This wasn’t breakage in the Jesse Pinkman sense of the word. There was no loss here for some kind of greater gain, if that was possible. There was no sympathy, and no understanding. There was only angst, with the acknowledgement that the eventuality we all knew was coming had arrived, and the NFL’s replacement officials had run their natural course.
We knew a meaningful game would be butchered as Ed Hochuli sipped his chardonnay while doing power squats in a distant living room, and there would be serious implications for the standings, for the playoffs, for homefield advantage, for everything. So here we are during the morning after the botched call which awarded the Seahawks a tainted victory, and introduced the Packers to the 13th man.
As we’ve observed previously with whichever major storyline dominates the league on any given week (i.e. Greg Schiano’s kneel down tactics two weeks ago), the league’s weekly news cycle is accelerated now with a game every Thursday. Now we only have 72 hours between the end of one week and the start of another, giving last night’s official debauchery less time to linger and be the sole focus of our attention.
That’s fine, though, because in this case, 72 hours is all we’ll need to flood Roger Goodell’s office with phone calls and emails, and if that doesn’t work then we can all go there in person, camp out for several days, and say rabble, rabble, rabble.
The play I’m referring to is, of course, the Hail Mary that was eventually ruled a catch by Golden Tate, giving the Seahawks a 14-12 win. Let’s watch the play in question together again for the 37th time, and then discuss how the officials shit all over Tom Crabtree’s painting.
Firstly, let’s observe the comedy that was the two officials running up to the play eager to make a call. While the moment is clearly tense, they could have taken even just a few seconds to have a conference. We would have yelled at our TVs, the Packers and Seahawks would have yelled at them, and drunken fools wearing foam cheese and no shirt who made the trip to Seattle would have insulted their families.
But somewhere deep down past our rage, and through the thick layers of facepaint, we would have understood. These are replacement refs, after all, the same refs who gave the 49ers two extra timeouts yesterday, and the same refs who can’t navigate their way through a simple ball spot. And hell, the regular officials likely would have had a conference after this play too. It’s a unique and very rare play, and I don’t think I’m dabbling too deep in hyperbole to say that we likely won’t see a play like this again in these circumstances to end a game.
Instead, one official signaled touchdown, while the other waved for a touchback. Here’s a more accurate representation of what took place:
They mercifully concluded that there was a simultaneous catch, which was, well, curious. To truly have a simultaneous catch, both players have to catch and retain the ball equally throughout the entire course of the catch. That’s how the NFL’s rule book describes it.
If a pass is caught simultaneously by two eligible opponents, and both players retain it, the ball belongs to the passers.
OK cool, fair enough. If two players on opposing teams catch a ball at the same time, then said catch is awarded to the offense, which supports last night’s ruling. Call it the NFL’s version of the tie going to the runner.
And that would be the end of the discussion if the rule ended there. It doesn’t.
It is not a simultaneous catch if a player gains control first and an opponent subsequently gains joint control.
So a simultaneous catch has to be, you know, simultaneous. How I read the rule — and how pretty much the entire Internet is reading the rule — is that the two catches have to be identical, and they have to occur at the same exact instant. There can be no fight for a ball in the air similar to the battle we see for a loose ball after a fumble in which one player first seems to have possession, and an opposing player strips him.
When the ball was in the air and first touched by a player — any player — it was in the hands of Packers safety M.D. Jennings, who corralled Russell Wilson’s heave. Golden Tate had a hand on the ball, but his possession at that moment wasn’t nearly equal to Jennings’. That same advantage towards Jennings remained as the two players tumbled to the ground, and only once their descent neared its conclusion did Tate put a second hand on the ball to ensure that possession was now equal.
That doesn’t even begin to discuss Tate’s push off and offensive pass interference, and we’ll leave that out of the discussion because it’s generally accepted that on a Hail Mary, pass inference is disregarded. There are so many bodies in the end zone competing for the same small space that temporary chaos is unavoidable.
The league will issue a statement later today after surely spending the night not sleeping, and frantically figuring out a way to spin this. The reality is that Goodell and his posse of rich men who enjoy money so thoroughly that they’re willing to sacrifice the integrity of the game now have no leverage whatsoever in their standoff with the regular officials.
It’s alright, though, because everything still smells like peaches and sugar plums in NFL land. Here’s what the league posted on its Facebook page moments after the game concluded:
The league has little desire to pay the regular refs who are qualified to control an NFL game, and keep up with the fast pace that demands snap judgements. And yes, we’re all aware that inherently, no game hinges entirely on one call. Aaron Rodgers was sacked eight (!!!) times during a first half when the Packers’ offense looked like something you’d see on a Pop Warner field at 7 a.m. on a Saturday.
But when a call quite literally dictates the winner, it needs to be correct, especially after the help of video replay. Any incorrect interpretation of the events on the field at that point is inexcusable, and an embarrassment to the league, and the game.