The Green Bay Packers lost in one of the most shameful exhibitions the NFL has ever put on, 14-12, on Monday night to Seattle.
With replacement officials embarrassing the league in the most public of spotlights, Russell Wilson was intercepted by M.D. Jennings in the end zone on the game’s final play. Incredibly, it was ruled a touchdown catch by Golden Tate. Tate shoved Sam Shields to the turf as the ball was in the air, then got one hand on Wilson’s jump ball. Jennings, however, had two hands on the ball and the ball to his chest.
One official signaled an interception and another signaled a touchdown. Touchdown was the final ruling, which inexplicably was confirmed by replay — perhaps swayed by 68,218 delirious fans.
"Just look at the replay and then the fact that it was reviewed" quarterback Aaron Rodgers said with disgust during his postgame press conference. "It was awful. That's all I'm going to say about it."
The criticism was less politically correct on Twitter.
“The nfl needs to come to gb and apologize to us for (bleeping) us! These refs r bums!” said Josh Sitton. Said fellow guard T.J. Lang: “Got (expletive) by the refs. Embarrassing. Thanks nfl.” Later, he added, “(Expletive) it NFL. Fine me and use the money to pay the regular refs.”
The officiating was horrendous, and both sides had ample reason to be irate over various calls. The Packers, however, got the short end of the officiating stick.
The Packers, on a drive prolonged by a bad pass interference call on third-and-2, took a 12-7 lead on Cedric Benson’s 1-yard touchdown run with 8:44 to go. A missed two-point conversion pass to James Jones would prove costly — with Rodgers saying the play was run with the slick kicking ball rather than the game-used regular ball.
Seattle got two huge breaks from the referees on the ensuing possession. On the first play, Jerron McMillian’s interception was nullified by a horrendous roughing-the-passer penalty on Erik Walden. Later, on first-and-a-mile, Wilson went deep to Tate, who gained leverage by pushing off on Shields but it was Shields who was slapped with a 32-yard penalty for pass interference.
That gave Seattle a first down at the Packers’ 25 but Green Bay’s defense stiffened. On third-and-6 from the 7, Wilson hit Tate on a slant but Casey Hayward made an immediate tackle. That made it fourth-and-3, with Tate unable to haul in a jump ball in the end zone.
Green Bay couldn’t run out the clock — averting disaster when Jeff Saturday pounced on Cedric Benson’s fumble.
Seattle took over at the Packers’ 46-yard line with 46 seconds to go and no timeouts remaining. Wilson hit Sidney Rice for 22 yards to the 24, but the next three plays resulted in incompletions to set up the final, embarrassing moment.
The Packers trailed 7-0 at halftime. Aaron Rodgers was sacked eight times in the first half by a Seattle defense that had just two sacks in the first two games.
Green Bay went to more two- and three-tight-end sets in the second half to get the offense on track, and it worked. After punting on all five first-half possessions, the Packers went 13 plays for 70 yards and 11 plays for 66 yards to start the second half, though both drives resulted in field goals. The touchdown drive covered 16 plays for 81 yards. After 15 first downs on those three drives, however, the Packers couldn’t clinch the game by getting a first down.
The Packers were flagged 10 times for 127 yards while Seattle was slapped with 14 penalties for 118 yards.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.