Sept. 25 (Bloomberg) -- The Seattle Seahawks defeated the Green Bay Packers 14-12 on a controversial final-play touchdown, the first game directly decided by the National Football League’s replacement officials.
With the Seahawks trailing 12-7 on a fourth-down play from the Packers’ 24-yard line, quarterback Russell Wilson lofted a pass into the end zone that was grabbed by Green Bay’s M.D. Jennings. As the Packers safety brought the ball to his chest, Seahawks receiver Golden Tate reached in and grabbed a hold of the ball as both players fell to the ground.
One replacement official ruled it a touchdown for the Seahawks while a second standing behind the play gave the signal for a touchback because of an interception. The ruling on the field was determined to be a touchdown and instant replay can’t be used to decide which team has possession.
“Very hard to swallow,” said Packers coach Mike McCarthy, who started his post-game press conference by saying he wouldn’t answer questions about the officiating. “I’ve never seen anything like that in all my years in football. Most unusual football game that I’ve been a part of.”
NFL rules state that if two players gain control of a ball simultaneously, the offensive team retains possession. However, televised replays indicated that Jennings had control of the ball before Tate reached in to grab the ball. The sport’s laws say a catch isn’t “simultaneous” if one player gains control first and a second player then gains joint possession.
“Just look at the replay,” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said at a news conference. “It’s awful, that’s all I’m going to say about it. It sucks losing and it’s even worse when it goes that way.”
Former Super Bowl-winning coach Jon Gruden, an analyst for the ESPN telecast, said the end of the game was “comical.”
As the players jockeyed for position in the end zone for a pass that Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said was “total desperation,” Tate shoved Packers cornerback Sam Shields to the ground and wasn’t called for offensive pass interference.
“That was two of the worst calls at the end of a football game that I can remember,” Gruden said on ESPN.
Last night’s chaotic finish capped a second straight week in which the league’s inexperienced backup officials -- recruited from the lower levels of college football -- have drawn criticism for mistakes and a lack of knowledge of the rules. The NFL locked out its regular officials after the two sides were unable to reach an agreement on a new labor contract. The league and the NFL Referees Association are at odds over pay, pensions and operational issues.
New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick may face a fine from the NFL after grabbing an official by the arm following his team’s 31-30 loss to the Baltimore Ravens two nights ago.
Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh and Washington Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan had disputes with officials that are being investigated by the NFL. The league yesterday issued a $30,000 fine to Denver Broncos coach John Fox and a $25,000 discipline on assistant Jack Del Rio for verbally abusing officials in a Sept. 17 loss.
“I know it’s been a wild weekend in the NFL and I guess we’re a part of it now,” McCarthy said.
The finish overshadowed a game in which the Seahawks’ defense limited the Packers to 268 yards of offense and sacked Rodgers eight times. Tate finished with two touchdown catches, though his second one will be long debated.
“I didn’t know who they gave it to, so I just kept my hands on it,” Tate said in a televised interview from CenturyLink Field in Seattle. “The defender and I both fought for it. I couldn’t hear any whistles. I didn’t know what the ruling was, so I just tried to keep fighting. I heard it was a touchdown, so there we go.”
After several minutes, both teams had to return to the field so the Seahawks could kick the extra point. The Packers had headed to the locker room after the final play was ruled a touchdown instead of an interception.
Rodgers, whose team fell to 1-2, said he’s never experienced a more bitter defeat.
“It was crazy after the game,” said Rodgers. “It seemed like nobody had any idea of what was going on.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Erik Matuszewski in New York at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at email@example.com