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4th and 10 from the 24 yard line, 8 seconds remaining, Seahawks trailing 12-7. Russell Wilson drops back, rolls out to the offensive left, hucks a pass into the endzone, and Golden Tate 'catches' it amid several defenders after pushing off to get himself into position. This is a play (broken down in gifs here) that will live forever in NFL infamy and the ruling and subsequent aftermath should go down as one of the most controversial and absurd series of events in the league's history, and I don't even think I'm being hyperbolic when I say that. On a national stage, the judgement of a crew of replacement officials presented the NFL with their worst possible nightmare, as I'm sure the consensus perception will be that the Packers were robbed of a win. If you were wondering, the NFL Rule Book states:
"Rule 8, Article 3, Completed or Intercepted Pass. A player who makes a catch may advance the ball. A forward pass is complete (by the offense) or intercepted (by the defense) if a player, who is inbounds: (a) secures control of the ball in his hands or arms prior to the ball touching the ground; and (b) touches the ground inbounds with both feet or with any part of his body other than his hands; and (c) maintains control of the ball long enough, after (a) and (b) have been fulfilled, to enable him to perform any act common to the game (i.e., maintaining control long enough to pitch it, pass it, advance with it, or avoid or ward off an opponent, etc.)."
Stipulations a) and b) are the key points here to consider for the technical definition of a 'catch' or 'interception', if you're going to break it down to a rule to its technicalities. Which brings us to the "Simultaneous Catch" rule. Catch being the key word.
"Rule 8, Article 3, Item 5: Simultaneous Catch. If a pass is caught simultaneously by two eligible opponents, and both players retain it, the ball belongs to the passers. It is not a simultaneous catch if a player gains control first and an opponent subsequently gains joint control. If the ball is muffed after simultaneous touching by two such
players, all the players of the passing team become eligible to catch the loose ball."
I'm sure the interpretation of the rule(s) is where the controversy will lie, and most people (ones I respect) I've seen have deemed it an incorrect call. Does Jennings have control, by the definition of the rule, when he catches it in midair? Despite the fact that Jennings does seem to have it before Tate - does he have to hit the ground for it to be a 'catch,' as the rule book states? By the time they hit the ground, are Tate and Jennings both in possession? If so, by the Rule, the tie goes to the receiver. It's also worth noting here that after the call was made on the field, the only thing a replay can overturn was that the ball was incomplete (another reason the defender should just bat the pass down).
You may have already made your decision on the call and that's fine with me; I'm really not arguing that the call was correct because, frankly, it looked like a bad call to me, but those are the rules and that particular wording is what will likely be debated going forward. Much like Calvin Johnson's strange no-catch in 2010 against the Bears, I'm guessing this will be a hotly debated subject for some time. We're going to see the final seconds of this game ad nauseam for the next several days and weeks so, now that I have that out of the way, I'm just going to talk about the first 59 minutes, 52 seconds.
Outside of the final hail-mary debacle, the Seahawks' defense was the real story of the game, for me. Seattle's attacking pass rush sacked Aaron Rodgers eight times in the first half and had him pressed on nearly every play. Chris Clemons played out of his gourde on the outside, grabbing a ridiculous four sacks, four quarterback hits, and four tackles for a loss; Brandon Mebane was unblockable on the inside, racking up two sacks and three quarterback hits, and rookie Bruce Irvin added two sacks and three quarterback hits.
On the shoulders of this amazing defensive performance, the Seahawks went into the half with a 7-0 lead after holding the explosive Packers offense to 87 total yards. Though Seattle's offense only picked up three first downs in the first two quarters, Russell Wilson capitalized on a nice play-action fake with a 41-yard strike to Golden Tate for a touchdown with 6:22 in the 2nd quarter. Frankly, the formula was working for Seattle and with that Tate touchdown, Seattle held the momentum. As a second half team, known for great halftime adjustments, Seattle had to feel good heading to the locker room.
That momentum was robbed fairly quickly as the second half started and as the Seahawks' offense sputtered badly, Green Bay put together three double-digit play scoring drives - a 13-play, 70 yard drive to open the quarter that ended in a Packers' field goal, an 11-play 66-yard drive that resulted in a field goal, then a 16-play 81-yard drive that ended with a Green Bay touchdown and a 12-7 lead with 8:44 remaining in the game.
Conversely, while Green Bay was running those 40 plays, chewing up huge swaths of the game clock, and taking the lead, Seattle ran six plays for -1 yard. Russell Wilson went 0-1 in that time, with 19-yards lost on a sack. The offense couldn't get into a rhythm, the Packers were stacking the box to stop Marshawn Lynch, and Seattle had no answer.
Still, despite what seemed like the most soul-crushing half of all time, the Seahawks, late in the game, were a touchdown away from taking the lead back, and once again, with the help of a few (more) friendly but very questionable calls from the referees, Russell Wilson and the Seahawks' offense finally came alive and moved the football. The Seahawks drove down to the Packers seven yard line before turning it over on downs as they went for the winning TD. On that play, the Packers brought the house and Russell Wilson lofted up a fade to Sidney Rice, which an apparently out-of-position Golden Tate tried to catch with one hand. There's an argument here that Rice would have had a chance at the ball had Tate run the rest of his route (I'm going off of the assumption that the Seahawks wouldn't put Tate and Rice so close together like that on purpose, though maybe I'm being generous). Regardless, Rice looked pissed and Tate looked sheepish. At that point, I thought the game was over. It wasn't.
The Seahawks held the Packers once again, nearly recovering a Cedric Benson fumble (caused by Earl Thomas and a corner-blitzing Brandon Browner) on the one yard line on 1st down. Holy crap, how amazing would that have been? Two plays and a few timeouts later, the Packers punted the ball back to the Seahawks, who took possession at the Packers' 46 yard line with 46 seconds remaining. After a rifled pass up the middle to Sidney Rice on 2nd down, Russell Wilson missed Golden Tate, Evan Moore, and Tate again to get back to 4th down and the ballgame with 8 ticks on the clock.
That's when it happened.
Russell Wilson finished the game 10 of 21 for 130 yards and 2 touchdowns, but his line looks much better than he actually played. Marshawn Lynch rushed for 98 yards on 25 attempts, and Wilson added 18 yards on three attempts. With Leon Washington's 11 yard scamper, the Seahawks finished with 127 yards on the ground at a 4.4 yards per carry clip. Golden Tate led the Seahawks with 3 catches for 68 yards and two touchdowns. Much more to come on this game after we're all able to re-watch and digest a little bit.
Oh, and I forgot to talk about how many goddamn penalties the Seahawks racked up again. Save that for tomorrow, I guess.