Coffee is not the only brewing in Seattle these days. Again, the Seattle Seahawks find themselves at the center of an officiating controversy. One that occurred in the end zone. One that dramatically altered the course of an NFL game.
On this occasion, the play in question occurred late in the fourth quarter of Seattle’s 13-10 victory over the Detroit Lions on Monday. As Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson was attempting to stretch the ball across for a touchdown that would have given his team the lead with under two minutes to play, he instead saw it punched out of his hands by the incomparable Kam Chancellor. The ball was then punched out of the back of the end zone by K.J. Wright, giving the Seahawks the ball at the 20-yard line due to a touchback.
The Legion of Boom made a big play, Seattle’s stifling defense secured a big win. If only it were that simple.
Unbeknownst to many of the players and all of the officials on the field, awarding the Seahawks the ball was the wrong call. Intentionally batting the ball out of the back of the end zone is not allowed. Seattle should have been called for a penalty, enforced half the distance from the goal, with the ball returning to the Lions. Unfortunately, the back judge did not feel it was an “overt act,” though replay would show it clearly was. The play is not reviewable.
“Yeah, you can’t hit it backwards, and you can’t intentionally, I guess, knock it out,” said Wright. “But at the time I wasn’t thinking that, I was just trying to not mess up the game. So I know now.”
NFL Vice President of Officiating Dean Blandino confirmed that the officials in the game blew the call, stating “Yeah, looking at the replay, it looks like a bat. It looks like he takes his right hand and bats it intentionally. It’s a foul. We have to make that call.”
There are no replacement referees to blame on this occasion. The officials during the game were the real deal. Still, the call was blown. While Johnson accepted the blame for the loss, safety James Ihedigbo was not quite as forgiving.
“It’s costing wins and losses. A simple, ‘Sorry, we made a mistake,’ doesn’t suffice,” said Ihedigbo. “… (The officials have) got to be held accountable, just like the players are.”
Though one play does not usually decide the outcome of a game, on this occasion, the Lions’ chances of winning would have been 85.39 percent (according to numberFire) if they scored a touchdown on that drive. They should have been awarded the ball on the one-inch line. Instead, they saw it go to the Seahawks; and are left scratching their heads, owners of a winless 0-4 record.