Packers vs. Seahawks: Will this call end the NFL referee lockout? (+video)
The Green Bay Packers lost to the Seattle Seahawks on a controversial call on the last play of the game. Interception or touchdown? The Seahawks victory is focusing fresh attention on the NFL replacement referees.
The furor over the work of replacement officials reached a fevered pitch during Week 3 in the NFL, especially late Monday when Seattle beat Green Bay on a desperation pass that many thought was an interception.
Seahawks receiver Golden Tate was awarded a touchdown on the final play after a scrum on the ground in the end zone. Packers safety M.D. Jennings appeared to catch the ball against his body, with Tate getting his arm around the ball.
After a few seconds, one official indicated a stoppage of play, but another signaled touchdown for a conclusion former NFL coach Jon Gruden, working the game on TV, called "tragic" and "comical."
Tate clearly shoved cornerback Sam Shields to the ground on the play, but as Gruden noted, offensive pass interference almost never is called on desperation passes.
"Very hard to swallow," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "I have never seen anything like that in my time in football."
This was one day after New England coach Bill Belichick was confused about a decisive field goal he thought was off-target and Detroit's Jim Schwartz couldn't understand a 27-yard penalty walk-off for unnecessary roughness.
The officials have been locked out since June, when they and the league couldn't agree on a new collective bargaining agreement. In the officials' absence, replacement refs were brought in from lower college levels or from other leagues such as Arena Football.
The league and the officials' union met on Sunday without making any progress. The players' union also called on the 32 team owners to end the lockout because it is compromising the integrity of the game.
Packers guard T.J. Lang tweeted that they were robbed "by the refs. Thanks NFL."
In Sunday's Baltimore-New England game, aggro followed even insignificant plays. One TV analyst called it the substitute-teacher syndrome: See how much you can get away with before the real thing returns.
"Nature says for us that we're going to go out there and push the limit regardless," Minnesota linebacker Chad Greenway said. "If they're calling a game tight, if they're calling a game loose, it's going to be pushed to the limit. You are pushing it to the brink. If things are going to be called easier, and in some situations I feel like they've been less lenient, too, you've just got to play and see how (it's being called)."
Fox and Del Rio were hit for their sideline histrionics, particularly when Fox was told he couldn't challenge a call of 12 men on the field — he was correct that he could challenge, although replays showed Denver was guilty.
Before grabbing the arm of an official, Belichick wanted to know why Justin Tucker's field goal was called good in Baltimore's 31-30 victory on Sunday. He couldn't tell from his angle on the sideline, he said.
"So when the game was over, I went out and I was really looking for an explanation from the officials as to whether the play was under review," he said, "and I did try to get the official's attention as he was coming off the field to ask that, but I really wasn't able to do that."
Most confusing was the mark-off for a Lions penalty in overtime at Tennessee. Officials wound up penalizing Detroit from its 44-yard line rather than from the original line of scrimmage, the Titans 44.
Soon after, Rob Bironas kicked a go-ahead field goal.
Schwartz noted that the alternate official who helps the replacements with administrating penalties was on the Detroit sideline.
"We said, 'You're enforcing it from the wrong spot.' He was adamant that they weren't doing so," Schwartz said. "At that point, we just needed to play."
They didn't play well enough to avoid losing 44-41, and Tennessee coach Mike Munchak wasn't apologizing for how his team won.
"I don't feel any guilt," Munchak said. "For us, really the obvious answer is there's nothing we can do about who's officiating games. It's the same for everybody, so go out and don't get caught up in all that."
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.