Thursday, September 27, 2012

Diversion Time: Green Bay @ Seattle on MNF

EDIT: Thanks to Scott Kacsmar for some of the new info here. He has a great writeup on this whole thing, very similar to mine here.

Much has been made of the TD pass at the end of the game, and almost universally it has been decried as the Single Worst Call Ever in the History of Mankind. Upon further review, the call was...


In fact, it's not even close to being a bad call. There should be zero dispute, but this is a good example of the Big Lie: Repeat it often enough, it becomes the accepted truth.

There are three issues that are germane to determining whether the call in the GB at SEA game was correct: What did the ref see, what is a catch, what can be reviewed?

First, what did the official see? He was standing behind and to the right of the scrum. In interviews he has stated he was watching the flight of the ball to the scrum, which means he was standing to the right and had most of his visual attention right. This is important because people whine about the Pass Interference non-call.

Quick aside: It seems he likely just didn't see it given where his attention was focused to the right. The other officials? No clue what they were looking at. Still, this is irrelevant. After the game researchers found that in every case going back five years they found not a single instance of PI being called in a Hail Mary situation. Not one time. It just is not called in these cases, so get over it.

Quick aside B: A non-call is irrelevant to the discussion of any play. Never in the history of the NFL has a non-call been factored into determining the validity of a play by officials. It has zero relevance to the game once it doesn't happen. This can, and should, be dismissed in discussing this play. You can discuss your degree of butt-hurtness all you like, but it's irrelevant to the play.

Back to the officials. What you see on TV is nothing like what they see on the field. Things are moving in real time. They are moving, the players are moving, the ball is moving. And fast. What YOU see on TV has no bearing on discussions of the officials' performance. So the "worst call in NFL history" is actually anything but. It's a simple call, a correct call.

The official is looking at a group of five or six players, all jumping up to get the ball. 10 or more arms reaching up. Five or more helmets. One fast-moving ball. From his perspective he would have seen a tangle of all those arms, not Jennings' or Tate's arms in isolation. A tangle of arms. He would have seen the ball enter a Medusa's nest of arms, not a clear set of one pair of hands. It would have been impossible for him to know which hands were on the ball and whether they were in full control of the ball.

Next, the ball disappears down into that scrum in a fraction of a second. He is not seeing this in slow-mo. The ball isn't visible to him at all. It's within a tangle of at least four bodies at that point, with other bodies in the mix. He cannot legitimately claim to know who has the ball or how securely.

As they fall toward the turf, he has no idea what is going on inside the scrum. How do we know this? We couldn't see it, either, even with slow-mo replays on TV. We also know because none of the officials signaled anything until they were on the ground. What did he do? He ran up to the scrum and peered into it. Why? He had no idea who had the ball. So, just as in every fumble scrum you will ever see, he got in there and determined who had hands on the ball AT THAT POINT. It absolutely does not matter who had hands on it until he looks into that pile, just as with a fumble. They could have been in there playing hot potato with it for all he knew, and it would have mattered not at all. What mattered were two things: Had the ball touched the ground, and did someone, anyone, have possession among that tangle of bodies?

Well, yes, two did: Jennings and Tate. By rule, tie goes to the Offense.

This is far from a terrible call, let alone the worst call ever. If you think it is, you are not thinking. You are replacing what the refs actually saw with what you saw on the myriad replays at the time and ever since. But what you think you saw, or even did see, are irrelevant to whether the play was called correctly or not.

It is important to note that the only footage that shows a look INTO the scrum was never played by the national media. Only Seattle-area viewers saw that footage. That footage clearly shows Tate getting first hand on the ball and never losing contact with it.

So, grow up and stop blaming the refs for your lack of knowledge of the rules and objectivity with regard to what officials saw.

What's at issue? Control and possession. Control has to do with having the ball whether in the air, on the ground or sitting at Gramma's table eating milk and cookies. You have to have the ball controlled by your body without any doubt. Possession is still having control while also being on the ground. Being on the ground can be both feet or any combination of feet, elbows, shoulders, knees, butt, hips, thighs or other major body part, BUT the player must maintain control through the act of hitting the ground. It's not just the instant they touch, unless it's the two feet and no other body part, particularly when two players are fighting for the ball.

A simultaneous catch is determined by who touches the ball first. If you have control first, even if the other guy then also gets control, you are the one making the catch. But let's establish a few things first.

* Do one-handed catches occur? Yes.
* Are two hands required for control? No.

Guess whose hand the ball is in first, without ever losing it thereafter? Drumrolllllllllllll... Golden Tate's.

EDIT: All you need to know about this catch comes in the following images.

The key thing to note is the travel of the ball and how it stops falling downward when Tate catches it. THEN Jennings' grabs it, and is only able to do so BECAUSE Tate caught it and stopped the flight of the ball. IOW, Jennings would have whiffed on the ball without Tate catching it first.

First, the ball hits Tate's hand and just stops. It doesn't bounce or anything, it just stops there. This is a one-handed catch if Jennings doesn't interfere. But because Tate catches it and stops the flight of the ball, Jennings is able to get his hands on the ball.

Remember the simultaneous catch thing? If one player gets control before the other, the first player is awarded the catch?

Golden Tate was in process of making a one-handed catch. Jennings clamping his hands on an already caught ball doesn't make it his catch, even though he has two hands and Tate has one. This changes a one-handed catch into a  three-handed control of the ball. Remember, in numerous cases players have used their legs, helmets, what have you, to catch a ball. ALL that matters is that the ball does not touch the ground and is not being bobbled. That it is Tate's hand and Jennings' hands is completely irrelevant.

Please note Tate's hand is still there, on the ball. He starts pulling it to himself which also pulls Jennings down toward and over Tate himself. It's very clear in all videos you watch. If Tate were not pulling him down, Jennings should land on his toes, but he is pulled completely horizontal before contacting the field. But the key point here is, Tate caught it first in his left hand, then Jennings joined in. From that point to the time of the TD signal, this never changes except that Tate ends up with both hands on the ball before the official signals. That, however, is actually irrelevant.

There is the issue of possession and the original video feed clearly show both Tate's feet on the ground way before any part of Jennings' body touches the field. That means Tate had control first, then joint control, then clearly had possession first.

Folks, this is a an absolutely indisputable Seahawks TD.

So, rather than Jennings getting the ball then Tate grabbing it, it is completely the opposite. Jennings now has ZERO claim to having first contact and control of the ball. At real time speed, it's simultaneous. In the images above, it's Tate then Jennings. This is indisputable.

Gotta love reality... and perhaps a turkey-sized crow for all the unsportsmanlike comments and commentaries towards the refs, Golden Tate and the Seahawks. It was an absolutely, completely and utterly correct call.

Now, let's be honest here: As I have repeated over and over, in real time you can't see this, even on TV, so what is wrong with people's heads that lets them claim the refs should have?

There is NO conclusive, indisputable claim of control by either player as they are falling. Repeat, NO CONCLUSIVE, INDISPUTABLE CLAIM OF CONTROL BY EITHER PLAYER AS THEY ARE FALLING as far as the officials are concerned because they cannot see into the scrum, and were behind it, anyways.

There was a hi-def video I had here before that the link is no longer working for. In it, you could see the ball shift a bit as they were going to the ground. That would indicate neither player had full control as they went to the ground, but both had hands on it and it was not coming out.

The footage available to the refs does not allow them to determine who had the ball. Once the call for a TD is made, the evidence must be indisputable, and it is not. As noted above, the conventional wisdom is flatly wrong, anyway. This means the call on the play cannot be overturned. CANNOT BE OVERTURNED, PERIOD. Even if wrong. Luckily for us (i.e., Seattle fans and those few objective others), the call was not wrong, but was correct.Not only correct, but indisputably... in super slow motion. Tate had the ball first.

Remember: The rule is not simultaneous possession, it is simultaneous catch. There is no catch until control and possession are established.

Now, just who is down first? The following photo and video from a Seattle area TV station clearly show Tate has both feet on the ground long before Jennings does. Tate's feet are down, and stay down, long before Jennings. Jennings is not down until he falls on Tate. Tate has therefore established possession first. (But, to repeat and be fair, in real time it's impossible to see who got the ball first. In slow motion you can't tell who touches first for certain, but it mostly looks like Jennings. It's only in super  slow, frame-by-frame we can see Tate actually gets the ball first.)

This photo (there used to be a video from Seattle's Fox Q13 station there, too) shows Tate's left hand still cradling the ball, and both feet on the ground. That's a catch. Right there, right then, it's control plus possession and equals a catch. But not for Jennings. Not yet. He has not established possession at all.

Seattle Times pic

The following series of pics from a photographer at the same angle shows it slowly so you can be completely sure Tate was down first. Tate's feet are down by frame 3, but Jennings is not down till his second foot hits in frame 7. IF both have control while falling, Tate's ball. Seattle TD.

Seattle Times animated .gif

But, since we have no conclusive, indisputable claim of control prior to both being on the ground, who was on the ground first is actually irrelevant. The next question is, was there a catch of any kind at all? Answer? Yes. Why? The ball clearly never touches the ground, so SOMEBODY caught it.

The only time we can be indisputably sure of control AND possession is when both are on the ground. At that point, BOTH have control AND possession. The rules are clear here: when both an offensive and defensive player have control and possession of the ball, THE BALL GOES TO THE RECEIVER.

The ref that made the call speaks out, and he's correct: Ref Lance Easley Speaks.

Sorry Green Bay, you neither got robbed nor jobbed.


This is the simplest part of this. Once a ruling of a TD is made, regardless whether correct or incorrect, the only question then is about the TD. WHO caught the ball cannot be reviewed. Interference cannot be reviewed. Whether you like or agree with these two rules is irrelevant.

They are the rules. The booth official was not looking to see if PI should have been called.

The booth official was not looking to see who had possession first.

The booth official was looking at whether Tate had the ball and whether the ball hit the turf prior to possession. That's it. Nothing else matters to him. Regardless whether he at that moment thinks the field official screwed the call up or not, he is limited to asking only if the ball hit the turf and whether Tate had possession at the time the TD was signaled.

This is very important: It doesn't matter of he did not have possession at any moment prior to the TD signal, nor if he lost possession after the TD signal. (Which he didn't, just for clarity.) All that matters to that replay official is whether the ball hit the ground and whether Tate had control and possession, jointly or singly, at the time the TD was signaled.

And he did.

TD, game over. And it is SIMPLE and CORRECT. The replay official could not have called it differently without ignoring the rules.

Merriam-Webster definition:
conduct (as fairness, respect for one's opponent, and graciousness in winning or losing) becoming to one participating in a sport.

I would add to that, not jumping to conclusions and characterizing a play or a result before all facts are clearly known. We all have seen the near-universal complaining and the characterization of this call as the Worst Call in NFL History. All of this was premature, and ultimately proven to be incorrect. Maybe I'm experiencing selective amnesia, but I seem to remember back in my youth ('70's and 80's) that commentators and analysts were careful to couch their observations such to be respectful of the refs. But not on Monday night. It was fair game from the first moment to pillory the call, the refs and even the Seahawks players and team.

The refs were called incompetent and a cry went up about replacement refs. But the guy who actually decided the call was not a replacement. The review official was a regular review official. Ruh-roh! What's the excuse, then? Worst Call Ever not overturned by a regular offical!!

Except that was wrong. But it was always wrong. Anyone who considered that play as a clear-cut and indisputable INT was not thinking.

1. What the refs see on the ground and what we see on TV is VASTLY different. The ref that was behind could not have seen clearly who had control, so called it based on what he found in the pile: both players in possession and in control: Touchdown, Seahawks.

Absolutely, completely and utterly correct call on his part.

2. The other ref that came over from the opposite side ALSO could not have seen who had or maintained possession as they fell. In fact, we have no idea what he saw. We've never seen his line of sight. At best, he could only have seen the first moments of possession. Now, there is some confusion as to what he was signalling. Some think, and this fits the majority meme on this of Worst Call Ever, he was signalling a touchback. If so, based on what he absolutely did see, Jennings with early control, but no possession since he wasn't down, and unable to see who held possession as they fell, was also absolutely, completely and utterly correct on his part. Once he ran around and saw Jennings' hands on the ball, and if you assume they always were, no simultaneous possession, so INT and touchback.

2b. Others believe he was trying to signal time had expired, thus implicitly accepting the TD ruling. If so, an absolutely, completely and utterly correct call on his part.

Two refs, three different facets. And neither had full view of the players and their hands for the full play. Not simple, not easy, not clear-cut. Unless you are watching at home on TV, or watching replays, but without the full range of replays. And now we know you also have to have frame by frame analysis to see The Truth, The Whole Truth, and Nothing But The Truth, and that is that Golden Tate had first touch and control, then Jennings added his hands, and Tate had first possession. TD.

3. As a fan, player, coach or commentator you have to put yourself in the shoes of the officials. What did they see? What YOU can see is irrelevant. What is relevant is what THEY can see, and the context within the rules of the NFL. That is the only principled thing to do: judge them on what they saw.

If Jennings had control from first touch to gaining possession by touching his feet/body down and still having control, it's an INT. But the refs could not possibly have seen whether his hands moved, they can only assume. But that is not what refs are supposed to do. They must judge based on what is seen. All that is indisputably seen by the refs is Jennings seeming to gain first control (but not indisputably as Tate is also in the mix), Tate being down first, both players with control and possession once both are down. Neither could see what happened in the tangle of bodies as they fell. The proper call there is Seattle TD because it is impossible to be sure the jostling for the ball did not result in Jennings losing full control of the ball. As we formerly saw in the video link that no longer works, he does lose full control when we see his hands moving. (And we, again, now know Tate actually had the ball first and never lost his contact with the ball.)

An absolutely, completely and utterly correct call on their part, even before we knew anything about the frame-by-frame showing Tate getting the ball first.

But even if the call had been wrong, once called, it must be indisputably wrong. The context is important! The replay official can now only overturn the call if there is indisputable proof Jennings not only first had, but also maintained, control of the ball through the act of gaining possession by being down while still having control, and that Tate gained control after Jennings. Most TV angles and quality of replay do not allow this. The one Hi-Def video we do have shows Jennings' hands moving as he is falling to the turf. I can only assume the replay official has the same quality of equipment and saw this. Thus, not only can he not overturn, he must fully agree with the call on the field. But even if he, individually, did disagree, he cannot overturn because it is not indisputable that Jennings maintained control from first touch through full possession nor that Tate did not also have control of and possession of the ball.

He MUST uphold the call, by NFL rule. An absolutely, completely and utterly correct call on his part.

It was and is one of the worst displays of lack of sportsmanship I've ever seen for players, fans, analysts and commentators to be insulting the refs, Seattle players, the Seahawks team and the Seahawks' fan base.

They have all completely failed to remember the refs see it differently than they do on TV or even on the field. Even for the Packers players who have been so unsportsmanlike, their line of sight is not the same as the officials. To assume they see what you see is not logical, so to base your scorn on them based on that is first illogical and thus unsportsmanlike.

Add to that the officials are bound by rules that limit their individual opinion in making a decision. Maybe the replay official thought it was an INT, but it didn't matter, if so, because the evidence was not indisputable. To pillory him for that is ridiculous.

At the end of the day, this was a very, very easy call to make, just not as most think.... or don't think, to be more accurate. It was correct.

Awww... the poor Packers! Their whole season might be gone... what if... what if... what if....?

Good. Let's play the "What if...?" game.

1. What if Green Bay hadn't run into the brick wall of Seattle's Defense, particularly in the first half?

2. What if Jennings had done as instructed and tried to bat the ball away? We all initially thought he could have easily tipped it up and over all their heads since we thought he had first contact at the highest point of contact. Now we know he didn't. But he still could have easily batted it away since Tate only had one hand on it in the initial nanoseconds. After that, Tate had a strong enough grip on the ball that he was able to pull both it and Jennings to his chest. But what if Jennings had tried? It might have gone out of bounds or tumbled to the turf incomplete. But he decided to try to catch it. Perhaps he forgot the tie-to-the-runner rule?

3. What if Kam Chancellor hadn't been improperly flagged on Green Bay's TD drive? Green Bay was not past midfield, it was third down and would have been fourth-and-two without that absolutely horrid call. Talk about a bad call!! He perfectly got his hand into the area in front of the receiver and knocked the ball away. Nobody disputes that was a crap call. Nobody. Yet, there it was: Obviously wrong, but not subject to review. Talk about insanity!!! What a stupid rule!

There was about 11:30 on the clock. Green Bay would have punted. No TD. That play changed the scoring just as much as the final pass did. Without that bad call, there is zero chance of a GB TD on that drive. Score? 7 - 6 in favor of Seattle at the time of the Wail Mary. Seattle's D HELD UP, but that effort was erased by a bad call. And that affected the eventual score. There would have been no pass into the end zone needed in the final seconds. It would have been a kneel down.

4. What if Green Bay hadn't run into the Seattle buzz saw on the two point conversion? If the last play ruling was not reversed, it's a tie game, or a Seattle two point conversion, or GB win if Seattle didn't get a two point conversion. All under Green Bay's control. But, Seattle's D held up AGAIN by knocking the ball away. (Hear that Jennings?). The last call of the last play of the game should have been irrelevant for GB, but it wasn't because they were being punked by Seattle's D.

5a. What about Karma? Seattle @ NYJ, Testaverde's white helmet called a football, and the helmet scores a TD. This wasn't a third game of the season where Seattle had a chance to win 13 more games. No, this was to get into the playoffs. Now that truly was an egregious call. It was completely and utterly wrong. And it didn't cost Seattle just a game, it cost them the playoffs.

 5b. And what if the Seattle vs. Pittsburgh SB hadn't been botched completely and utterly, robbing Seattle of a chance at a championship? You want to talk karma? Please. We're talking about play after play - there were thirteen of them - that jobbed Seattle. It was a bleeping Super Bowl, not some third game of the year, and not just one play!!

Are ya freakin' kidding me? Your poor season is all but over? What if you continue to suck and get beat out of the playoffs by one game? Yeah, what if you choose not to win. You bet! A travesty of the highest order! The greatest football jobbing in history!


5c. And what if Green Bay wasn't the beneficiary of not one, but two completely botched calls vs. Minnesota in 2010? Where was all the gnashing of teeth on the part of the Packers then? Why wasn't THEIR manhood at issue for not admitting they did not win, but were gifted the game? And not only a game, but a playoff spot. That led to a Super Bowl. The hypocrisy is incredible.

6. Green Bay can still end the season 14 - 2. [EDIT: Oops! Lost three more games, including the last game of the season... by three points! Seattle's fault, obviously.] What, exactly, have they been robbed of? Nothing. But I guarantee you that if they have any mettle at all (and based on the unsportsmanlike conduct of the players and organization, that is questionable till the next game proves one way or the other) this loss will light a fire under their butts. They are actually more likely to go 14 - 2 now than they were before this game. Excuse the sarcasm, but those poor, pitiful Packers having to carry such a burden!

C'mon, people. Get real.

Here's my, "What if...?":

What if sportsmanship still meant something in American sports?

Wouldn't that be somethin'...

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