I had the Monday Night Football game between the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers circled on my calendar for a long time. Ever since I started my new job in Seattle, I was excited for September 24th clash. I’m a television sportscaster, but I’m still also a huge sports fan. That’s what makes my job so incredible. I was paid to be on the sidelines for what turned out to be one of the most thrilling and controversial finishes in NFL history.
I’ve covered an NFL game before, but that was back in 2006. It was the NFC Championship between the Seattle Seahawks and Carolina Panthers. The Seahawks beat the Panthers that night, 34-14. I was relatively new to the television business, so that was easily the most fun I’d ever had at a sporting event. The crowd was incredible. Aside from one other moment in my life (after Edgar Martinez hit the go-ahead grand slam against the New York Yankees in Game 4 of the 1995 American League Division Series and the fans inside the Kingdome erupted), I didn’t know humans beings could make so much noise. I couldn’t even hear the guy standing right next to me, because it literally sounded like ten fighter jets were flying right by my ears.
That’s exactly what CenturyLink Field sounded like again last night. The place was rocking for Monday Night Football. The real “this is actually happening” moment for me came when Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson trotted onto the field for pregame warm-ups. The stadium was still filling up, but the crowd that was there made plenty of noise. I got chills thinking about the magnitude of the game. A former University of Wisconsin quarterback facing off against Wisconsin’s team — the Green Bay Packers. That was one of several great storylines. I just had a feeling it would be a special night.
Defense was the name of the game in the first half. The Seahawks had eight sacks in the first 30 minutes. It was pure domination. Chris Clemons had four sacks in the first half alone. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen before. Bruce Irvin also had two sacks — both of which were predicted by my photographer Paul Koehnke (pronounced ‘Kinky’ — seriously). Aside from a 41-yard touchdown pass from Russell Wilson to Golden Tate in the second quarter, the game was at a standstill in Seattle. The Seahawks led the Packers 7-0 at the intermission.
Green Bay made the appropriate halftime adjustments and dominated time of possession in the second half. They started running the ball, which opened the passing game for Aaron Rodgers. The Seahawks defense was still stout when they needed to be (even though they were tired as hell thanks to the ineptitude of the Seahawks offense), holding Green Bay to just 12 points. Seattle’s impressive defensive effort was completely overshadowed by what happened late in the game.
Trailing 12-7, the Seahawks had one last drive to beat the Packers. They got the ball with :46 to play. After a 22-yard pass from Russell Wilson to Sidney Rice, the Seahawks were on the Packers 24-yard line, and well within striking distance. The next three passes were incomplete, leaving the Seahawks with fourth down and only :08. Russell Wilson took the snap and all the receivers made a beeline to the end zone. Wilson was forced to roll left and eventually fired away. I was standing in the back corner of the end zone, so the play literally unfolded right in front of me. I remember watching the ball fly through the air and seeing it drop into the mess of players. At first it looked like M.D. Jennings picked off the pass, but then I took a closer look when the players were on the ground. I saw that Golden Tate had his arms around the ball as well. The officials rushed in and ruled it a touchdown. If you somehow missed it >> watch the play right here.
Chaos — that’s the best word to describe what happened next. The Seahawks players swarmed the end zone to celebrate the touchdown. I was among the cameras that circled around Tate just seconds after his game-winning score. Packers players were lost in the mix, and it almost looked like a fight was about to break out. Reporters were shoving their microphones in Tate’s face and the play wasn’t even reviewed yet. Players, coaches, and — I don’t even know who else — were all over the field. While you were watching replays on television, I saw Packers and Seahawks players barking at each other all over the field. I honestly thought a brawl was going to break out. I even saw Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll grabbing some of his players to keep them out of trouble.
I don’t know how, but order was finally restored as the teams went back to their sidelines. That didn’t last long though. The place went crazy again after the game-winning touchdown was confirmed by the replay officials. The Seahawks extra point unit went on the field to finish the game, but the Packers went to the locker room. Everyone else stormed the field again. Seahawks were doing interviews and cameras were following players around as they were celebrating. Meanwhile, the Seahawks special teams guys knew they still needed to kick the extra point. They were looking around and throwing their hands into the air, basically saying what I was, “What in the world is going on right now?” It was truly pandemonium, which finally ended with the Seahawks heading into the locker room without kicking the extra point.
Fans were making their way to the stands, while I was heading to the locker room to get postgame interviews. All of a sudden the Seahawks were coming through the tunnel back onto the field. In what was already an embarrassing situation for the replacement officials, Seattle still needed to kick the extra point to end the game — like the special teams players had thought earlier. Nearly five minutes (if not longer) after the touchdown was confirmed, with the stadium almost bare, Steven Hauschka made the extra point, finally bringing an end to what was one of the strangest moments I’ll ever experience at a sporting event in my life.
It was funny to listen to all the conversations in the media room. Everyone was either debating the call or telling their version of the final eight seconds of the game. Some people were convinced that Tate came down with it, while others thought the ruling a joke. The official call was that it was a “simultaneous catch”. Simply explained — a tie goes to the wide receiver. So, even though M.D. Jennings and Golden Tate both had their hands on the ball, the advantage goes to Tate. The debate/stories didn’t end at CenturyLink Field either. Everyone at my television station was talking about the game, and even folks at the grocery were in debate when I walked in after work. Everywhere you turned — it was the topic of the night.
I was looking forward to covering Monday Night Football and it was everything I hoped it would be — and much more. Like I said in my report from CenturyLink Field last night, people can debate all they want, but in the end it’s a win for the Seahawks, a loss for the Packers, and an even bigger loss for the NFL and the replacement officials. Some are already calling it the “Play of Infamy”. No matter what it’s called – it’s one of the most exciting finishes we’ll ever see on the gridiron and I was on the field for every second of it.
I would love to hear what you saw in the final eight seconds of the game! Was it a touchdown or an interception? I can’t wait to hear what you have to say. Leave a message below or connect with me on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Don’t forget to also check out http://allaroundtim.com for more great sports coverage!