SEATTLE, Washington (AFP) –
A controversial touchdown ruling by National Football League replacement officials on the game’s final play gave the Seattle Seahawks a 14-12 victory over the Green Bay Packers.
In a bizarre finish that will put more pressure on NFL owners to end their lockout of regular referees, Seattle’s Russell Wilson was credited with a game-winning 24-yard touchdown pass to Golden Tate on the last play on Monday.
“Don’t ask me a question about the officials,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy warned reporters after the game.
“Most unusual football game I’ve been a part of. Very hard to swallow. I’ve never seen anything like that in all my years of football. We need to move on.”
Wilson scrambled to avoid Packers pass rushers and heaved a desperation toss into the end zone, where three Green Bay defenders and two Seattle receivers leaped into the air and fell into a pile as they tried to grab the ball.
Green Bay defender M.D. Jennings leapt highest and pulled the ball into his chest while Tate also grabbed the ball in his outstretched hands as the group fell to the turf.
“It was just total desperation,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “Golden Tate made a great play.”
Two officials rushed to the scene. One made a Seattle touchdown signal. The other signaled a Green Bay interception.
Players grappled for the ball until officials separated the pile, then ruled the play a Seahawk touchdown even though Jennings appeared to have possession first.
“Tough call but tie goes to the offensive guy,” Wilson said. “Golden Tate made a heck of a play. A unbelievable catch. It was a huge win for us. I had a feeling it was going to be a touchdown. We came too far for it not to be.”
The replay showed Tate shove a defender just before leaping for the ball on the final play.
“I just competed,” Tate said. “I just made sure I kept my hands on it. Me and the defender kept our hands on it. I just fought for it.”
A mandatory video replay was made and the ruling was upheld to the delight of the home crowd, sending the Packers off the field in dismay.
“It was awful,” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “Just look at the replay. And then the fact it was reviewed. It was awful. It sucks losing and it’s even worse when it goes that way. It’s frustrating.”
Or as Packers offensive lineman T.J. Lang posted on his Twitter account just after the game: “Got (screwed) by the refs.. Embarrassing. Thanks nfl.”
The NFL locked out its regular officials in a pay dispute and recruited new referees from the college ranks, although with each passing week the speed and physicality of the pro game has created more problems and controversy.
“Fine me and use the money to pay the regular refs,” Lang tweeted.
More than five minutes after the last play, both teams were ordered to send players back onto the field for the mandatory conversion kick, which Seattle’s Steven Hauschka made to create the final margin.
“It was crazy after the game,” Rodgers said. “Nobody had any idea what was going on.”
Reactions on Twitter and from television commentators made it clear that many NFL fans saw the outcome as the first game where a team lost due to the replacement referees.
“This is the ultimate disaster,” NFL television commentator and former NFL quarterback Steve Young said. “Everybody senses this is now affecting the competitive landscape of the NFL and … it’s bringing it down.
“We built something great and we’ve surrounded it with partners who aren’t competent. The NFL is too good for this and it’s too big for this and it’s hard to watch.”
The Seahawks improved to 2-1, while the Packers slid to 1-2 after having lost only one game all of last season.
Cedric Benson scored on a one-yard touchdown run with 8:44 remaining in the fourth quarter to give Green Bay a 12-7 lead, but a two-point conversion pass failed, ensuring the Seahawks could retake the lead by reaching the end zone.
Seattle took the ball after a Green Bay punt with 46 seconds to play needing to march 46 yards for a touchdown, setting the stage for the last-play chaos.
The Seahawks took a 7-0 half-time lead on Wilson’s 41-yard touchdown pass to Tate with 6:22 remaining in the second quarter. Green Bay pulled within 7-6 on Mason Crosby’s field goals of 29 and 40 yards in the the third quarter.