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Shutdown Corner

NFL supports ‘simultaneous catch’ in statement, but says Golden Tate should have been penalized

Doug Farrar
Shutdown Corner

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One of these things is not like the other... (Getty Images)

In a nutshell, Green Bay Packers and Packers fans, you were right.

Your team got hosed, and the replacement officials have finally and irreversibly altered the outcome of a regular-season NFL game. The Seattle Seahawks' 14-12 victory should not have happened, and your team should be 2-1 right now with a 12-7 win.

[Michael Silver: The worst call in NFL history? | Photos]

In the statement everyone was waiting for, the league said that while it supports official Wayne Elliot's decision that Seahawks receiver Golden Tate came down with the game-winning touchdown as time expired, Tate should have been flagged for offensive pass interference against Packers defensive back Sam Shields -- an action that, if called, would have ended the game.

"It was not called and is not reviewable in instant replay," the statement said. "When the players hit the ground in the end zone, the officials determined that both Tate and Jennings had possession of the ball. Under the rule for simultaneous catch, the ball belongs to Tate, the offensive player. The result of the play was a touchdown.

"While the ball is in the air, Tate can be seen shoving Green Bay cornerback Sam Shields to the ground," the NFL continued. "This should have been a penalty for offensive pass interference, which would have ended the game. It was not called and is not reviewable in instant replay."

[Jay Busbee: Referee's blown interception call among sports' all-time worst]

Here's the worst part -- there was a lot of speculation that the "simultaneous possession" aspect of the play was not reviewable. Turns out, replay official Howard Slavin -- who is NOT a replacement official -- could have reversed the ruling on the field.

Replay Official Howard Slavin stopped the game for an instant replay review. The aspects of the play that were reviewable included if the ball hit the ground and who had possession of the ball. In the end zone, a ruling of a simultaneous catch is reviewable. That is not the case in the field of play, only in the end zone.

Referee Wayne Elliott determined that no indisputable visual evidence existed to overturn the call on the field, and as a result, the on-field ruling of touchdown stood. The NFL Officiating Department reviewed the video today and supports the decision not to overturn the on-field ruling following the instant replay review.

Well, sure. Problem was, it was clear that as Tate and Packers safety M.D. Jennings brought the ball to the ground together, Tate took his hand off the ball, while Jennings did not. By any rule or sightline, the Packers should have had an interception. Thus, the game should have ended in the Packers' favor in two different ways, and neither of those ways were applied. The NFL even added the simultaneous rule to its statement, seemingly not cognizant of the fact that the on-field action contradicted the NFL's approval of the ruling.

Rule 8, Section 1, Article 3, Item 5 states:

Simultaneous Catch. If a pass is caught simultaneously by two eligible opponents, and both players retain it, the ball belongs to the passers. It is not a simultaneous catch if a player gains control first and an opponent subsequently gains joint control. If the ball is muffed after simultaneous touching by two such players, all the players of the passing team become eligible to catch the loose ball.

So, yes, Packers and Packers fans. Your team was robbed of a victory, and you now stand with more losses than wins when you should not. The ultimate nightmare of the replacement ref "era" has happened, and a team that lost when it should have won did so because of the officials.

[Dan Wetzel: Roger Goodell needs to immediately clean up officiating mess]

What the NFL chooses to actually do about that, based on a statement that did its best to defend the indefensible, seems fairly obvious. It will do nothing at all, the regular officials will remain locked out until and unless they capitulate, and the Green Bay Packers will not be the last victims of this ridiculous process.

Here's the full statement:

NFL STATEMENT ON FINAL PLAY OF GREEN BAY PACKERS-SEATTLE SEAHAWKS GAME

In Monday's game between the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks, Seattle faced a 4th-and-10 from the Green Bay 24 with eight seconds remaining in the game.

Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson threw a pass into the end zone. Several players, including Seattle wide receiver Golden Tate and Green Bay safety M.D. Jennings, jumped into the air in an attempt to catch the ball.

While the ball is in the air, Tate can be seen shoving Green Bay cornerback Sam Shields to the ground. This should have been a penalty for offensive pass interference, which would have ended the game. It was not called and is not reviewable in instant replay.

When the players hit the ground in the end zone, the officials determined that both Tate and Jennings had possession of the ball. Under the rule for simultaneous catch, the ball belongs to Tate, the offensive player. The result of the play was a touchdown.

Replay Official Howard Slavin stopped the game for an instant replay review. The aspects of the play that were reviewable included if the ball hit the ground and who had possession of the ball. In the end zone, a ruling of a simultaneous catch is reviewable. That is not the case in the field of play, only in the end zone.

Referee Wayne Elliott determined that no indisputable visual evidence existed to overturn the call on the field, and as a result, the on-field ruling of touchdown stood. The NFL Officiating Department reviewed the video today and supports the decision not to overturn the on-field ruling following the instant replay review.

The result of the game is final.

Applicable rules to the play are as follows:

A player (or players) jumping in the air has not legally gained possession of the ball until he satisfies the elements of a catch listed here.

Rule 8, Section 1, Article 3 of the NFL Rule Book defines a catch:

A forward pass is complete (by the offense) or intercepted (by the defense) if a player, who is inbounds:

(a) secures control of the ball in his hands or arms prior to the ball touching the ground; and

(b) touches the ground inbounds with both feet or with any part of his body other than his hands; and

(c) maintains control of the ball long enough, after (a) and (b) have been fulfilled, to enable him to perform any act common to the game (i.e., maintaining control long enough to pitch it, pass it, advance with it, or avoid or ward off an opponent, etc.).

When a player (or players) is going to the ground in the attempt to catch a pass, Rule 8, Section 1, Article 3, Item 1 states:

Player Going to the Ground. If a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass (with or without contact by an opponent), he must maintain control of the ball throughout the process of contacting the ground, whether in the field of play or the end zone. If he loses control of the ball, and the ball touches the ground before he regains control, the pass is incomplete. If he regains control prior to the ball touching the ground, the pass is complete.

Rule 8, Section 1, Article 3, Item 5 states:

Simultaneous Catch. If a pass is caught simultaneously by two eligible opponents, and both players retain it, the ball belongs to the passers. It is not a simultaneous catch if a player gains control first and an opponent subsequently gains joint control. If the ball is muffed after simultaneous touching by two such players, all the players of the passing team become eligible to catch the loose ball.

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