Mike Millburn: A Packer Fan Vents
It took me back to 2009.
A December night in Pittsburgh was the site for a week 15 matchup between the Steelers and the Green Bay Packers. I’ll spare the details of the game for brevity’s sake, but it ended with a last second touchdown pass to Mike Wallace, who kept his feet in bounds for the win front of a frenzied Heinz Field crowd.
There was nothing that could be done to challenge the play; Wallace was clearly in and the game was over (Steelers 37, Packers 36). I’ll never forget my reaction to that final play – sheer and utter disbelief.
I never thought I would be so affected by a football game again. And then last night happened, when the Green Bay Packers visited the Seattle Seahawks on Monday Night Football.
For the first 30 minutes, Green Bay had no business winning that game. The o-line play in the first half resembled that scene in The Longest Yard remake, when they weren’t even trying to block and Adam Sandler got bulldozed. The downfield passing game was nonexistent, and the long-standing lack of a running game was oh so evident. The DBs got burned on a touchdown pass by a guy named Golden.…seriously, his name is Golden. They deserved to be down 7-0 after two quarters.
Then the second half started. The offensive line blocked well, Aaron Rodgers had time to throw, and the run game started to gain a few yards. The defense remained sturdy and the Packers, after a fourth quarter touchdown by Cedric Benson, led 12-7. It looked like it would be a win, albeit a sloppy one, for the Green and Gold.
That’s when the fun started. A Jerron McMillian sideline interception was nullified by a questionable roughing the passer penalty on linebacker Erik Walden. After two holding penalties pushed Seattle back, an incomplete pass to Sidney Rice was rewarded with pass interference on Sam Shields which, to even the untrained eye, looked like a ridiculous call that should have gone the other way.
No harm, no foul, however, as the defense held their ground and caused a turnover on downs. A Green Bay offensive stall meant Seattle would get the ball back with a chance to win. All of a sudden, those same feelings from 2009 came rushing back. But there was no way that could happen again, right?
A non-descript ‘Hawks drive came down to the final play. Russell Wilson heaved the ball towards the end zone, a scrum of humanity ensued, and it looked like Golden Tate came down with the ball for an improbable win as the clock hit triple zero. One fake official said interception, but another one said touchdown.
The only problem was, after many replays in full and slow motion, it became evident that Packers safety M.D. Jennings had possession of the ball as the two players hit the turf (a recently released still photo proved as much). Now I don’t claim to know the NFL Rulebook, but that sounds like an interception to me. A review would surely overturn the touchdown and credit Jennings with a game-saving interception. Until the fake head referee came out and made his call: The ruling on the field stands, touchdown.
Pete Carroll had a reaction akin to someone telling him that USC would actually get to keep all those vacated wins. Russell Wilson became a Seattle folk hero, Golden Tate made the biggest catch of his thus far lackluster career, and the fans at Qwest Field collectively voided their bowels in excitement.
The only problem is that none of that jubilation should have ever happened. A clear-as-day push off on Golden Tate against Sam Shields should have rendered the play null and void. However, since it’s quite infrequent for a penalty like that to be called on a play like that, not throwing a flag is understandable.
But the thorn that will stick in my side for quite a while was that “intertouchdownception”. Several angles showed that Tate had no clear possession of that pass as he hit the ground; if anything, he wrapped his arms around M.D. Jennings and the ball in an effort to pry it away as those two poor officials tried to decide what call to make. How that call was not overturned is something that I’m still struggling with today. And based on the reactions on the various social media platforms, I’m not the only one who has a problem with how the game ended.
But sadly, there’s nothing that can be done about it. There’s no statute that can allow a poorly officiated game to be overturned (after the NFL came out and said the officials missed the interference call), no matter how much I wish it to be true. The fact of the matter is, I could go on for another 800 words about the way the Green Bay Packers were robbed in the Pacific Northwest last night. I could write another article about how this incident should be the final nail in the coffin for the fake referee experiment that has tainted the first three weeks of the greatest sport in the world. But I’ll leave that to someone else; instead, I will sum up my feelings about last night in a fashion eerily similar to the way I did in 2009:
Sheer and utter disbelief.
– Mike Millburn