by Kevin Pulsifer
Your move, Goodell.
Forty years from now, we won’t care about who deserved to win Monday night’s game between the Packers and the Seahawks.
If we get lucky, this outcome won’t affect the regular season standings or the playoff teams. Maybe the Packers will finish 13-3 and win the NFC North outright, and the Seahawks will end up 6-10 and miss out on January football. If we’re lucky.
Given the way this season has turned out so far, these two teams could both easily finish 9-7 and tie for the final wild card spot. The Seahawks would advance by virtue of one call. One missed call.
But this isn’t about the missed interception call. Or the other penalties that led up to the Hail Mary, last-ditch attempts of Russell Wilson.
Off his back foot, chased by Packers linemen, nearly 20 yards behind the line of scrimmage, Wilson’s prayer was exactly that: a prayer. No one ever catches a last-second heave. Golden Tate knew that as well.
Which is why he pushed a Packers defensive back to the ground in a feeble attempt to get more open. Most of the time, referees—the real ones—let little back-and-forths go on the final play.
On a jump ball, no one truly has position, and a bit of nudging will often go uncalled. But rarely does a two-handed shove go unnoticed.
But this isn’t about the missed pass interference call. Even the regular referees make mistakes. The mistakes don’t normally decide who wins or loses a game, but occasionally they will.
It’s a human element that is present in every sport. Which is why, on occasion, people will get angry at the officials for something that happens.
Except sometimes, it’s something that doesn’t happen.
In the Saints-Chiefs game on Sunday afternoon, the Saints appeared to force a fumble in overtime and they ran it back for the game-winning touchdown—giving themselves their first win of the season. Right? Wrong. The referees did not signal a touchdown. As a matter of fact, they did not signal anything.
No one took charge, no one blew a whistle, no one declared Chiefs running back Shaun Draughn down by contact.
A minute later, an official blew his whistle and declared that they would review the play up in the booth. Except there was never a call made on the field in the first place.
Nearly 10 minutes later, the official decision came out: Draughn was down by contact, and the Chiefs would maintain possession. They would later kick the game-winning field goal and send the Saints to 0-3.
On the bright side, the refs got the call right and it did not affect the game’s outcome. Thanks to the replay booth, the correct call was made.
But what happens when the replay booth cannot overturn a play on the field?
On Sunday night, the Patriots-Ravens matchup was decided by a single point—on a game-winning field goal by Ravens rookie Justin Tucker, to be exact. Tucker replaced Billy Cundiff as the kicker in Baltimore after Cundiff botched the biggest kick of his career.
In the AFC Championship game last January, against the Pats, Cundiff had a reasonable field goal attempt to win the game and send the Ravens to the Super Bowl. His attempt was nowhere close, and the Ravens were hoping to redeem themselves with a win on Sunday.
Naturally, Tucker’s kick went right through the uprights, right?
The ball went almost directly over the right upright—there are no cameras above the goal posts for proof—and it was signaled good by the officials.
Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick was in an uproar, clamoring for a booth review. After all, the NFL stated that a new rule would review all scoring plays this season. Couldn’t they at least check to see if the kick was good or not? Not exactly.
At least that play was up in the air, and it could have gone through the uprights.
No one is still harping on that call.
Monday night’s debacle must have been different. ESPN has showed countless angles of the final play, and there is irrefutable evidence to show that M. D. Jennings, the Packers’ defensive back, intercepted the pass.
Even the angriest of fans can understand a mistake, and certainly the play would be overturned. So the Packers wouldn’t lose on a call that was blatantly wrong.
Due to some nitpicking corollary in the NFL rulebook, apparently a touchdown cannot be reviewed for the purposes of reviewing possession.
So, essentially, two refs signal opposite calls, the incorrect call wins out and the ensuing incorrect call is unreviewable. If the ruling had been an interception, it could have been overturned to a touchdown. Yet a touchdown cannot be overturned to an interception? Sounds like a typical day in the NFL.
The biggest issue with all of this is the lack of control that the officials, along with the NFL, have on the league right now.
Penalties are being called at an alarming rate, game stoppages are taking much longer to sort out and blatant calls are not being reviewed. Three coaches were fined on Monday for actions taken against officials.
Bill Belichick’s probable fine for grabbing a referee’s arm has yet to be announced.
In all likelihood, Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy will come out with a formal statement about what has occurred. If this were baseball, the game would probably be under protest right now.
Perhaps what should disgust us the most is that, for weeks, the NFL has come out with statements claiming that the replacement refs can handle the game, and that it will not affect the games on a large-scale level.
Say what you want, NFL.
But don’t lie to us. The Pats might not have been a victim of the refs’ wrath, but the Packers sure were.
The fans aren’t stupid anymore, Roger.
Time to man up.