We all knew it would come to this, right? We didn’t want to believe it but, deep down inside, we knew better. We all knew that one of the many bungled calls made by those replacement refs, who simultaneously entertained and enraged us the first three weeks of the 2012 season, would come back to haunt us.
It’s almost divine providence that their most infamous call could, if the playoffs started today, alter the destinies of the two teams involved.
Let me take you back to September 24th. It was late in the fourth quarter at CenturyLink Field and the visiting Green Bay Packers were leading the Seattle Seahawks 12-7. On fourth-and-ten, as time expired, Russell Wilson launched a Hail Mary, after giving his players time to get into the end zone.
After that, things get confusing; a sea of bodies leapt in the air, Seattle receiver Golden Tate and Packers safety M.D. Jennings tried to wrestle the ball away from each other. Looking at the replay, it’s clear that Jennings had possession. So, logic dictates that a Packers interception in the end zone would mean a touchback and, therefore, game over.
But head replacement ref, Wayne Elliot, determined that both players had possession of the ball and, according to the rules, the offensive player gets credit for the catch. In this case, Tate got the TD. Packers, 12 – Seahawks, 14.
If the Packers had won that game, they would be at 11-3 and trade spots with the San Francisco 49ers (10-3-1) for the two seed with a chance for a bye heading into the playoffs. Most likely, however, they will wind up the three seed in the NFC.
The NFC West is probably wrapped up after the 49ers convincing win at Foxboro Sunday night. But, fortune is still smiling on the Seahawks. Right now, they’re in the driver’s seat for a wild card spot at 9-5, with a one-game advantage over the Vikings, Bears, Cowboys and Giants.
If the Seahawks lost that fateful Week 3 game, they may have been preparing for a few rounds of golf in January. But that miraculous gift from the replacement refs has them in control of their own destiny.
This is not to say that without “Fail Mary” Seattle wouldn’t be in the playoff conversation, it’s just a matter of where they would fit in that conversation. The Seahawks are a young, scrappy team that deserves the league’s respect. You certainly can’t argue with consecutive 50-plus point performances.
As of the beginning of the month, the Packers were still bristling over that September loss. Aaron Rodgers told ESPN’s “Mike and Mike in the Morning,” “We're all human here. That was obviously a difficult moment for us.
We're hoping that we've put [ourselves] in a position right now where that's not going to have an effect on things. We're not going to use that as an excuse.”
While the Packers are trying to forget that fateful night, the Seahawks should count their blessings. Consider that game an early Christmas present from Wayne Elliot and the replacement refs. While they may be gone, their “legacy” remains.