SEATTLE — Green Bay Packers safety M.D. Jennings was explaining that he had the ball pinned to his chest the whole time. He caught it clean. Pulled it in. Was shocked at the call by the referees.
While he spoke, his teammates huddled around the small televisions hanging in the visiting team’s locker room at CenturyLink Field. The replay of one of the most controversial calls of the NFL season was shown. They all groaned; many threw their towels at the TV.
That’s what it came to following the Seattle Seahawks’ wild 14-12 win that ended with Russell Wilson’s lofted, disputed 24-yard touchdown pass to Golden Tate as time ran out Monday night.
Tate came down with his arms wrapped around the ball, as did Jennings, who looked to have it first. One official appeared to signal interception and the other touchdown before they settled on calling a touchdown. The play was reviewed and the call confirmed.
“The guy who was fighting me for it, he’s strong,” Tate said. “I was just trying to hold onto it unless they pulled guys off me. I didn’t know if it was a touchdown, interception, completion. I didn’t know what was going on. Couldn’t hear anything.”
Both teams left the field, then were brought back out approximately five minutes later for the extra point, despite officials previously announcing the game was over. The stands were mostly empty, and the only players out on the field were the 22 on special teams.
In all, it was yet another indictment of the NFL’s replacement officials.
“It was awful,” Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers said during a terse postgame media session.
Rodgers was asked if he had ever endured a more bitter defeat. “No.”
Seen a more wild scene on an NFL field? “No.”
He even said he thought the referees gave him a kicking ball to throw on an earlier two-point conversion.
Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said after his team fell to 1-2, “I’ve never seen anything like that in all my years of football.”
On the other side, the Seahawks (2-1) smirked, laughed and enjoyed.
Between smiles, Wilson said that Tate had it all the way.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who jumped into the arms of his special teams unit after the extra point, said, “From what I understood from the officials, it was a simultaneous catch. Tie goes to the runner. Good call.”
NFL rules state that a simultaneous catch is awarded to the offensive player.
“The ruling on the final play was a simultaneous catch. Reviewed by replay. Play stands. Both players goes to the offense,” referee Wayne Elliott told a pool reporter.
Asked if it mattered whether one player has two hands on the ball and one player has one hand on the ball, Elliott replied, “They both possessed it.”
Regarding having the teams come back for the extra point, officiating supervisor Phil Luckett said, “It is required by league rule. The PAT is an extension of the game, so we have to finish the game. A touchdown on the last play, you have to do the extra point, in regulation.”
Whether or not this contributes to the end of the NFL’s lockout of on-field officials is up for debate.
“It’s time for it to be over,” Carroll said.
Veteran Green Bay cornerback Charles Woodson was asked if he thinks this will finally tip negotiations.
“It will have a lot to do with it, I think,” Woodson said.
Cedric Benson’s 1-yard touchdown run with 8:44 to go put Green Bay up 12-7. Rodgers scrambled on third-and-1 was initially ruled short, but a review changed the spot to give the Packers a first-and-goal chance from the 1-yard line, setting up Benson’s score.
Rodgers completed 26 of 39 passes for 233 yards.
Seattle drove back, but Wilson’s pass to the left corner of the end zone on fourth-and-2 from the Green Bay 7-yard line with two minutes remaining was high. Tate jumped for the pass but couldn’t pull it in.
Wilson was 10-for-21 for 130 yards and two touchdowns and struggled much of the night.
Green Bay had to settle for a field goal from Mason Crosby with 8:07 left in the third after Donald Driver dropped a touchdown catch in the back of the end zone. Crosby’s 29-yarder cut Seattle’s lead to 7-3.
Crosby hit a 40-yard field goal with 1:14 left in the third to pull Green Bay within 7-6. Green Bay dominated the ball in the third quarter with 13-play and 11-play scoring drives, gaining 111 yards in the period after only totaling 87 yards in the first half.
Seattle’s Chris Clemons tied Derrick Thomas’ NFL record with four first-half sacks. Thomas did it against the San Diego Chargers on Nov. 8, 1992. The four sacks also tied a Seahawks franchise record. but the Packers slowed the Seattle defensive line in the second half.
Marshawn Lynch, who finished with 25 carries for 98 yards, carried 16 times in the first half, and all those runs paid off when play-action froze the Packers’ defense with 6:22 left in the second quarter.
Wilson pulled the ball back from Lynch, then delivered a perfect pass to Tate, who ran past two Green Bay defenders for a 41-yard touchdown.
The five-play drive, helped by two Green Bay defensive penalties, put Seattle up 7-0.
Defensive end Bruce Irvin made an impact early by sacking Rodgers twice in the first quarter.
Rodgers was sacked eight times in the first half, tying the most times he has been sacked in a game. He had been sacked eight times by the Minnesota Vikings in 2009.
“It’s definitely a hard one to swallow,” Woodson said of the defeat. “We played a good game. They had really two plays that hurt us, one of them being the play I just seen, which, it seems like we came down with the ball. But they didn’t call it that way.”
NOTES: Wide receiver Doug Baldwin and guard James Carpenter were inactive for Seattle, along with safety Winston Guy, cornerback Danny Gorrer, cornerback Byron Maxwell, guard Lemuel Jeanpierre and defensive tackle Jaye Howard. The Packers were without linebacker Jamari Lattimore, wide receiver Jarrett Boykin, safety Sean Richardson, cornerback Davon House, linebacker Terrell Manning and tight end Tom Crabtree. … Former Seahawks quarterback and current ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer raised the 12th Man flag pregame. … Jon Ryan boomed a 73-yard punt in the second quarter, second-longest in Seahawks history. Ryan owns the record with a 77-yard punt.