Intertouchdownception! Did the replacement referees make the right call?”

Burkholder breaks down the controversial call made in the Sept. 24 Seahawks vs. Packers game. Photo source: abcnews.go.com

by Josh Burkholder – “SportStance” Columnist

On Monday, September 24, 2012, the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks met in Seattle for a prime-time match-up that had generated considerable interest because of the reigning NFL Most Valuable Player, Aaron Rodgers of the Packers, going up against the up-and-coming Seahawks defense, thought by many to be one of the best in the league.  The game was a low-scoring affair, as both defenses seemed to be gaining the upper hand throughout the game.  With eight ticks remaining on the clock, the Seahawks, down 7 to 12, had the ball and were on fourth down on the Packers’ 24 yard line.  Russell Wilson dropped back to pass, scrambled out of trouble, and finally heaved up a prayer to the back of the end zone.  Five Packers defenders and two Seahawks receivers all went for the ball at the same time.  The Packers’ M.D. Jennings got two hands on the sides of the ball, and the Seahawks’ Golden Tate got one hand behind the ball, seemingly at the same time.  They fell to the ground together, fighting for sole possession of the football.  The referees rushed over, and the head ref signaled a touchdown.  The play was reviewed for several minutes, but the call was upheld, and the Seahawks were given the 14-12 victory.  The regular NFL referees had been on lockout for the first three weeks, so it was replacement refs that made the call, which is a huge part of this controversy.

Now this is where my opinion comes in, so feel free to disagree with me.  Most people would say that because Jennings had two hands on the ball and brought it to his chest first when he caught it up in the air, then it should have been his interception.  However, there is a rule in the NFL that is called Simultaneous Possession, which states that if two players have possession of the ball when they touch the ground, the ball is awarded to the offensive player, sort of like tie-goes-to-the-runner in baseball.  Because Tate also had one hand on the ball in the air and brought his other hand to the ball by the time they reached the ground, gaining possession, I believe that the refs made the correct call in respect to the touchdown catch.

However, there was one blatant detail that the referees somehow missed.  Just before Tate jumped into the air to catch the ball, he shoved a Packers’ defender in the back, knocking him to the ground.  The refs completely missed this obvious offensive pass interference penalty, which could have and should have ended the game with a Packer victory.  That missed call is what people should be talking about.  Instead, there has been national uproar against the refs for calling a touchdown.  ESPN’s SportsCenter episode immediately following the game received its highest rating in 17 years, and Twitter was a nonstop hub for two full days for fans to vent and voice their rage and disdain for the replacement officials.  Over and over again, Packer’s players, fans, and fans from almost everywhere ripped and made their contempt for the refs extremely clear.

Their anger does have some credibility, but be honest people, would this be as big as it is if it wasn’t the Packers and it was a different team like the Titans or the Bengals that the Seahawks beat? And what about the rest of the game?  I hate when people say that one play makes all the difference in a game, because there are a whole lot of other plays before that that could have made the result very different.  Also, about the replacement refs, who’s to say that the real refs would’ve made the correct call? We don’t know.  I mean, remember the 2006 Super Bowl, when the ‘real’ refs screwed over the Seahawks multiple times.  And that was the Super Bowl.  This was just a regular season game that went bad for one of the most loved and pampered teams in the country.

So yeah, it was wrong, but there’s nothing we can do about it.  The game has already gone into the record books as a W for Seattle and an L for Green Bay.  The only thing we can do now is be glad that the NFL has finally reached an official agreement with its regular officials as of late Wednesday the 26th, and go back to watching football as it was before.  The ‘real’ refs are back, and everyone can go back to just making fun of Tim Tebow and rooting for their favorite team without referee controversy like the ‘good old days’.  Personally, I am excited to see what people say if there are more horrible calls made by the regular officials in these weeks to come, which I believe is inevitable.

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