Re-live the insane ending that was Monday night's game between the Packers and Seahawks with two Packers fans -- Kevin McCauley of Acme Packing Company and Andy Hutchins -- and one Seahawks fan -- Brian Floyd, formerly of SB Nation Seattle. Those three exchanged emails shortly after Monday's game ended and we all tried to wrap our head around what we just saw.
Andy 12:22 a.m. ET: It is 12:22 a.m. and I should really be sleeping -- I have a test in the morning and a study guide that I need to complete before then -- but I cannot slow my heart down at all, because I think I just saw the NFL team I have loved for 15 years lose a game because of one of the worst calls in sports history.
Stuart Scott just read the NFL's "simultaneous possession" rule on SportsCenter, and it sounds like it should have favored the Packers on that last play: it would have applied if M.D. Jennings and Golden Tate had controlled the ball at the same time, but every replay I've seen seems to show Tate getting control of the ball after Jennings high-points it and pulls it home.
I'm livid about this, obviously, and I'm not sure this is something I can ever forgive the NFL for. But I'm proud of myself for not punching any of the three things that I considered punching in front of me.
Kevin 12:32 a.m.: I think I need to turn the heat up in my apartment. I am wearing three shirts and I am shivering. Typing this email is painful because my hands are so stiff. I feel like I have frostbite. And yet, my thermostat reads 70 degrees, and I am confused. I am shaking. I don't know if I'm doing it out of anger, sickness, or both, but that game seriously affected my physical health.
Brian, tell us about how it was simultaneous possession and we're a bunch of crybabies.
Brian 12:38 a.m.: I'm not going to go the obvious route and say all is well and fine. That was, I'm almost sure, an interception. But you know what? Screw it. I've seen my teams screwed by the refs. I watched Super Bowl XL and saw the Seahawks get jobbed on a much bigger stage. Am I going to feel bad about the refs taking a game away from the Packers and giving it to the Seahawks? Nope. Not one bit.
The thing is, we all should've expected this. I'm just surprised it didn't happen sooner. That the incompetence of the replacement officials benefited my own team is an added bonus. And that it happened on Monday Night Football with everyone watching puts a smile on my face. I'd be livid if I were a Packers fan -- as you both understandably are -- but dangit I feel amazing after watching that.
I guess what I want to know is what was going through your heads as the ball was in the air, then during the scrum on the ground? How was that swing of emotion from "We've got the ball" to "We lost the game"?
Andy, 12:53 a.m.: I swear on everything sacred in my life that my first reaction when I saw the ball come down in someone's arms, a Packer's arms, was to jump out of my chair and clap. I didn't know if it was going to be called a pick, but I'm sure I saw one ... and to have it ripped away like that felt like a Mortal Kombat fatality: cartoonish and ultimately inconsequential, but incredibly, disgustingly bloody nonetheless.
I think about why I watch sports an awful lot for someone who works in sports media, and I'm often more dismayed by things in sports than I am delighted; it's the moments of pure, absolute joy that make up in height for what they lack in length, to steal a phrase from Robert Frost. But one thing I rely on is the idea that games are contested on playing fields as close to level as possible, allowing athletes to better each other with talent and smarts and gumption, with as little of the human element in interpretation of rules factored in as possible. That one thing seems like a noble goal that should always be upheld.
For want of maybe fractions of a percentage point of their titanic revenue totals, the NFL's powers that be have forsaken fairness and failed to make even a good-faith effort to ensure it. There were about four egregious blown calls on the final two drives of Monday's game before that "touchdown." How can that sit well with anyone, that doubt? How can we be sure that either team would have deserved to win this game?
Kevin 1 a.m.: Andy's point is a great one, and a very important one. Yes, M.D. Jennings came down with that ball and the last call of the game was absolutely ridiculous, but we have to think about how we even got to that point.
On the Packers' touchdown drive, the referees made two consecutive bad spots inside the two-yard line. They were aided in their march down the field by missed holding calls and a terrible pass interference call. On their second to last drive, the Seahawks benefited from a phantom roughing the passer call that nullified an interception. On the Seahawks' game-winning drive, Charles Woodson got away with pass interference.
The bad calls piled up throughout the game, but they were particularly egregious during the final four drives of the game, and there were both bad calls and missed penalties that benefited both teams. For me, the lasting image from this game will be one official calling an interception and touchback on the final play while the other called a touchdown, but that play was merely the cherry on top of a shit sundae.
The entire game was a farce. Even if the referees made the correct call on the final call of the game, it would have been the most poorly officiated game I had ever seen.
Andy 1:09 a.m.: Just as an aside: the worst officiating I've ever seen came during "The Swindle in The Swamp," in which about eight different bad calls went against Florida in 2003, allowing Chris Rix to have the greatest moment of his life and win a 38-34 shootout that was entertaining despite the abysmal officiating. My team (Florida) lost but at least I enjoyed most of the game until the bitter end.
Tonight's game was less entertaining and more "entertaining" in far more mind-blowing ways: from the Packers' complete offensive ineptitude in the first half to their total control in the second half until the last Seattle drive, my team looked atrocious and then awesome in the span of 55 minutes of game clock, and then the Seattle Screw happened to overshadow it all. If the officiating game mars the game to the point where it becomes the only thing even worth discussing in the game's aftermath, I think that game is in the conversation for the worst-officiated contests ever.
Brian, 1:13 a.m.: Wait, wait, wait. Let's not call this whole game a farce here. That win is going to show up in the standings and I ... erm, the Seahawks, earned it.
We can pick apart penalties and bad calls all we want. In just about every game, one can go through and spot holds, bad pass interference calls and just plain missed calls. Replacement refs or not, it's just going to happen.
The focus should still be that last play, because it will be the lasting memory of this game, and the replacement referees. It's not going away. Nobody will remember missed holding calls or questionable roughing the passer calls. And the Seahawks took their lumps with bad calls, too. It's just part of the game, only magnified by the fact that these refs aren't the normal ones.
Still, that one play is the perfect snapshot: one ref with his arms up signaling touchdown, the other signaling an interception. Everyone was waiting for a game to be decided by the refs, and now they have it. And it feels damn good to be on the right side of the controversial call.
I'll be honest, I thought "Uh oh, Russell Wilson is going full Tebow" as he whirled around and found room to throw. And I held my breath as the ball was in the air, as I'm sure everyone in the stadium did. When it came down, everything went flying. Laptop, chips, headphones ... all of it. I was sure he had caught it, even though the ball landed in the middle of the scrum. Take your swing of emotions and flip it, and that was me.
It was only after the replay that I realized this play might be a problem. M.D. Jennings high-pointed the ball, and Golden Tate appeared to pull the old grab-onto-the-ball late move. You know, like a tie-up in basketball. One where a player tries to sell it by ripping the ball away.
I feel really good, to be honest, that the Hail Mary will be shown on highlight reels for a very long time and that the Seahawks were on the right end of it. But there's also a sense of dread: This won't be the last time something like this happens, or worse. What happens when the refs lose control of a game and a player takes a shot to the head again -- like Darrius Heyward-Bey? And what if it's worse?
We've seen the full spectrum of bad calls this week, including ones that contradict the NFL's focus on player safety and the integrity of the game.
Andy 1:41 a.m.: Let's be honest and call the NFL's last two years of attempting to strong-arm the people who get blamed for things what they are: attempts to make money above all else, ones that have seriously damaged the league's ability to promote its product as safe and fully on the up-and-up, but ones that have done very little to damage the league's ability to sell its product.
I'm well in the minority in caring as much about getting every call right as I do -- I don't even boo the right calls when they go against my teams, because I think the way to make refs make good calls is to expect them to make good calls and reinforce them when they do. But I would guess that of the millions and millions of NFL fans across the globe, there isn't more than a CenturyLink Field-sized contingent of 'em that watches the NFL "because it's safe." Football is brutal, legal savagery, and we love it for that, but the consequences of football only get discussed occasionally, when Eric LeGrand or Devon Walker or Darrius Heyward-Bey gets hit in an unnatural way, and those conversations seem to be on the back burner of late.
Believing a conspiracy theory which holds that the NFL is letting replacement refs become the story to push that issue to the background is reaching; believing that the NFL doesn't care as much as it says it does about player safety and/or doesn't realize how dangerous this climate seems is a bit more logical; believing that the NFL knows that its audience gives it a pass on the violence -- because it has, and does, and turns on the TV for hours and hours each week to see it, and would have welcomed the NFL's proposed 18-game schedule with slobbering -- just seems right.
Why does this result seem so seismic? Is it because we now see clearly that the NFL, in at least one way, is giving us a flawed product?
Kevin, 1:53 a.m.: The result of this game and this call seems so seismic because, in addition to being abhorrent as a standalone thing, it was a part of a near-perfect convergence of circumstances.
If the last play of this game happened during an early afternoon game, on Week 1, between two poor teams, in a game that was otherwise well officiated, it would get swept under the rug. The talking heads would have spent five minutes or less talking about the blown call, everyone would agree that the NFL needs to work out a deal with the regular officials, and then everyone would move on with their lives.
Instead, this play happened at the end of a game that was poorly officiated from start to finish. It happened on Monday Night Football, with no other sporting events to draw attention away from the game. Because both of the teams involved in the game are very good teams, people were willing to stay up past midnight to watch the ending. It happened at the end of a week loaded with poorly officiated games, the third such week of its kind.
As a general football-viewing public, I feel like we were ready to explode. We were looking for the mother of all replacement referee gaffes, one that we could point to as the shining example of exactly why Roger Goodell has to fix the problem immediately.
I really believe that most football fans have subconsciously -- and some football fans consciously, if not vocally -- have been hoping for this since the first week of the season. I'm sad that it cost my team a victory, but if my team is part of the biggest reason why the NFL's product and the integrity of their games is rescued in the coming weeks, I'll be able to live with it.
Brian 2:02 a.m.: I don't think it's a secret that some fans have been rooting for this to happen. And if nothing else, the refs certainly were. This was the perfect scenario for them: Last weekend was bad, this weekend was worse, and Monday night was the cherry on top. The public outcry is about as high as its going to get, and the regular refs have all the leverage in the world.
So in the end, the normal refs will win. And the Seahawks did win. The losers here are the NFL, who loses money in the deal, and the Packers. I can live with that.
Will people stop watching the NFL because of Monday night's ending? Nope. They'll keep coming back. They were entertained and have something to talk about. The NFL machine will roll on, because people want to be entertained, whether it comes by way of a controversial call and crazy ending or not.
Andy, 2:07 a.m.: It is 2:04 a.m. ET and Stuart Scott just informed the ESPN viewing audience that this game, the 664th Monday Night Football game ever, was the first MNF contest to end on a touchdown as time expired in the fourth quarter.
Millions who tuned in got to witness something that has never been seen before in the history of the NFL. So that's cool, I guess.
Brian, 2:13 a.m.: Pete Carroll will cap this off for me.