NFL Nation: 2012 Seahawks-Packers reaction
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."
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."
- I can't accept the "Packers have only themselves to blame" analysis of this defeat. There is no doubt they could have played better and less stubbornly clung to their offensive game plan. But in the end, they made what appeared to be the clinching play. According to ESPN's win probability model, built on 10 years of NFL play-by-play data, the Packers had a 96.4 percent chance of winning when they lined up for the final play. Since 2001, only two games have been won by a team facing a situation similar to the Seahawks: Fourth-and-five at the 24-yard line. Golden Tate's disputed touchdown carried the largest single-play shift in win probability in the past five years of NFL play. That's how good of a position the Packers had put themselves in. I can't come down on them for that, especially when you note how difficult it is historically to beat the Seahawks at home.ESPN.comThe frustrated Green Bay Packers might take a little more time in the exam room this week.
- Here's what I will come down on the Packers for, even though coach Mike McCarthy stole some of my steam by acknowledging the mistake immediately Monday night: The Packers waited far, far too long to adjust their offensive play-calling against a pass rush they couldn't handle. The obvious answer was to run the ball more frequently, but McCarthy called 24 pass plays and only three runs even as quarterback Aaron Rodgers took eight first-half sacks, one short of an NFL record. It was no coincidence that the Packers' offense started moving when McCarthy opened the third quarter with seven Cedric Benson runs in a 13-play scoring drive. It's really surprising that McCarthy, even in his seventh year as the Packers' play-caller, still gets carried away with the passing game sometimes.
- We could spend all day discussing some of the questionable calls from this game, including a fourth-quarter pass interference against Packers cornerback Sam Shields and a personal foul on linebacker Erik Walden that wiped out a fourth-quarter interception. But those are judgment calls, and I've been consistent in saying that all officials make errors of that kind. The difference with replacement officials has been the rampant errors of rule application, rule interpretation and game administration. A perfect example: According to Rodgers, officials mistakenly used a "K-ball" for the Packers' failed 2-point conversion attempt in the fourth quarter. "K-balls" are used only for kicks and are purposely slick. NFL rules prohibit them from being softened or otherwise conditioned the way regular balls are used, and they are much harder to throw. Rodgers' conversion pass attempt to receiver James Jones didn't look wobbly, but it did fall incomplete. He said on his ESPN 540 radio show that the ball didn't come off his hand the way he wanted it to. The Packers lost this game by two points. These are the kinds of inexcusable mistakes of basic game administration that has called into question the NFL's commitment to fair play.
On a relative scale, the Packers have a pretty laid-back locker room. They have some free thinkers and quirky personalities, but generally the drama level is pretty low. So it's worth noting how angry and outspoken their players have been as a group over the past 24 hours. Rodgers described an angry, profanity-laced scene in the locker room after players watched a replay of the Tate touchdown. Players had some choice words for the NFL official sent to retrieve them for the final extra point. They filled up Twitter for hours and then the airwaves for much of Tuesday. So was this all healthy venting in anticipation of turning the page on Wednesday? Or will this be the moment the Packers' season crashed and burned? I don't think it will be the latter, but there also isn't much precedent for what happened Monday night.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers led the way with a nearly-seven minute rant to start off his weekly radio show at ESPN 540 in Milwaukee. Guard Josh Sitton said he would go on strike if the NFL's collective bargaining agreement allowed it and guard T.J. Lang encouraged more players to speak out.
Rodgers began by apologizing to fans of the game -- "something the NFL is not going to do," he said. Rodgers added: "The product that is on the field is not being complemented by an appropriate set of officials. The games are getting out of control. ... The game is being tarnished by an NFL that obviously cares more about saving some money than having the integrity of the game diminished a little bit."
I know we're not that far away from the ugliness of the NFL player lockout of 2011, when players and commissioner Roger Goodell regularly exchanged labor-related public barbs. But in my career covering the NFL, I've rarely heard players speak so directly about their distrust and disregard for the league office.
Tuesday, Rodgers offered a paragraph-by-paragraph dissection of the NFL's explanation for Golden Tate's 24-yard touchdown reception on a play that Packers safety M.D. Jennings appeared to make an interception. Rodgers said "I call bull" on the NFL's claim that replacement officials communicated on the field before making a final decision and said it "was garbage" that referee Wayne Elliott didn't notice one of Tate's arms losing contact with the ball as the players crashed to the ground.
"We put so much into this," Rodgers said, "and we put our bodies and livelihood on the line, and you can't possibly tell me that the way things are going right now that player safety is being held to the same standard that it was, and the integrity of the game wasn't what it was."
Sitton, meanwhile, said on the Jim Rome radio show (via the Green Bay Press-Gazette) that "I don't think [the NFL] cares" about the repercussions of replacement officials.
"They know the type of business we have and they know fans are going to keep showing up," Sitton said. "There needs to be something done. I wish I had an answer. If I could go on strike, I … would just to end this crap. I don't know if we can. We probably can’t because of the CBA, but I wish there was an answer. I don't think they care. They flat-out don't care."
Sitton pointed to an ugly incident between Packers receiver Greg Jennings and Seahawks cornerback Brandon Browner as an example of how replacement officials can't ensure player safety. Browner leveled Jennings unexpectedly at the end of a deep route and went unpenalized until the two engaged in an extended wrestling match in the end zone.
"They've been talking about player safety and clearly with the replacement refs, honestly it's really not their fault," Sitton said. "They're not experienced enough, I can't express that enough, but the safety of the players right now is out the window. You see the play last night where Greg Jennings gets … ran over, 20 yards down the field, and they don't end up throwing the flag until after he throws a punch. It's getting ridiculous, but I don’t think they’re going to do anything about it."
Lang, who started an avalanche of criticism Monday night on Twitter told reporters in Green Bay: "I think we’ve gotten to a point where if we don't take a stand, nothing's going to happen. We'd just be letting these refs ruin games. The NFL doesn't give a crap. They're still making money. People are still coming to the games. There needs to be more players who speak out to really put pressure on the NFL to try to get something done."
I'm fine with Packers players using Tuesday, their day off, to continue venting about this unprecedented situation. Wednesday, they'll need to move on and begin preparing for Sunday's game against the New Orleans Saints. Let's put it this way: Nothing anyone could say Tuesday would make the situation any worse.
The replacement referees gave the touchdown to the Seahawks and wide receiver Golden Tate when it looked like Packers safety M.D. Jennings had possession of the ball for the game-ending interception. That play resulted in a 14-12 win for Seattle.
"We all saw the guy had the ball," Reed told Baltimore reporters on Tuesday. "They should've called pass interference first but that's what's been going on with these refs. It's an integrity part of the game that they expect the players to uphold -- protect the shield. They don't protect the shield when it comes to the owners and everybody else getting the money."
Browns coach Pat Shurmur was also asked about the end of the Monday night game. "I've got a lot of thoughts, no comments," he said, via The Plain Dealer.
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.
The NFL repeatedly has played us for fools over the past two months. Did you expect that to change with Tuesday's response to the final play of the Green Bay Packers' 14-12 loss to the Seattle Seahawks?
Instead of fully owning up to an inexcusable series of events, the league admitted one mistake and took an end-around to avoid the other. Its response comes nowhere close to suggesting the league has been chastened, humbled or deeply concerned by a game decided on two bad calls by substandard officials. Instead, it reads more like an explanation for any other run-of-the-mill controversy we've seen over the years.
We posted the entire statement in the previous post. It notes that Seahawks receiver Golden Tate "can be seen shoving Green Bay cornerback Sam Shields to the ground" while Russell Wilson's Hail Mary pass was in the air. The NFL acknowledged this "should have been a penalty for offensive pass interference, which would have ended the game." Conveniently, however, it "was not called and is not reviewable in instant replay."
OK, that's a fair admission. But on the more-discussed issue of whether Tate or Packers safety M.D. Jennings had earned possession of the ball, the NFL offered a blatantly passive response that never addressed the question. Instead, the NFL merely stated: "When the players hit the ground in the end zone, the officials determined that both Tate and Jennings had possession of the ball. Under the rule for simultaneous catch, the ball belongs to Tate, the offensive player. The result of the play was a touchdown."
But were the officials correct in determining there was, in fact, simultaneous possession of the ball? As we noted earlier, one official near the play ruled a touchdown and the other touchback. The NFL weakly avoided that issue entirely. Instead, it merely supported the decision to uphold the original call via replay.
Overturning a call on replay requires "irrefutable" evidence of a mistake. I guess there is enough gray area in the video to fall somewhere short of that standard. However, the overwhelming sense from the Packers and most other observers is that Jennings caught the ball, had possession when his feet hit the ground. Tate fought for the ball, but did he have simultaneous possession? That's highly debatable, at best, and totally unaddressed by a league that has done nothing Tuesday to quell overwhelming scrutiny about the integrity of its officiating.
The NFL affirmed the game's result is final. I didn't expect commissioner Roger Goodell to invoke his authority to overturn it based on the "Extraordinarily Unfair Acts" clause of the rule book, and I suppose this muted response shouldn't be that surprising, either. I guess there's no turning back when your strategy is to fool people into accepting that a charade is somehow legitimate.
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.
In Monday's game between the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks, Seattle faced a 4th-and-10 from the Green Bay 24 with eight seconds remaining in the game.More on this in a bit. Just wanted to get this posted.
Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson threw a pass into the end zone. Several players, including Seattle wide receiver Golden Tate and Green Bay safety M.D. Jennings, jumped into the air in an attempt to catch the ball.
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.
When the players hit the ground in the end zone, the officials determined that both Tate and Jennings had possession of the ball. Under the rule for simultaneous catch, the ball belongs to Tate, the offensive player. The result of the play was a touchdown.
Replay Official Howard Slavin stopped the game for an instant replay review. The aspects of the play that were reviewable included if the ball hit the ground and who had possession of the ball. In the end zone, a ruling of a simultaneous catch is reviewable. That is not the case in the field of play, only in the end zone.
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.
The result of the game is final.
Applicable rules to the play are as follows:
A player (or players) jumping in the air has not legally gained possession of the ball until he satisfies the elements of a catch listed here.
Rule 8, Section 1, Article 3 of the NFL Rule Book defines a catch:
A forward pass is complete (by the offense) or intercepted (by the defense) if a player, who is inbounds:
(a) secures control of the ball in his hands or arms prior to the ball touching the ground; and
(b) touches the ground inbounds with both feet or with any part of his body other than his hands; and
(c) maintains control of the ball long enough, after (a) and (b) have been fulfilled, to enable him 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.).
When a player (or players) is going to the ground in the attempt to catch a pass, Rule 8, Section 1, Article 3, Item 1 states:
Player Going to the Ground. If a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass (with or without contact by an opponent), he must maintain control of the ball throughout the process of contacting the ground, whether in the field of play or the end zone. If he loses control of the ball, and the ball touches the ground before he regains control, the pass is incomplete. If he regains control prior to the ball touching the ground, the pass is complete.
Rule 8, Section 1, Article 3, Item 5 states:
Simultaneous Catch. If a pass is caught simultaneously by two eligible opponents, and both players retain it, the ball belongs to the passers. It is not a simultaneous catch if a player gains control first and an opponent subsequently gains joint control. If the ball is muffed after simultaneous touching by two such players, all the players of the passing team become eligible to catch the loose ball.
But the decision by replacement referees to award Seattle receiver Golden Tate a controversial touchdown is drawing some very strong reaction from some prominent NFC South players.
“It’s ridiculous,’’ Atlanta tight end Tony Gonzalez told ESPN Playbook. “The call is absolutely wrong. I tweeted last night that a Pop Warner referee would have gotten that call right. It’s almost mind-boggling. I can’t believe you would miss something like that. On a greater scale, hopefully it pushes us toward progress. They say in politics and in life, disasters like this are needed in order to push it in the right direction.
“Hopefully, this is the wake-up call to get this on the right track. That’s ridiculous. The NFL has worked too hard. I’ve worked too hard. It’s an embarrassment to all of us. Not just to the two teams and the refs. We all represent the shield. We all work for that shield. It’s time to get us back on track.”
New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees also had some strong comments on his Twitter account.
“I love this league and love the game of football, but tonight’s debacle hurts me greatly,’’ Brees tweeted. “This is NOT the league we’re supposed to represent.’’
Brees also took a jab at the NFL, which has been taking jabs at the Saints throughout the bounty drama.
“Ironic that our league punishes those based on conduct detrimental. Whose CONDUCT is DETRIMENTAL now?’’
"I didn't see that ending last night," Jones said on KRLD-FM. "I cut it off about halftime."
Jones said he hadn't received any phone calls about the controversy: "I just read a little note in the paper that the Seahawks pulled it out," he said, quickly switching the subject to praise Seattle's team.
Pressed further on the matter, Jones made his best sales pitch.
"We can have all kinds of what-ifs," Jones said. "We've played three games and we've got 16 to play. It's exciting. It gives us a lot to talk about on our shows that we have. But fundamentally, when I look at where the league is over the first three ballgames, it's great. Lot of competition."
That's it, right there. That's the NFL owners' stance. They don't care how ridiculous the proliferation their lockout of the officials makes them or their league look, because people are still talking about and watching the games. And that's why nothing that happens on the field with these replacement officials is going to change anything about the situation.
A couple of people have suggested that Jones' take on this might be different if it had been his team that had lost on the bad call. I do not believe it would. I think the owners have dug in on this, that they believe they are in the right and that what they are hoping to accomplish in terms of dictating and establishing work rules for their employees that are as beneficial as possible to their own bottom lines. I believe a conversation very much like this took place some months ago in a plush hotel banquet hall in Palm Beach, Fla.:
Hypothetical voice of reason (the commissioner, a fellow owner, a league PR rep, somebody): "OK, so another lockout. Second year in a row. This is what you guys want to do, right?"
NFL owners, including Jerry Jones: "You betcha!"
Hypothetical voice of reason: "OK, then. You know it's very likely that if we go ahead with these replacement officials, we're going to look really foolish, get ripped like crazy by media and our broadcast partners and a few of our teams are probably going to lose games we should have won. That's OK with you guys too?"
NFL owners, including Jerry Jones: "Well, is any of that going to affect TV ratings, attendance or advertising revenue?"
Hypothetical voice of reason: "Nope. Not one bit. We'll actually probably keep setting records for that stuff."
NFL owners, including Jerry Jones: "So, what was the problem again?"
Face it, the NFL's owners are fine with things the way they are and aren't about to change the way they're operating this situation. This is what they wanted, and they don't see anything wrong with the way it's working out. That's why Jones can come out and ask us to believe he didn't see the game and didn't get any calls about it. He and the rest of his fellow owners know you're going to keep buying their product no matter how they present it to you. So why should he act as though anything's wrong?
The short answer is I highly, highly doubt it. A bad call does not appear to count as an "extraordinarily unfair act," which is defined as: "any club action, non-participant interference, or calamity." But for those of you interested in the full wording and explanation of Goodell's power under this rule, here is Rule 17, Section 2 of the NFL rule book:
Section 2 Extraordinarily Unfair Acts
Article 1 The Commissioner has the sole authority to investigate and take appropriate disciplinary and/or corrective measures if any club action, non-participant interference, or calamity occurs in an NFL game which he deems so extraordinarily unfair or outside the accepted tactics encountered in professional football that such action has a major effect on the result of the game.
NO CLUB PROTESTS
Article 2 The authority and measures provided for in this entire Section 2 do not constitute a protest machinery for NFL clubs to avail themselves of in the event a dispute arises over the result of a game. The investigation called for in this Section 2 will be conducted solely on the Commissioner’s initiative to review an act or occurrence that he deems so extraordinary or unfair that the result of the game in question would be inequitable to one of the participating teams. The Commissioner will not apply his authority in cases of complaints by clubs concerning judgmental errors or routine errors of omission by game officials. Games involving such complaints will continue to stand as completed.
PENALTIES FOR UNFAIR ACTS
Article 3 The Commissioner’s powers under this Section 2 include the imposition of monetary fines and draft-choice forfeitures, suspension of persons involved in unfair acts, and, if appropriate, the reversal of a game’s result or the rescheduling of a game, either from the beginning or from the point at which the extraordinary act occurred. In the event of rescheduling a game, the Commissioner will be guided by the procedures specified in Rule 17, Section 1, Articles 5 through 11, above. In all cases, the Commissioner will conduct a full investigation, including the opportunity for hearings, use of game videotape, and any other procedure he deems appropriate.
As long as we're on the subject of rules, take a look at this video breakdown by former NFL official Gerry Austin on the game's final play. According to Austin, Packers receiver M.D. Jennings established possession of the ball and should have been awarded interception. The play should not have fallen under the NFL's rules for simultaneous possession, according to Austin.
Talk is cheap. But if you add up a whole bunch of small coins, do you have something valuable?
That's what we'll find out in the wake of the Green Bay Packers' 14-12 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Monday night. Via Twitter, at least, NFL players are talking a pretty good game in expressing outrage over the call that gave the Seahawks' Golden Tate a 24-yard game-winning touchdown reception.
I'm not going to link to the tweets because many contain profanity, but you'll get the picture. Players are angry, embarrassed and incredulous that the situation has come to this. We've already noted what Packers guard T.J. Lang has said. Let's look at some other player reactions:
Packers guard Josh Sitton: "That was [expletive]. This is getting ridiculous! The NFL needs to get the refs back bfr we strike and they make no money! … The nfl needs to come to gb and apologize ..."
Packers tight end Jermichael Finley: "Come on @NFL this [expletive] is getting out of Control. Caused us a DAMN game. Horrible!"
Injured Packers linebacker Desmond Bishop: "Accountability: The moment a player does something to embarrass the shield, swift & immediate action takes place! WHY not now?! Jussayin … Honestly, It's not about winning or losing here, it's the integrity of this game we love to play/watch. Hate 2 question it! Pack still good!"
Arizona Cardinals defensive tackle Darnell Dockett: "This is what the NFL has come down to, &yet they tell you to respect the shield! Lol. But they'll try to fine us for everything thing we do."
Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez: "I've been saying give the refs a break but that TD call was ridicules. How do you miss that? Pop Warner refs would have gotten that right."
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees: "I love this league and love the game of football, but tonight’s debacle hurts me greatly. This is NOT the league we’re supposed to represent."
Russell Wilson's 24-yard desperation heave for the Seattle 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. While 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, though 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 montitor 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 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.
13th man beat us tonight.— Tom Crabtree (@TCrabtree83) September 25, 2012
This is what the NFL has come down to, &yet they tell you to respect the shield! Lol. But they'll try to fine us for everything thing we do.— DARNELL DOCKETT (@ddockett) September 25, 2012
Embarrassment for everyone at the NFL. This ref mess is costing people games and is gonna cost someone their health and a JOB soon!#shame— Jason Taylor (@JasonTaylor) September 25, 2012
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