Let me be clear here: both teams deserved to win that game, largely on the strength of their defensive play. The Seahawks’ defense shut down one of the best offenses in the NFL. Forget top five, the way the Seahawks are playing right now they could be the top defense, period. And while I am still not convinced that the Packers have a strong defense, or even a good one, they put in a legitimately solid performance on that side of the ball. The Seahawks’ offense is clearly a work in progress, but even so they are much better than Green Bay allowed them to be last night.
Of course, none of that is going to get the attention it deserves because of the ruling on the last play of the game. After watching it several more times, I can see evidence for an argument in favor of simultaneous possession, but I don’t know how much of that conclusion I’m basing on actual objective analysis and how much of it is just me being a Seahawks fan. What I am sure of is that it was just one of many, many instances of questionable officiating in this game.
I’m not just talking about the pass interference call on Chancellor that kept the Packers’ final scoring drive alive, either. On a scale from one to ten, with one being a hippie love-in and ten being nuclear armageddon, the conflict between the wide receivers and defensive backs on both teams was about a seven. There was enough contact on every other route to put the XFL to shame, and enough on every third or so route to substantiate sexual harrassment charges.
Along the offensive line, well, I’m not sure that holding is a strong enough call for what they were doing, but until the NFL adds a penalty for offensive tackling to the rulebook it’ll have to do. Remember those eight first-half sacks for Seattle, followed by zero in the second? Part of the reason for that was Green Bay choosing to run the ball more against the Seahawks’ pass rush personnel, but just as big a factor was the Packers finally realizing they could get away with grabbing fistfuls of jersey and never letting go. The Seahawks’ o-line got away with plenty of holds, too, but the difference in sack totals made it particularly noticeable when the Packers had the ball.
The really sad part here is that the replacement refs officiating in last night’s game were much better at their jobs than the ones I saw in Sunday’s games. The Ravens-Patriots game in particular was a knife fight from beginning to end, and I have never before seen a personal foul called on a coach for trying to get a official’s attention so he can call a time out. Even worse was the 49ers-Vikings game, wherein Harbaugh the Angrier pulled off something truly jaw-dropping. Towards the end of the game, the 49ers used their last time out, then Harbaugh successfully challenged the ruling on the field. Yes, you read that correctly: he was allowed to challenge the play even though he had no time outs. Zero. None. And then after he won the challenge, they gave him the phantom time out back. This was not a simple rule interpretation mistake like the one that awarded Seattle a fourth time out against the Cardinals, this was a grown man snarling and spitting blood at officials all game long until he bullied them into just letting him have an extra time out.
If nothing else, watching the replacement refs try and fail to not affect the game over the last seven weeks has proven that the NFL referees absolutely deserve the money they’re asking for, and they’re still a bargain at that price. Frankly, it’s incredible to me that a multi-billion a year sports industry like pro football has gotten away with paying its officials like part-time office jockeys for as long as it has. NFL officials are an integral part of the game; they make sure the flow of the contest is smooth and watchable, they ensure that us spectators are properly informed, and they keep the on-field muggings to a minimum. I love watching the Seahawks win, but I’d love it even more if they came out on top at the end of a well-called, cleanly fought game. Please get on that, NFL owners.
UPDATE (11:36): The NFL has released a statement in support of the official’s ruling, which you can read here. I don’t know whether the league actually believes the ruling was correct or if they’re just circling the wagons here, but the most important part is their statement that “The result of the game is final.” I think we all assumed it would be, but it’s nice to see it in writing.
Pete Carroll has also made some statements, both in his post-game comments and again today during an interview on 710 ESPN. The radio interview goes into some discussion of Carroll’s interpretation of how the rules apply to the final play of the game, but his statement regarding the replacement officiating in his post-game comments is quite possibly the most succinct and level-headed evaluation of the situation I’ve read yet.