Replacement refs in spotlight after final Packers, Seahawks touchdown callPosted: Updated:
SEATTLE (AP) -- M.D. Jennings was convinced he had the ball pinned to his chest the entire time and would be awarded an interception to cap Green Bay's comeback victory.
A crew of replacement officials had other views - the ones that counted.
The result is a bizarre ending that gave the Seattle Seahawks a 14-12 victory Monday night that capped a tough weekend for the replacement refs.
"I was very shocked," Jennings said. "But, the refs got the last say, so it is what it is."
Russell Wilson threw a disputed 24-yard touchdown pass to Golden Tate on the final play of the game, a game that finally ended 10 minutes later when both teams were brought back on the field for the extra point.
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 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" and CenturyLink Field erupted in celebration.
It was nearly 10 minutes before the teams were brought back for the extra point.
The final decision is only going to fuel debate about the replacement officials coming off a weekend filled with disputed calls.
"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."
Elliott told a pool reporter after the game that the play was ruled as simultaneous possession that was confirmed by the replay official.
"It was pinned to my chest the whole time," Jennings said.
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 a more tactful approach.
"It was just a frustrating game. Like I said, the refs did a great job. I can't get fined if I'm saying the refs did a great job, so the refs did a great job," Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings said. "They are here to call the game, we have to, whatever is called and respond to it, show resolve and bounce back."
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 when 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.
Rodgers converted three third-down conversions on the Packers' drive to take the lead. He hit Jermichael Finley for 14 yards on third-and-10 at the start of the drive deep in the Packers end. He followed with a third-and-10 completion to James Jones for 13 yards, getting rid of the ball before the blitz arrived.
Rodgers also got the benefit of a shaky pass interference call on Seattle safety Kam Chancellor when a third-and-2 pass was batted away.
Green Bay appeared to take the lead on an 11-yard TD pass to Greg Jennings, but he stepped out before reaching the end zone and was short of the first down. On third down, Rodgers rolled out and attempted to run, but was stopped short by inches. McCarthy challenged the spot and the call was reversed on the challenge with Rodgers given the first down. Benson then plowed in on the next play to give the Packers their first lead with 8:44 left.
"We were playing as hard as we can, giving it all we got, laying it out on the line, risking it, playing football, real man football, but you don't got real man refs," Benson said.
Seattle (2-1) won its second straight, while Green Bay (1-2) and saw its streak of wins in six straight road openers snapped.
Wilson's heave came at the end of a final frantic drive after Seattle had previously missed on a fourth-down attempt from the Green Bay 7 with 2 minutes left. The turnover on downs appeared to end Seattle's hopes and cap an impressive second-half comeback by the Packers and Aaron Rodgers, who was sacked eight times - all in the first half.
Green Bay averted disaster when John Kuhn fumbled on the Packers first play following the change of possession but center Jeff Saturday recovered. The Seahawks held and forced Green Bay to 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 remaining 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 Packers defenders. His shove of Shields was obvious and it was never clear who had possession between Tate and M.D. Jennings.
"I make sure I practice on high balls and catching balls at the highest point. Thankfully I came down with it," Tate said. "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. 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: The eight sacks of Rodgers in the first half matches the most in his career for any game. He was sacked eight times by Minnesota in 2009. ... Seattle DE Chris Clemons' tied an NFL record with four sacks. Derrick Thomas had four sacks in the first half against San Diego in 1992. ... Jennings finished with six catches after being a question mark coming into the game with a groin injury.