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NFL's Tough Offer To Refs, Packers Offensive Troubles Lead To MNF's 'Most Bizarre' Ending

Jacob Freedman |
September 24, 2012 | 11:20 p.m. PDT

Associate Sports Editor
The view from above Monday night. (Dave Hoefler/Flickr)
The view from above Monday night. (Dave Hoefler/Flickr)
Pete Carroll and his Seahawks were delirious. The Green Bay Packers refused to believe it. ESPN's Monday Night Football announcer Jon Gruden, he who is paid $4.3 million a year to talk about football, was speechless. The call was that bad.

After a weekend full of questionable calls by the NFL’s replacement referees, a botched call on a last-second Hail Mary gave the Seattle Seahawks a 14-12 win over the Green Bay Packers on Monday night.

On the game’s final play, Seahawks wideout Golden Tate wrestled the ball from the hands of Packers safety M.D. Jennings for a game-winning touchdown catch on a desperate heave from Russell Wilson. Stuff made of legend right? Except for one, small detail. Tate did not catch the ball. The men in black and white stripes miffed the call, giving the Seahawks an improbable and incorrect victory.

The pot has boiled over. It's time from the replacement officials to go.

After talks between the NFL and the locked-out refs on Sunday finished without a deal, the pressure is heavier than ever on NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and the players' union to strike a deal to bring back the officials.

A main reason behind the lockout is that the NFL wants to eliminate part-time referees, forcing the officials to work for the NFL without juggling other professions. This would seem rational, except that the NFL wants these refs to take a 16 percent pay cut, give them less benefits and force them to limit their income by not allowing them to earn a paycheck outside of refereeing.

The NFL offered the referees this deal, and the officials' union refused to take it. Following the refusal, the NFL took action of its own and locked out the officials.

Because of this, the NFL has used replacement referees for the preseason and the season's first three games. These referees moved from officiating college football's Division II and Division III, and even the Lingerie Football League games to the highest stage of football.

Which brings us back to Monday night's matchup.

Jennings intercepted Wilson's final end-zone attempt on fourth-and-10 from the Packers' 24 -yard line, and looked to be falling down for a touchback. Bring in Tate. After committing  obvious offensive pass interference by pushing Packers cornerback Sam Shields to the ground earlier in the play, Tate appeared to attempt ripping the ball out of Jennings' hands, but fell to the ground without sole possession of the football. This is where it got crazy.

As the players got up in the end zone, one referee signaled for a touchdown while the other nearby referee called an interception. The Seahawks initially believed to have won the game with the score, but the refereeing crew decided to review the play using instant replay.

"This is the most bizarre sequence you'll ever see at the end of the game," MNF announcer Mike Tirico said in the immediate aftermath of the play.

"This a lot of stink," Gruden said in the post-game show.
Replay showed Jennings and Tate to share possession of the ball as they hit the ground, but the replacement crew of referees reaffirmed the touchdown call.

Pete Carroll screamed in excitement, while the Packers players simply stormed away. The final was delayed for a couple of minutes, since the Packers still had to come back on the field for the Seahawks' extra point. Steven Hauschka's extra point kick went straight through the uprights, and the 14-12 score was final.

"It was awful. Just look at the replay. And the fact that it was reviewed. It was awful," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said to the media after trudging off the field.

As irritation over the incompetency of the replacement refs turns into full-blown outrage, the Packers end Week 3 with more losses, two, than they had through the entire 2011 regular season. While 2-1 should be the record next to Green Bay's name in the standings, the Packers offensive line allowed eight sacks in the first half, while Rodgers' streak of 20 straight games with a touchdown pass came to a screeching halt.

The 2010 Super Bowl champions had more than enough opportunities to make sure the game didn't come down to the final play, but their lack of offensive efficiency gave the Seahawks a final chance. And thanks to a miraculous call from the referees, the home team took advantage.

Reach Associate Sports Editor Jacob Freedman here or follow him here.



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