One referee stands with his arms raised high above his head to signal a touchdown. The other, to his immediate left, is calling for a touchback, the result of an interception. One play. Two calls. It’s the image that has come to define the confusion and hysteria of the NFL’s referee lockout, a labor dispute that has left Division III and high school refs calling professional football games. And it was the culmination of a last-second Hail Mary by quarterback Russell Wilson that saw his Seattle Seahawks win Monday night’s football game against the Green Bay Packers, 14-12. See that blown call and five more like it.
The Seahawks were down by five. Eight seconds on the clock. Fourth down and 10 on the Packer 24-yard line. Wilson, a rookie quarterback, dropped back, rolled out to his left, and threw up a prayer from the 39-yard line. As time expired, wide receiver Golden Tate shoved defender Sam Shields out of his way (that’s illegal, by the way), jumped up amid a crowd of players at the back of the end zone, and watched the hands of Green Bay corner M.D. Jennings pluck the ball out of midair. As the two opposing players fell to the turf, Tate grabbed Jennings’s arm and a part of the football. Somehow, the replacement referees called that a touchdown. The Seahawks won. The Packers lost. And it all happened on the back of a botched call.
It didn’t help the NFL that this happened on Monday Night Football, with more than 16 million people tuning in to watch the fiasco. After the game, ESPN analysts Trent Dilfer and Steve Young discussed the disastrous call. Both men fought back tears.
Of course, the “catch” wasn’t the only blown call of the season. In Week 2, New York Jets wideout Santonio Holmes bobbled and dropped what would have been a first-down pass. On to the next down, right? Wrong. The replacement refs called Steelers corner Ike Taylor for pass interference, giving the Jets 19 yards and a first down. But Taylor clearly never touched Holmes—as the play was being called, the color commentator remarked: “It can’t be No. 24 [Taylor]. He never even touched anybody.”
Golden Tate, Round 1
One week before he made his controversial “catch,” the Seahawks’ Golden Tate was at the center of another bad call, against the Dallas Cowboys. As his QB Wilson dashed up field, Tate blindsided Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee with a hit to the head. Flag down. But wait! The referee instead called the Cowboys’ Bruce Carter for—get this—unnecessary roughness. Carter had pushed Wilson out of bounds as the quarterback approached the sidelines, which was apparently enough to give the Seahawks an additional 15 yards and a first down.
Monday Night Preview
Another Monday Night Football mess. A week before the now-infamous call at the end of the Seattle-Green Bay game, the replacement referees continuously bungled the Monday nighter between Denver and Atlanta. A six-minute deliberation followed a Broncos fumble. A flag was dropped and then picked up with no explanation. Broncos head coach John Fox and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio ripped into the refs—and were fined $30,000 and $25,000, respectively. ESPN’s Monday night crew broke down the craziness after the game.
Take a Timeout
Because of the haranguing the coaches unleashed on the refs in Week 2, the league imposed restrictions on their ability to approach the officials during the game. That backfired when Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh tried to call a timeout, or at least that’s what he later complained, and was hit with a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct. With the Ravens down two points with 2:18 to play, fans took exception and began yelling, in Al Michaels’s words, “the loudest ‘manure’ chant [he’s] ever heard.”
All the New York Giants wanted to do was punt the ball. But in this preseason rematch of Super Bowl XLVI against the New England Patriots, the referee had a hard time figuring out who to penalize, so he repeatedly took to his mic to correct himself. The announcers were foolishly hopeful that this kind of officiating would not be allowed to continue into the season.
This Pretty Much Sums It Up
Finally, because you’re no doubt a little depressed, enjoy this parody of Flo Rida’s ‘Whistle.’