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Another Look at the Seattle/Green Bay MNF Controversy

There is nothing like a good controversy to start the week off right?

Fans that stayed up to watch the end of the Seattle/Green Bay game Monday night were likely thinking that it was well worth being a little tired Tuesday morning. The game featured some stellar defensive play from both teams and enough offense to keep it interesting.

Then the ending watched around the world happened and everyone went to bed with a bad taste in their mouths and feeling just a little bit cheated.

In case you are the one person that hasn’t heard about it yet, the replacement referees blew the final call of the game by awarding a touchdown catch to Seattle wide receiver Golden Tate when it appeared that Packers defensive back M.D. Jennings intercepted it first.

While the replacement refs were a little confused at what to do there was one thing that could clear the mess up—the replay booth. Since it was staffed by regular officials and not replacements the call stood a strong chance of being corrected—or so we thought.

The replay booth ruled it a touchdown. It was ruled that both players simultaneously possessed the ball, and when that happens the tie goes to the offense; hence, touchdown.

Cue outrage.

Tuesday morning just about every newscast in the United States showed a clip of the play and commented on how the replacement officials need to go. ESPN talked about it throughout the day with their cast of former players and coaches ripping the NFL for allowing such a travesty to occur.

The general consensus has been that Jennings actually had possession of the ball first before Tate got his hands on the ball. With that being the case the simultaneous possession rule does not apply and the Packers should have been awarded the ball and the win.

Surprisingly there was one major point that was never discussed either Monday night or throughout all the coverage on Tuesday. When was possession actually made?

Stay with me here people and keep in mind that I’m playing devil’s advocate here (I’m just glad most of the game was good and that neither the Cowboys nor Texans were involved in the fiasco).

The NFL rules define possession as:

“A forward pass is complete when a receiver clearly possesses the pass and touches the ground with both feet inbounds while in possession of the ball.”

Watch a video of the play and it is clear to see that Jennings did jump rather high and was able to make a play for the ball. However, Tate, who was underneath Jennings, made a play for the ball as well.



This is where it gets dicey. It is hard to see in the video exactly when and how well Tate was able to obtain possession of the ball; it appears that he did so in the air along with Jennings.

According to the rules this is a loose ball situation and that possession goes to who establishes possession first. Once a player has possession of the ball in the end zone a touchdown is scored.

The problem here is figuring out exactly when one of the players obtained possession. At the time where the catch is made in the air it is not clear who has it. If we go back to the ‘forward pass’ rule possession is established once the player has the ball and his feet touch the ground.

In the video it is clear that Tate’s feet touch the ground first. At that moment he then has established possession and scored the touchdown.

When both players went to ground it appears as if Jennings does have possession and that Tate merely has an arm on the ball. Since the touchdown had already been scored when Tate’s feet hit the ground this doesn’t matter.

I offer this scenario not as defense of the replacement refs and the NFL, but as another perspective to the one that has been dominant in the media so far. The whole situation is reminiscent of the infamous tuck rule that sent the Patriots to the Super Bowl—an absolute mess where someone is inevitably screwed.

The league and the referees are both at fault. The money that the refs are asking for is pennies in the broad scheme that is the money-making juggernaut of the NFL. At the same time I know of no other part-time job where people make six figures.

If they don’t figure this crap out soon I for one will make a point to watch more college football and take care of my ‘honey-do’ list on Sundays.



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