The NFL has supported the decision made by its replacement referees during a controversial game winning decision in the matchup between the Packers at Seahawks on Monday Night Football. The referees awarded a touchdown catch to Seattle Seahawks wide receiver, Golden Tate in the final play of the game, giving the Seahawks a home victory. After a video review, the decision was upheld by the referees on the field.
In a newly released statement the league said: "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."
However, the NFL did say that Tate had illegally shoved Green Bay cornerback Sam Shields to the ground before catching the ball on the play in question. “This should have been a penalty for offensive pass interference, which would have ended the game,” it said. “It was not called and is not reviewable in instant replay.”
The decision on the final play came after a previous controversial call for roughing the passer wiped out a Green Bay interception earlier in the drive. Then on the play in questions, with Seattle still trailing 12-7, quarterback Russell Wilson heaved the ball towards the left corner of the end-zone. Tate pushed Shields out of the way before jumping and grabbing the ball while it was simultaneously in Jennings’s grasp. After they both came down, one replacement official signalled touchdown while the other seemed to signal ‘play over’ as if it had been an incomplete pass or potential interception.
Rule 8, Section 1, Article 3, Item 5 of the NFL rulebook states: “If a pass is caught simultaneously by two eligible opponents, and both 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," according to NFL analyst Gregg Rosenthal. As a catch is only complete once a player has controlled the ball and brought it to the ground, Tate was still able to contest it, even though he did not get his hands to it first, according to former defensive back, Eric Davis.
Due to it being a catch in the endzone, all aspects of the catch were reviewable , including the simultaneous possession call, which would not have been the case had it been caught anywhere else in the field of play. The referee called for a video review but was unable to find the conclusive video evidence necessary to overturn the call on the field.
But this has not stopped the controversial decision from fanning the flames of the debate over the NFL’s continued lock-out of its officiating crews and use of temporary replacements. One side argues that the uncalled offensive pass interference penalty means the game should have ended anyway with others arguing that Tate never had simultaneous possession on the catch.
Seattle fans unsurprisingly support the decision and its subsequent approval by the NFL.
It immediately made #MNF the top trending topic on Twitter. Players and fans voiced their opinion. Green Bay players were quick to react, with guard, T J Lang saying his team got f**ked by the referees and tightend, Tom Crabtree claiming that the Packers were beaten by ‘the 13th man’ referencing the famous claim of Seattle fans to being the ‘twelfth man on the field’ when playing at home.
Even politicians got in on the act. The president of the New Jersey senate put forth a proposal that the state ban all professional sports matches that use replacement referees from taking place on its soil. Meanwhile, Wisconsin governor, Scott Walker tweeted his support for the return of the lock-out referees. “"After catching a few hours of sleep, the #Packers game is still just as painful. #Returntherealrefs," he said on Twitter, despite the official referees being a unionised workforce involved in a labour dispute. The irony has not gone unnoticed by those affected by his union-busting state proposals.
The decision is certain to remain controversial for a while and likely will cause the NFL’s referee lockout to be remembered much longer than it otherwise would have been. But with Green Bay having come into the game as 3.5 point favourites despite being the away team, it could be argued that they should never have found themselves in a position where they could have lost the game on the final play. As the saying goes ‘good teams overcome bad refereeing’.