Bring Back The Real NFL Refs! Debacle At End Of Game Adds To Outrage

We’ll get to the serious stuff about the presidential campaign, the United Nations, world peace and such subjects in a moment.

First, though, there’s the play that will life in infamy (NFL.com’s word). It ended Monday’ night’s football game between the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers.

As NPR’s David Greene and Tom Goldman said earlier on Morning Edition, the chaotic finish “captures the confusion of this whole three weeks of shoddy officiating” while the league’s regular referees have been off the field during a contract dispute and replacements have been trying to take their place.

Here’s what happened:

With time expiring and Seattle behind 12-7, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson threw a “hail Mary” pass into the endzone. As players from both teams jumped for the ball, Green Bay’s M.D. Jennings appeared to grab it first. But as Jennings fell back to the ground, the Seahawks’ Golden Tate got his hands on the ball as well.

Chaos then ensued.

One ref signaled that the ball had been intercepted by Green Bay — meaning he had given possession to Jennings. Another signaled that Seattle had scored a touchdown — meaning he either thought Tate had control of the ball, or that the two players had simultaneously gotten their hands on the pigskin (more on the simultaneous possession issue in a moment).

Now, the NFL guards its video so we can’t embed footage of the play. But you can watch it as many times as you like here, on NFL.com. And it’s in that clip, as you’ll see, where former NFL coach Steve Mariucci talks about whether maybe — just maybe — the refs got the call right because if two players simultaneously gain possession on a play like that, the “tie” goes to the offense. In this case, Seattle.

But, to come to that conclusion you have to decide that Jennings and Tate got their hands on the ball at the same moment. And to our old eyes, that just doesn’t seem to be the case. It looks like Green Bay’s Jennings was the first to grab it. Mariucci agrees with us. He also notes that it looks like Tate committed a penalty just before the ball got to the end zone by pushing one of the Packers defenders. That should have ended the play right there, Mariucci argues.

Well, the refs came to the conclusion that it was a touchdown. Seattle won the game, 14-12. Now, football fans and headline writers are in tizzy today.

Twitter is lighting up, with regular Janes and Joes and even some Kings, as in the NBA’s LeBron James, registering their outrage. “These replacement refs gotta go man!!,” James tweeted early today. “Packers just got game took from them. I LOVE NFL football to much to see this type of work.”

ESPN cuts to the chase with this headline: “Replacement Refs Hurting NFL.”

Watch the replay if you haven’t seen it already. What do you think?

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.