When order is restored in the NFL, when the messy, goofy, awkwardly paced games officiated by replacement refs begin looking like games resembling professional football, Monday will be recalled as the crazy night all heaven broke loose for Seahawks fans at CenturyLink Field.
Down to its last snap, Seattle beat the Green Bay Packers, 14-12. At least that was what the scoreboard showed after the Seahawks’ extra-point kick, which followed a huddle of frantic officials on the field, which followed a replay review for a play that wasn’t reviewable, which followed Russell Wilson’s Hail Mary pass that may or may not have been caught by Golden Tate in the corner of the end zone.
Soon the field was engulfed by every player on each team. Amid the chaos – it was if neither team knew whether to laugh or cry – I swear I saw the band from the famous 1982 finish of the Stanford-California game.
“A tough call,” Wilson said of the touchdown that’s destined to become Monday Night Football lore. “But at the same time, we gave ourselves a chance.”
Specifically, Tate gave himself a chance by pushing a Packers defender in the back before making a leap for the ball that also was grabbed by Green Bay’s M.D. Jennings. Four hands on the football, a victory in the balance, whose game is it?
Back judge Derrick Rhone-Dunn, who had the closest view of the not-so-immaculate reception, waved his hands and signaled the game was over. Side judge Lance Easley, who was several yards away when Tate and Jennings came down with the ball, ran in from behind and ready to make a signal.
Easley looked at Rhone-Dunn for a brief moment, as if to ask: A little help? Then Easley called it a TD.
Had Tate been penalized for pushing off in the end zone, it’s all moot. But for what seemed like the first time all night, a play finished without a flag.
“As it was explained to me, the refs called a simultaneous catch,” said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. “Tie goes to the runner.
The replacement refs have been under siege for periodically misinterpreting rules –or forgetting them altogether – but this time they got the rule right about simultaneous possession.
They also made sure Steven Hauschka’s extra-kick point was attempted. Hauschka and his teammates had to be summoned back to the field for the kick, converted in front of the few fans who hadn’t exited.
“I’ve never seen anything like that,” said Packers coach Mike McCarthy, “in all my years of football.”
McCarthy could have said the same thing about the rest of the game, which by the last minute had turned into a conflagration, pronounced con-FLAG-ration. The Sea-hawks were penalized 14 times for 118 yards. The Packers were penalized 10 times for 127 yards.
The procession of flags obscured a classic Monday night match-up between the Seahawks, who dominated the first half with eight sacks of Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and the Packers, who adjusted after halftime – Rodgers got rid of the ball quicker while the Pack changed pace with some no-huddle plays.
Result? No Seahawks sacks in the second half, which found the Packers clinging to a 12-7 lead with eight seconds remaining. Green Bay flooded the end zone with defenders as Wilson, on a play that started from the Packers’ 24, lofted a pass toward Tate.
Tate’s maybe-he-did, maybe-he-didn’t grab preceded 15 minutes of what might best be described as pandemonium.
“It was crazy,” said Rodgers. “No one had any idea of what was going on.”
Hey, it had been a long night for Rodgers, and it was getting late. Aaron Rodgers will have a better idea of what went on after he watches an entire replay of the game.
For that matter, we all will.
Look for the Stanford band on the that final play. I swear I saw firstname.lastname@example.org