly to break a small union."

Sando: You're onto something here, John. NFL owners won big during the labor negotiations, in my view. I think the commissioner has felt empowered. Owners are feeling empowered.

Also, the battles became personal during the lockout. The tenor of the league changed. The commissioner has sent messages to players through fines and bounty suspensions. He has sent messages to the officials by remaining unflinching amid officiating disarray. The league and its teams have sent messages to their own employees through reduced benefits, temporary pay freezes and staff reductions. The common theme through those messages: The NFL does what it does because it can. No one can really hold the league accountable.

17 minutes with unapologetic Pete Carroll

September, 25, 2012
Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll laughed and said he could "care less" about contentions his team stole a victory through poor officiating Monday night.

What he said and how he said it won't sit well with Green Bay Packers fans. But there was so much more to his interview with 710ESPN Seattle than the continuing fallout from Golden Tate's disputed winning touchdown catch against the Packers. Among the highlights:
  • Decisive play: Carroll said Packers defensive back M.D. Jennings had the advantage over Tate when both players were in the air, but that Tate also had the ball when they landed. "It was simultaneous when they got to the ground," he said. Carroll acknowledged that officials missed clear interference by Tate, but he said regular officials miss those calls as well.
  • Offensive plan: Carroll said he's the one deserving criticism for the Seahawks' weak offensive output. He's insisting upon a conservative approach to avoid turnovers and he would be taking that approach even if Matt Flynn, not rookie Russell Wilson, were the quarterback. Carroll: "Remember, we did not turn the ball over again, and that was the best defense in the NFL taking the ball off of teams last year. ... In the meantime, we're raising a quarterback in the system. We are solid enough as a team to play like this at quarterback right now. It is a struggle for some people to understand that, but we're going to keep moving along and growing and there will be a time when it won't feel exactly like it feels right now. But it's not time." This confirms impressions from Week 1. Seattle's excitement for Wilson was longer term than it appeared during preseason.
  • Defensive plan: Carroll said Seattle was better than anyone at limiting explosive plays for Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. They key, he said, was keeping close watch on Rodgers' movements to prevent him from making plays on the move.
  • Respect for Arizona: Carroll expressed frustration over Seattle's opening-week defeat at Arizona, but he offered grudging praise for the Seahawks' division rival.

One thing about Carroll: He's comfortable with himself and comfortable admitting the truth about his own team. I thought that came through in his comments about the offense. Those comments could have been measured to protect Wilson, but they also match up with what we've seen on the field since Week 1.

Thoughts, interpretations on NFL statement

September, 25, 2012

What matters most about the NFL's statement on Golden Tate's controversial winning touchdown catch against Green Bay on Monday night:

Pass interference missed

NFL: "While the ball is in the air, Tate can be seen shoving Green Bay cornerback Sam Shields to the ground. This should have been a penalty for offensive pass interference, which would have ended the game. It was not called and is not reviewable in instant replay."

Sando: This was obvious. The NFL seemingly could not see this any other way. Once officials missed the call on the field, nothing could be done. Tough break, especially in a game featuring multiple questionable calls for interference. Earlier in the game, this crew thought Shields interfered with Sidney Rice when Rice wrapped one arm around Shields' helmet while using his free hand to grab Shields by the face mask. But when Tate shoved Shields in the back in plain sight, there's no call?

What was reviewable

NFL: "Referee Wayne Elliott determined that no indisputable visual evidence existed to overturn the call on the field, and as a result, the on-field ruling of touchdown stood. The NFL Officiating Department reviewed the video today and supports the decision not to overturn the on-field ruling following the instant replay review."

Sando: This one wasn't so clear. I do think the M.D. Jennings intercepted the pass, but once the officials ruled otherwise, the standard for reversal rose to the highest level (indisputable). I'd say it was 90 percent indisputable, which is not indisputable. Update: The league had a clear disincentive to contradict its replacement officials, even if strong evidence did exist. Contradicting the replacements would have provided a boost to the locked out regular ones.

Simultaneous or not

NFL: "Under the rule for simultaneous catch, the ball belongs to Tate, the offensive player. The result of the play was a touchdown."

Sando: OK, but was this the right call? The statement does not say whether the NFL Officiating Department thought what happened actually qualified as a simultaneous catch. That is a critical detail. I followed up with a league spokesman, who said the NFL "could not determine whether it was correct."

Seahawks' victory stands

NFL: "The result of the game is final."

Sando: Green Bay fans might be disappointed, but I think this was an easy decision. The commissioner does have authority to reverse outcomes in the case of unfair acts. Bad calls happen every week. They're not unfair acts in the most serious sense. A remote-controlled plane flying on the field to block an extra point would be more in line with an unfair act, in my view. Perhaps that will happen next week.

Chaos, confusion and a 14-12 Seahawks win

September, 25, 2012
Packers vs SeahawksAP Photo/Ted S. WarrenConfusion was rampant on the field as the officiating overshadowed the end of the game.
SEATTLE -- The reigning NFL Most Valuable Player and a vicious Seattle Seahawks defense were no match Monday night for the seven guys in stripes.

Russell Wilson's 24-yard desperation heave for the Seahawks' winning touchdown against the Green Bay Packers? No match, either. Perhaps Golden Tate really did catch the pass. I thought the Packers' M.D. Jennings intercepted it, but it was a close call. Tate definitely shoved Green Bay's Sam Shields out of the way before the ball arrived, but why sweat the details?

"They said simultaneous catch, which goes to the offense," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "I don't know which guy said it. Somebody said it."

Good enough for Carroll, but it wasn't that simple. Although Jennings appeared to get the ball first, what mattered most was which player had the ball when they came to the ground. Tate might have prevailed by that measure, although it was tough to say for certain.

One official standing over Tate, Jennings and a mass of bodies responded by waving his arms over his head, as if to signal for a clock stoppage or a touchback. There was no time left on the clock and the players were in the end zone, so stopping the clock shouldn't have been a concern, but hey, let's not pick nits here.

Besides, the other official standing by signaled a touchdown.

"The ruling on the final play was simultaneous catch," referee Wayne Elliott told pool reporter Danny O'Neil of The Seattle Times. "Reviewed by replay. Play stands."

Touchdown, it was, pending the customary review. There would be no reversal, but when Elliott declared the game over, he wasn't quite right. While Carroll gave interviews on the field and players headed for the showers, officials stood over the ball at the Green Bay 2-yard line, huddling away. They apparently didn't know the rule compelling teams to attempt even meaningless conversions. Seahawks kicker Steven Hauschka would make the point-after try, turning a 13-12 victory into a 14-12 victory. But hey, who cares about a point except for gamblers everywhere?

The Packers, upon returning to their locker room for a second and final time, threw towels at a video monitor while watching replays of the final play. Even the Seahawks knew officiating had overshadowed what could have been a memorable game on the merits. Elliott, umpire Marc Harrod, head linesman Mike Peek, line judge Tommy Keeling, side judge Lance Easley, field judge Richard Simmons (not that Richard Simmons) and back judge Derrick Rhone-Dunn assessed 24 penalties for 245 yards -- more yardage than Seattle managed (238) and nearly as much as Green Bay finished with (268).

Officiating left the Packers furious while threatening to cheapen what should have been an all-time great finish.

"I think that hurts the game," Seahawks tight end Zach Miller said. "The sooner we can have back our real officials, I think the integrity of the game is too important not to get them back."

Packers coach Mike McCarthy declined to discuss officiating, but the part about having to return to the field minutes after the game had supposedly ended? Well ...

"I've never see anything like that in all of my years of football," McCarthy said.

Now, the regular officials messed up plenty, of course. They've blinded a player with an errant penalty flag, botched a coin toss, awarded a phantom touchdown and so much more.

In a hilarious twist, the NFL made available a comment from its officiating supervisor. The name of that supervisor? Phil Luckett. Yes, that Phil Luckett. The same one who botched the coin toss. The same one who awarded a phantom touchdown to Vinny Testaverde and the New York Jets against Seattle back in 1998.

"The PAT is an extension of the game, so we have to finish the game," Luckett said. "A touchdown on the last play you have to do the extra point, in regulation."

Alas, this wasn't the first time a referee had to summon players back from the locker rooms to kick a meaningless extra point with no time remaining.

Carroll was with the New England Patriots in 1998 when they, having scored the winning touchdown on the disputed final play of regulation, scored a conversion without opposition. The Buffalo Bills declined to participate. That time, the 2-point conversion changed the final margin from two points to four in a game the Patriots were favored to win by somewhere in between.

There was never anything untoward about that situation, of course, and I'm not suggesting anything was awry Monday night. But perceptions matter and when crazy things happen week after week, game after game, crazy thoughts occur. What would any of these replacement officials have to lose?

"It's time for this to be over," Carroll said. "My hat's off to these officials. They're doing everything they can to do 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, and it takes years and years of experience to pull it off properly and in a timely fashion and to keep the flow of the game alive and all that, and it’s time for it to be over. The league deserves it; everybody deserves it."

The Packers deserve it. They still can't get over the Tate call.

"From my view, I saw the referee in the back waving his arms, which means he is calling a touchback," Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. "No idea how the other guy said touchdown. Golden Tate, on the replay, he takes his arm off the part of the ball that he may or may not have had, and they reviewed it and it was upheld."

Waving hands overhead signals a clock stoppage. Following that signal by swinging an arm at the side signals a touchback. Throwing towels at the video monitor in the visitors' locker room signals incredulity.

"If you asked Golden Tate to take a lie-detector test and ask him did he catch that ball or did M.D. catch that ball, that M.D. caught that," Packers receiver Greg Jennings said. "It was clear as day. The officials did a great job out there today."

Tate did not submit to a lie-detector test afterward. He kept a straight face, for the most part, when saying he knew he caught the ball. The exchange between Tate and reporters in the Seahawks' locker room bordered on comical.

Did he catch the ball?

"Yes, I think so."

But replays seemed to show Jennings getting to the ball first.

"Maybe he did, but I took it from him."

What about that push-off?

"I don't know what you're talking about. I just went up and competed."

Tate, like everyone else, initially had no idea what had happened.

"I didn't know if they called touchdown, interception, incompletion," Tate said. "I didn't know what was going on."

Welcome to the new NFL.