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Seahawks-Packers Monday Night Contest Marred By Drama, Controversy

Jeremy Bergman |
September 24, 2012 | 11:05 p.m. PDT

Associate Sports Editor

No. 84 and No. 26 were a bit confused on the final play of the game. (Grant Dukeman/Creative Commons)
No. 84 and No. 26 were a bit confused on the final play of the game. (Grant Dukeman/Creative Commons)

Last play of the game. Packers 12, Seahawks 7. Seattle ball. 4th and 10 on the Packer 24. 

The 12th Man, roaring with anticipation and praying for a miracle.

Russell Wilson dropped back in the shotgun, spun around three Green Bay rushers, and found himself in open space. Down the field, a cluster of receivers and defensive backs was forming. Wilson launched his final pass of his less-than-impressive Monday Night Football debut towards the left corner of the end zone, towards the growing clump of Packers and Seahawks, hoping the ball would find itself in the right hands.

A perfect spiral that sang Hail Maries for 35 yards landed in the hands of an expectant receiver. This receiver wasn’t Packers cornerback Sam Shields, who felt a shove in his back as he attempted to swat down Wilson’s last ditch attempt. This receiver wasn’t Seahawks WR Golden Tate, who in fact shoved Shields down to the ground, warranting an offensive pass interference, and who eventually “ended up with the ball.”

ALSO SEE: What Is The NFL Rule About Simultaneous Catch? and Replacement Refs Bungle Seahawks Vs. Packers, Hurt NFL's Reputation.

No, the first – and only – player in the left endzone who securely caught Russell Wilson’s last second heave was Packers safety M.D. Jennings. Jennings leapt higher and stronger than anyone around him, secured the Hail Mary with two hands, and landed in the end zone with two feet inbounds. 

Those are the facts.

What followed could best be described as chaos by most, “competing” by the Seahawks, and this by T.J. Lang and the Packers. 

Jennings fell to the ground, most likely assured that his strong defensive effort had sealed the win for Green Bay. But there were more than Jennings’s two hands fighting for his football; Tate wasn’t going to give up the win and the ball that easy. 

As Jennings and Tate – not Tate and Jennings – fell to the ground, both with hands on the ball, mass confusion erupted. At first glance, for most watching in the stadium or on television, no one was really sure who had caught the ball, or if only one man had secured it by himself; the action was too quick and the group of players was too large to notice the fine details. So, as we fans typically do, we looked to the referees – oh, the referees – for an answer.

The two judges approached, one from the back (No. 84) and one from the side (No. 26). The side judge had the best view of the action and the reception; the back judge rushed to the scene as soon as possible to help sort out the scrum that followed. The two judges met around the two struggling players, Jennings with two arms wrapped around the ball, rolling on top of the facemask of Tate, who appeared to have his right arm and hand on the ball.

After a few seconds, the back judge looked at the side judge; the side judge looked back at the back judge. The side judge then commenced to raise his arms; the back judge followed. In that split second, two referees – the fact that they were replacements outstanding – believed they were on the same page, that the two of them were coming to a conclusive, definitive decision, so as to correctly reward the deserving party with either a touchback or a touchdown. 

Both referees raised their arms. The back judge crossed his arms in the air, as to imply a Packer interception, a touchback, and a Green Bay victory. A step to his right, his fellow ref raised his arms as well – straight up, signaling a Seahawks touchdown and victory. Completely oblivious to each other’s rulings, the back judge signaled for a touchback further, moving his left arm, horizontally up and down, and the side judge attempted to break up the crowd that had developed around them. 

They were just two men, caught in a pack of larger-than-life individuals in a larger-than-life situation, trying to sort things out. With TV crews and coaches crowding around them, No. 84 and No. 26 seemed lost and panicked, still completely unaware that they had made different calls. 

The referees convened - No. 84, No. 26, the White Hat, and the others. And as quickly as one could imagine, the call was being reviewed under the official ruling of a touchdown. 

ALSO SEE: Monday Night Football 'Touch-ception' Not Enough For NFL To Budge and Packers-Seahawks: NFL Finally Got What It Had Coming.

At no point was it made known to the public or either team that the ruling was a touchdown. It was almost assumed that the play was ruled a touchdown because of the insanity that followed in the stands and on the field. The 12th Man was rocking CenturyLink Field like the second coming of the Beastquake; Pete Carroll was hopping gaily on the Seattle sideline like a child at recess; and Aaron Rodgers, Mike McCarthy, and the rest of the Pack stood motionless and confused. No one seemed to realize that there were two original rulings, one by No 84 and one by No. 26.

Only a few minutes later, the White Hat returned from the hood on the sideline, where he was reviewing the penultimate play with help from above. He declared bluntly, with Pete Carroll staring right into his face, “After further review, the call on the field stands. Touchdown. Game over.” 

The game was over. Why? The White Hat said so.

It doesn’t matter that all of Twitter disagreed or that Golden Tate pushed off of Sam Shields or that M.D. Jennings caught the ball first or that Tate wrestled the ball away from Jennings after the fact or that the back judge, No. 84, emphatically signaled an interception and a touchback while his partner, No. 26, signaled a touchdown. 

All that matters is that a man named Wayne Elliot, a replacement referee, came out of the hood and said the Seahawks had won and the Packers had lost. 

Seahawks 14, Packers 12. Wayne said so. 

Reach Associate Sports Editor Jeremy Bergman via e-mail or follow him on Twitter.



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