Just when the anger and complaints from a weekend of contempt toward replacement officials couldn't get any hotter, a disputed call trumps it all.
Replacement ref rage peaked Monday night thanks to Seattle's Golden Tate, and a bizarre touchdown call that will be debated, questioned and re-ignite frustrations over the locked-out officials.
Tate pushed a Green Bay defender out of the way, wrestled another for the ball and was awarded a touchdown on the final play to give the Seahawks a 14-12 victory over the Packers.
The game wasn't over for another 10 minutes after both teams went to their locker rooms and were summoned back to the field for the extra point. But that was just the cap to one of the most bizarre finishes in recent memory.
"Don't ask me a question about the officials," Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said. "I've never seen anything like that in all my years in football."
"I know it's been a wild weekend in the NFL and I guess we're part of it now," he said.
Russell Wilson threw the 24-yard touchdown pass and the crew of replacement officials agreed Tate caught the pass.
Wilson scrambled from the pocket and threw to the corner of the end zone as the clock expired. Tate shoved Green Bay's Sam Shields out of the way then wrestled with M.D. Jennings for possession. It was ruled on the field as a touchdown and after a lengthy review, referee Wayne Elliott came out from under the hood and announced "the ruling on the field stands" before the crowd at CenturyLink Field erupted in celebration.
"We both had possession of it. I don't even know the rule but I guess the tie goes to the receiver," Tate said.
Asked later if he got his hands on Wilson's pass first, Tate wasn't so sure.
"I think so. ... Oh, well, maybe he did. But I took it from him," Tate said.
Elliott told a pool reporter after the game that the play was ruled as simultaneous possession that was confirmed by the replay official.
"They both possessed it," Elliott said.
The Packers were far from convinced that Tate had possession. Jennings said he had the ball pinned to his chest the entire time. A handful of Packers players began venting on their Twitter accounts right after the game, posting protest messages to their followers - many of them too profane to print. Offensive lineman T.J. Lang even challenged the NFL to "fine me and use the money to pay the regular refs."
Others took to Twitter to speak their minds.
Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman tweeted "These games are a joke," while NBA MVP LeBron James tweeted "I simply just LOVE the NFL to much to see these mistakes. I'm sick like I just played for the Packers."
Wisconsin State Senator Jon Erpenbach even tweeted NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's office phone number, saying in a separate tweet that if the ending Monday did not spark an end to the lockout "this season will be a joke."
"Just watching in the back room, I think if you asked Golden Tate to take a lie detector test and ask him did he catch that ball or did M.D. catch that ball, M.D. caught that," Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings said. "It was clear as day ... at least that is what my eyes saw."
Seattle instantly celebrated while the Packers argued with anyone in a striped shirt. Both teams were eventually shoved to the sidelines as Tate stomped through the end zone in celebration. Following the review, Elliott's announcement sent the stadium into delirium and even more confusion ensued until the teams finally returned to the field for the extra point.
"From what I understood from the officials it was a simultaneous catch. Tie goes to the runner. Good call," Seattle coach Pete Carroll said.
Green Bay should not have found itself in the position of watching Wilson's final heave be open for debate.
The Packers shook off a disastrous first half in which Aaron Rodgers was sacked eight times and completely controlled possession in the final 30 minutes. Green Bay ran 41 offensive plays in the second half, got field goals of 29 and 40 yards from Mason Crosby and Cedric Benson's 1-yard TD run with 8:44 left to take a 12-7 lead.
Rodgers finished 26 of 39 for 223 yards and no turnovers. He had quite a different opinion of the disputed catch.
"It was awful. Just look at the replay. And then the fact that it was reviewed, it was awful," he said. "That's all I'm going to say about it.
"We shouldn't have been in that position."
It was Tate's second touchdown of the game after his 41-yard catch in the second quarter gave Seattle a 7-0 lead. He finished with three catches for 68 yards, while Wilson was 10 of 21 for 130 yards.
Green Bay averted disaster when John Kuhn fumbled on the first play after Seattle missed on a fourth-down pass attempt from the Packers' 7 with 2 minutes remaining. Center Jeff Saturday recovered the fumble, but the Seahawks held and forced a punt from the 4 with 57 seconds left. The 41-yard punt set Seattle up at the Green Bay 46 with 46 seconds remaining.
Wilson hit Sidney Rice for 22 yards on a slant then went for Tate in the end zone, but the ball was batted away with 18 seconds left. He threw over the head of Evan Moore on second down, leaving 12 seconds on the clock, and missed Tate again at the 5.
Wilson took the final snap with 8 seconds remaining. He appeared to be looking for Rice on the right side of the end zone, but rolled left and threw for Tate, who was in a crowd of three defenders. His shove of Shields was obvious and it was never clear in real-time who had possession between Tate and Jennings.
"I was just trying to keep possession of the ball. The guy who was fighting me for it, he's strong. I was just trying to hold onto it until our guys pulled them off of me," Tate said. "I didn't know if they called touchdown, interception, incompletion . I didn't know what was going on. Couldn't hear anything and I just tried to keep fighting for the ball."
Notes: Seattle rookie DE Bruce Irvin had two of Seattle's eight sacks on Rodgers in the first half. Chris Clemons led the way with four sacks, tying an NFL record for most in the first half of any game. ... Benson finished with 45 yards rushing after having just 4 yards at halftime. ... Seattle RB Marshawn Lynch just missed his seventh straight 100-yard rushing game at home with 98 yards on 25 carries. ... Green Bay finished with a 7-minute advantage in time of possession after the teams each had 15 minutes of possession in the first half.
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