From the Green Bay Packers perspective, the referee on the field got the call right – and it’s the call that clinched the Packers’ eighth berth in an NFC Championship Game.
From the Seattle Seahawks’ perspective? Not so much.
With two minutes left in the Packers’ 28-23 win over the Seahawks, the Packers had the ball with a critical third down conversion necessary to guarantee that Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson, who had terrorized the Packers in the second half and turned a 21-3 halftime lead into a blood pressure-filled situation, would not get the football left.
Aaron Rodgers chose to go to Jimmy Graham, his often-maligned tight end who used to play for Seattle, for the game-clincher. Graham caught Rodgers’ pass, but needed to reach to get the first down.
As a Seattle tackler attempted to stop him, a referee ruled – in the split-second full-speed instinctual decision-making process that only the best referees can do with the best judgment – that Graham moved the football to the required first down line, clinching the game.
Imagine Aaron Rodgers and Jimmy Graham playing together in their primes 😭 pic.twitter.com/h5tS4YrCZE— Kyle ⚾️ (@KyleNYY) January 13, 2020
But was the call right?
Seattle coach Pete Carroll did not think so. And he was, due to the gravity of the situation, understandably rather vociferous in his argument.
Not even replay could decide, as the NFL replay office in New York twice reviewed the play after getting additional angles to study every possibilty for conclusive evidence.
Because of the nature of how Graham fell while being tackled, they couldn’t find anything conclusive.
So the call stood.
Seattle coach Pete Carroll was not supremely critical of the official for making the call during the postgame press conference, but expressed how had that official called it in favor of Seattle, it also probably would have been inconclusive based on video evidence – so the on-field call would have been the decider either way.
“Had they called him short, then it would’ve been short … That’s how it goes.”— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) January 13, 2020
Pete Carroll addresses the Jimmy Graham 3rd-down catch that was ruled a first down. pic.twitter.com/RjY9MXL1tz
It was the second time a spot call burned Seattle in a two-week period. The first, just off the San Francisco goal line with no time left in their regular-season ending showdown, decided the NFC West championship.
This one cost the Seahawks their season. (Not that Packers fans are complaining.)