Today, in a move that, if handled any differently could have opened up a Pandora’s Box of re-looks and do-overs, the NFL officially upheld the decision that the Seahawks defeated the Packers last night in the most controversial regular season game in years. The Seahawks were awarded a touchdown, and the victory, in a play that was ruled simultaneous possession of the ball by Golden Tate of the Seahawks and M.D. Jennings of the Packers.
The play, since dubbed “The Inaccurate Reception” by ESPN’s Mike and Mike in the Morning, has been examined and parsed more carefully than the Zapruder film. Camera angles are discovered, blown up, and turned into high definition, all in an effort to see who caught what and when they caught it. Here is what we know for sure:
Packers safety M.D. Jennings made first contact with the ball. He caught it, and began to cradle the ball to his chest while still in the air. Before Jennings hit the ground, though, Seahawks receiver Golden Tate hooked his left arm between Jennings’ chest and the ball. As the two players landed on the Century Link Field turf, Tate clasped the top of the ball with his right hand, and began to fight Jennings for the ball as players from both teams landed on the two combatants.
Game officials attempted to unearth the ball to call possession. When the officials found their way to the bottom of the pile, they deemed that the two players had equal possession, call goes to the Seahawks, game over.
The replay booth was contacted by the game officials, but there was nothing definitive enough to overturn the call. The play stood as called.
The NFL released this official statement:
“In Monday’s game between the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks, Seattle faced a 4th-and-10 from the Green Bay 24 with eight seconds remaining in the game.
Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson threw a pass into the end zone. Several players, including Seattle wide receiver Golden Tate and Green Bay safety M.D. Jennings, jumped into the air in an attempt to catch the ball.
While the ball is in the air, Tate can be seen shoving Green Bay cornerback Sam Shields to the ground. This should have been a penalty for offensive pass interference, which would have ended the game. It was not called and is not reviewable in instant replay.
When the players hit the ground in the end zone, the officials determined that both Tate and Jennings had possession of the ball. Under the rule for simultaneous catch, the ball belongs to Tate, the offensive player. The result of the play was a touchdown.
Replay Official Howard Slavin stopped the game for an instant replay review. The aspects of the play that were reviewable included if the ball hit the ground and who had possession of the ball. In the end zone, a ruling of a simultaneous catch is reviewable. That is not the case in the field of play, only in the end zone.
Referee Wayne Elliott determined that no indisputable visual evidence existed to overturn the call on the field, and as a result, the on-field ruling of touchdown stood. The NFL Officiating Department reviewed the video today and supports the decision not to overturn the on-field ruling following the instant replay review.
The result of the game is final.
The NFL had little choice but to declare the game official. Were they to establish a precedent of outcomes being overturned a day, or days, later, millions of fans would be left still wondering long after their game was over. Seahawks fans, still smarting over a perceived bad rap in Super Bowl XL, would likely clamor (unsuccessfully, but clamor nonetheless) for a review of that game, even though it is more than six years past. Things would be more chaotic than they are now.
One would hope that, with luminaries such as President Obama tweeting their desire for the NFL to solve its labor squabble with the officials and their union, and the ending to the game last night, that a solution might soon be found.