The "Monday Night Mugging." Like all notoriously controversial plays, this play needs a nickname. So it won't be forgotten. So it goes down as a black mark, as an asterisk, in the annals of NFL history.
In fact, if the NFL has any integrity, they should retroactively change the result of the Packers-Seahawks game tonight. The job of the NFL is to ensure the game is decided by the players on the field, not by the referees. The League has taken a huge gamble, in the face of increasingly vocal criticism and ever-mounting evidence of ineptitude, by going with substitute refs. And now it's blown up in their face. Roger Goodell should be ashamed. He better damn well be on the phone as we speak with McCarthy and Thompson and Murphy, and, by proxy, every Green Bay Packer shareholder, explaining what the hell he's going to do to make this right.
The brand of the NFL is tarnished by tonight's result. That is the judgment of Steve Young, Trent Dilfer, Jon Gruden, Adam Schecter, and countless other commentators, experts and analysts. I have never, in all my years of watching football, seen and heard such unanimous consensus that the officiating of a game was incompetent.
The focus has, rightfully so, been on the last play of the game. But that was merely the most visible and consequential mistake of the night. Arguably the more egregious blown calls were Erik Walden's roughing the passer penalty that negated a Packer interception, and the positively ridiculous pass interference call on Sam Shields that kept the Seahawks drive alive and changed the field position battle dramatically in the fourth quarter. And there were numerous other missed calls, like Browner's blatant cheap shot on Jennings, that were just flat-out missed. (By the way, Browner better get a fine for that hit. Player safety, my ass!)
Short of Goodell picking up the phone and doing the right thing to change the outcome of this game (something I admit will never
happen, by the way), and short of the NFL actually resolving this labor dispute and getting the real refs back (something that, by most accounts, doesn't sound imminent), the League must, must, must take measures to attempt to return a shred of integrity to this game:
First, they need to insist that referees confer on the field to make the on-the-field call to the best of their ability. On the final play, one ref called it a touchdown and the other (who had a better view, by the way) called it an interception. There was minimal conference or discussion, which places the onus on replay to overturn
the ruling on the field. I know the refs have been criticized this season for slowing down the pace of play, but having differing opinions by the judges on the field is absolutely unacceptable. They need to force them to take the time to get it right -- even if it means games take 6 hours to finish.
Second, I'm sick and tired of coaches, players and fans trying to intimidate these referees. Just like John Harbaugh's antics and incessant complaining in week one, Pete Carroll, I believe, influenced how these referees called the game. I also think the crowd influenced how these referees called the game. By any measure, this game was completely out-of-control. The Seahawks had 14 penalties. Players were pushing and shoving after every play. It's just not fun to watch. And, frankly, when the thing becomes a bar fight, it plays to the disadvantage of the organizations with the class and self-respect to play the game by the rules. They should start ejecting coaches who come out on the field and players who start shoving. End of story. They have to clean it up, before players start getting hurt.
Third, they need to give these refs more support. I would start by adding more officials on the field. These guys simply don't have the skills, athleticism or training to cover the game. They should have one ref watching each receiver because the pass interference stuff has been out-of-control. They should also add more officials on cameras and replays. Frankly, I would almost support the entire game getting called from the booth if they had enough cameras. Let the officials on the field focus entirely on keeping things in control, but make the calls upstairs. At the very least, the booth judges need to be more aggressive in over-seeing the officiating that's happening on the field.
My final thought on this outcome is that it was not only unfair for the Packers, but it was unfair for the Seahawks. The Seahawks played a damn good football game. Their defense was relentless -- totally knocked the Packers out of their rhythm, forced nine sacks in the first half, made the Packers one-dimensional. Russell Wilson, who every Wisconsinite has a soft spot for, had a solid performance -- put his team in position to win. But instead, what he'll be remembered for, at least in this game, is a freebie. A victory that was stolen. A result he didn't fully earn (and that certainly goes for Golden Tate, whose blatant push-off of Shields was un-sportsmanlike at best). That's not fair to Wilson. That's not fair to the players on either team. And, most of all, that's not fair to the fans -- many of whom I suspect are starting to regard this season with the same asterisk as the 1982 players' strike.