Originally written on Foxboro Blog  |  Last updated 11/11/14

In the worst officiating debacle since the 1972 Munich Olympic Games when incompetent game and table officials literally robbed the United States men's Olympic basketball team of a gold medal, the National Football League became the laughingstock of professional sports when on-field replacement officials and league-employed replay officials botched a last second call on a "Hail Mary" pass by Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson which was clearly intercepted by Green Bay Packers defender M.D. Jennings. The botched call and the absolute farce that followed, resulted in a 14-12 Seahawks win over the Packers in a game that will be discussed for weeks and weeks, especially if it ends up having an effect on the playoff positioning for the Packers.

The controversy began when officials overlooked a blatant offensive interference call when Seattle's Golden Tate leveled Green Bay's Sam Shields as a 24-yard pass made its way towards the end zone as time expired and Green Bay leading 12-7 in a nationally cablecast Monday Night Football game on ESPN. Clearly, Jennings, the Packers' safety, leapt up and intercepted the ball, then fell to the end zone as Seattle's wide receiver Golden Tate attempted to grab and wrestle the ball away. As they fell in a pile up, the backfield referees scrambled to gain position to make a call. Inexplicably, one referee signaled a touchback (the call for an intercepted ball in the end zone) while another signaled a touchdown as he clearly viewed the ball in the hands of Jennings. The referee signaling the touchdown then over-ruled his colleague and the Seahawks fans and players burst into celebration as ESPN broadcasters gasp in disbelief.

To make matters worse, the play was put under review by league instant replay rules and the off-field officials were put in place to reverse the inaccurate decision made by their colleagues. With only the ‘eye-in-the-sky’ as a means to over-turning and correcting the bad call, the subsequent decision by the instant replay officials of the final pass but they, again inexplicably, agreed with the on-field call. 

Multiple media reports, reverse angles and basic common sense confirmed the NFL's worst nightmare as the ball was most definitely in the hands of Jennings, the defender, and the game should've ended as a 12-6 Green Bay victory.

The Seahawks and their home fans celebrated the victory as the dejected Packers left the field in utter disgust but, under NFL rules, the Seahawks were entitled to kick a PAT (point after touchdown). The game officials summoned the Packers back to the field while the Seahawks players and coaches continued celebrating their fortunate, albeit unfair, victory. Eventually, after returning to the field, searching through equipment boxes, locating game helmets and assembling 11 defenders, the Packers watched while placekicker Steven Hauschka kicked to the ball through the uprights to make the final score 14-12, Seattle.

After the game was ruled as a Seattle victory, social media sites and on-air sports commentators lambasted the replacement officials and the NFL, many calling it an embarrassment to the league, once thought-of as the model for efficiency and credibility in all of sports. Even the NFL’s owned and operated channel, the NFL Network, took the league to task.  ESPN was worse.

“For 10 years, the Commissioner's office has been coming into the NFL locker rooms and saying, 'we will do anything to protect the shield. Anything! We will exhaust every opportunity to protect this brand. It's ironic, that you, the NFL, is what's screwing this brand up right now," said former NFL QB Trent Dilfer on the postgame show on ESPN.

The Monday Night Fiasco came a day after New England Coach Bill Belichick grabbed the arm of an official after the New England Patriots lost 31-30 to the Baltimore Ravens.

The NFL locked out its regular officials in June after a collective bargaining agreement expired. The league hired and trained replacement officials for all preseason games and for the first three weeks of the regular season.  After an uneventful first week of play, there has been growing criticism over the way some games have been called, including a total meltdown of effectiveness in a Monday Night game last week between the Denver Broncos and Atlanta Falcons, won by Atlanta 27-21.

On Monday, the NFL issued fines of $30,000 to Broncos Coach John Fox and $25,000 to Denver offensive coordinator Jack Del Rio for their verbal comments on the officiating last week.  On Sunday replacement officials admitted making two mistakes in Minnesota's victory over San Francisco, while a few other games included questionable calls that have rocked the credibility of the league like never before. Referee Ken Roan said he twice granted 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh video challenges after Harbaugh called timeout in the fourth quarter. Neither challenge should have been allowed once Harbaugh asked for time.

Both mistakes happened during a six-play span in Minnesota's 24-13 upset of the 49ers. Then, in both the Lions-Titans and Bengals-Redskins games, officials marked-off too much yardage on penalty calls. The Redskins were penalized 20 yards instead of 15 for unsportsmanlike conduct in the final seconds of their 38-31 loss to Cincinnati. QB Robert Griffin III spiked the ball to stop the clock with seven seconds left. Then, tight end Fred Davis was called for a 5-yard false start penalty. According to Washington coach Mike Shanahan, at least one official indicated there would be a 10-second runoff, ending the game. The Bengals, led by coach Marvin Lewis, started walking onto the field. There shouldn't have been a runoff, though, because the clock was stopped by the spike. The Redskins began arguing, and eventually the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was called.

Earlier Sunday, the NFL players' union sent an open letter to team owners calling for an end to the lockout. 

“Your decision to lock out officials with more than 1,500 years of collective NFL experience has led to a deterioration of order, safety and integrity,” the NFL Players Association wrote. “This affirmative decision has not only resulted in poor calls, missed calls and bad game management, but the combination of those deficiencies will only continue to jeopardize player health and safety and the integrity of the game that has taken decades to build.”

To that end, let us introduce NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith to please meet Nostradamus.

* * *

Terry Lyons pens a twice-a-week column on the NFL for Foxboro Blog, including a weekly look at “What keeps us Awake at Night.” Lyons is publisher and editor-in-chief of Boston-based DigitalSportsDesk http://www.digitalsportsdesk.com where he writes on football, basketball, baseball and hockey.

MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Cam Newton calls out 'classless' Panthers fans

Report: 49ers to part ways with Harbaugh after season finale

Brad Stevens shoots down rumors he's headed to Hoosiers

Jameis Winston cleared in code of conduct case

Sherman: Patrick Peterson would be benched on Seahawks

Fans struck by lightning after Buccaneers-Packers game

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Report: Philip Rivers playing through painful back injury

Report: Bears could have interest in Jim Harbaugh

Report: Shanahan interested in coaching next season

Report: Michigan has its eye on several NFL coaches

Report: Titans, Jay Cutler have mutual interest in trade

Phillies GM told Ryan Howard team is better off without him

10 takeaways from NFL Week 16

Tony Romo leads Dallas Cowboys to NFC East title

Ole Miss QB arrested after fighting, threatening bouncers

WATCH: Marshawn Lynch's ridiculous TD run

WATCH: Steelers' Gay draws flag for taunting teammate

WATCH: Three players ejected after Giants-Rams fight

WATCH: Dominic Raiola stomps on Bears player's ankle

WATCH: Arian Foster throws TD pass, drops scoreboard taunt

WATCH: Johnny Manziel leaves with injury after taking big hit

NHL has warned 22 players about diving

Nick Mangold wears NYDP hat to honor fallen officers

Five things we learned from the first day of bowl games

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.

10 takeaways from NFL Week 16

Cam Newton calls out 'classless' Panthers fans

Raiola stomps on Bears player's ankle

Bears interested in Jim Harbaugh?

Shanahan to return to 2015?

Browns interested in drafting Mariota?

Mullen wears funny Christmas sweater

RG3 returning to Redskins?

Tom Izzo hot after bad loss

Kings, Nets talking Deron Williams trade

WATCH: DeSean mocks Eagles

Vick: Winston is the future of the NFL

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.