I watched the Monday Night Football game last night between the Seahawks and the Packers. Anybody who missed the game has probably nonetheless seen the replay of the winning touchdown (called a touchdown anyway) about 100 times on various news and sports talk programs today.
For the unelightened, the Seahawks, trailing the Packers by less than a touchdown with only seconds left to play, had the ball at the Packers 24 yard line. There was time for only one last play. With the clock expiring, Seahawk quarterback Russell Wilson scrambled from the pocket and threw a hail mary pass into the left corner of the end zone toward Seahawk receiver Golden Tate. Four Packer defenders were within touching distance of Tate. Everybody watching, including me, held their breath.
While the ball was in the air, Tate shoved Green Bay cornerback Sam Shields to the ground. Should have been offensive interference. Wasn't called. Tate and three packers leapt into the air toward the descending ball. Packer M. D. Jennings appeared to get his hands on the ball first, followed by Tate. Jennings pulled the ball in against his chest, but Tate had his hands and arm on the ball as well. They landed on their backs on the ground in the end zone, both with their hands still on the ball. Wrestling ensued, neither player taking the ball from the other.
Two replacement officials approached. One signaled expiration of the clock, arguably meaning that he thought an interception had occurred. The other signalled touchdown. The two calls did not technically contradict. The clock had expired whether it was an interception or a touchdown. Bedlam broke out. After instant replay review, the touchdown call stood, Seattle won, Green Bay lost. The sports news world went nuts, and still is nuts about it.
Okay, I admit that I am a Seahawk fan. But, regardless, here's my take on the situation. Yes, the replacement Officials got the call wrong. But, this is just a little bit of Karma for Seattle. And, sometimes the regular Officials are just as bad or worse, and in much more important games. Remember how Seattle was robbed, actually smacked around and then robbed, by the regular Officials in Super Bowl XL in 2005 against the Pittsburgh Steelers? No? Let me remind you.
With about two minutes remaining in the first quarter, Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck's 16 yard touchdown pass to Darrell Jackson was negated by an offensive pass interference penalty. Jackson touched Steeler safety Chris Hope. But, Hope also touched Jackson. Neither touch had any impact on the end zone catch. But, the officials nonetheless made the first really big "bad" call of the game. At half-time Michael Irvin described the call as "ticky-tack". Steve Young said "That is an absolute touchdown". Seahawks lose 4 points, taking a field goal instead of a touchdown.
Trailing 14-10 early in the 4th quarter, Hasselbeck threw to tight end Jeremy Stevens on an 18 yard completion to the Steelers one yard line. But, the regular Officials struck again. A holding call against Seattle's Sean Locklear negated the catch. Replay confirmed no hold, at least not a hold that doesn't occur on virtually every single pass play in an NFL game. John Madden said "I didn't see holding". Skip Bayless for ESPN said "On the replay, I couldn't see Locklear do anything different from what most linemen do on every play. These days, you have to tackle to hold, and Locklear didn't tackle...Phantom, killer penalty." Seahawks lose 7 more points.
And, Just after the holding call, Hasselbeck was intecepted near the goal line by Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor who ran it back to the 29 yard line. Hasselbeck made the tackle but was penalized for a low block. "We think that is a bad call" said Al Michaels. Yeah, you can't make a low block when you are on defense and are making the tackle. But, add 15 yards onto the Steeler's interception return and kiss the Super Bowl goodbye for Seattle.
So, Packer fans, pipe down. Seattle is just getting a little tiny bit of positive Karma. Call it a small serving of justice if you want. And, you sports commentators, enough already. The regular Officials blow calls all the time. And, sometimes they do it in the biggest game of the year.
So, dream of the regular Officials if you want. Seattle fans have nightmares about them.