Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Forty-Seven Percenters

Mitt Romney made headlines recently by saying he believes 47% of the country does not believe in personal responsibility. The aftermath of the Seahawks win over the Packers is revealing the percentage may be higher among those choosing to boil over three hours of football down to one man's decision. There are those that would even have trouble reading that last sentence because it describes the game as a Seahawks win. Everyone who has played and watched sports growing up has seen and experienced countless bad calls, some that have drastically altered the outcome of the game. The lesson we have all been taught, and pass down to our children, is that you cannot control the referees, but you can control how you play on the field. That lesson has somehow been completely absent from the national conversation about this game. The predominant story line has been that the NFL gave the Seahawks a win, or that the Seahawks stole a win. Absurd. Weak. Unsportsmanlike. Packer fans have every right to be furious about a call they did not agree with. NFL fans have every right to be furious that our teams are playing games with unqualified officials. None of that changes the fact that the Seahawks won the game, and the Packers lost it over the course 119 plays, not one.

Green Bay started their first possession at their own 35-yard line. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers scrambled for 16 yards on the first play, moving the ball to the Seattle 49-yard line. The Packers next play was a run for no gain. Then, another run for no gain. Rodgers dropped back to pass on 3rd down and the Bruce Irvin sacked him. Seattle wins. 

Seattle's second possession ended with a punt that they downed at the Green Bay 1-yard line. The Packers ran 8 plays and gained 25 yards while being sacked two more times. Seattle wins. 

The second quarter began, and the Seahawks offense had managed only one first down on their own. Green Bay, owners of the most powerful offense in football, began their third possession at their own 37-yard line, with the scored still tied 0-0. They gained eight yards on first down to reach the 45-yard line. They managed another yard on second down to make it 3rd and 1. Rodgers was sacked. Seattle wins.

Seattle did nothing with their next possession, but Jon Ryan kicked another beauty 65 yards down field, and the coverage unit held the dangerous Randall Cobb to a 6-yard return. The Packers started at their own 11-yard line. Cobb made a nice run for 20 yards on first down to get out to the 31. Cedric Benson ran for four yards next. An incomplete pass left a 3rd and 6 at the Green Bay 48-yard line. Rodgers was sacked, and there was a holding call against their line. Seattle wins.

Tim Masthay did not pin the Seahawks inside their 20. He kicked it to the 21-yard line, and Leon Washington returned it out to the 27. A holding call on first down moved the Seahawks back to their 17. A defensive offsides and two running plays later, it was 3rd and 4 on the Seattle 33-yard line. Russell Wilson scrambled for 7 yards and first down to the Seattle 40. Marshawn Lynch ran for four yards on the next play, and Packers linebacker D.J. Smith got caught slapping the face of Seahawks lineman Paul McQuistan after the play for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct, moving the ball to the Packers 41-yard line. Wilson threw a deep touchdown on the next play when Golden Tate badly beat Tramon Williams. Seattle wins. 

The Packers got their next possession at roughly the same spot, the 24, where Seattle had started theirs (the 27). Rodgers converted a third down pass to James Jones for 14 yards, moving them to Green Bay 42. Brandon Mebane sacked Rodgers on first down for a loss, but was flagged 15 yards for a face mask. That moved the Packers into Seahawks territory, down to the 47. Unlike Seattle, the Packers could not capitalize  Jeff Saturday held on the next play to move them back 10 yards. Chris Clemons sacked Rodgers on the next play to move them back seven more yards. Clemons sacked Rodgers again on the next play. The Packers faced a 3rd and 28, and decided to dump the ball off to their fullback for a short gain before punting. Seattle wins.

Green Bay came out after halftime and moved the ball expertly down the field. The drive benefited from a roughing the passer penalty on Bobby Wagner that looked strikingly similar to the roughing call made against the Packers later in the game. It occurred at the 11:22 mark in the 3rd quarter, for those that want to go back and watch it. That call moved the ball from the Seattle 43 to the Seattle 28. Two plays later, the Packers faced 3rd and 2 when the Seahawks were flagged for twelve men on the field to give Green Bay a first down. The Packers lost a yard on 1 and 10 at the Seahawks 15 to bring up 2nd and 11. Rodgers completed a pass for 6 yards to make it 3rd and 5 from the Seahawks 10-yard line. The third down pass fell incomplete, and the Packers had to settle for a field goal. Those four points missed become crucial. Seattle wins.

After Seattle went backwards 16 yards on their next possession, Ryan punted it 66 yards and the special teams held Cobb to a 4-yard return. The Packers drive down to the Seahawks 34-yard line for a 3rd and 5 play. Seattle stops Benson short of the first down, but a dubious illegal hands to the face call against Brandon Browner on the opposite side of the field give the Packers a first down. Benson goes up the middle for seven yards on first down to get to the 22-yard line. Green Bay had the ball 2nd and 3 at the Seattle 22, and proceeded to throw two incomplete passes. The Packers go 55 yards on their first possession and 69 yards on their second, scoring on both, but still trailing 7-6. Seattle wins.

The Packers stuff the Seahawks on the next series, and Green Bay gets the ball back at their own 19 early in the 4th quarter. They move to the Seattle 47-yard line on 3rd and 2. There is an incomplete pass, but a questionable pass interference penalty grants the Packers new life. They get all the way to the Seahawks 2-yard line when Rodgers attempts to scramble for the first down and is ruled short of the line to gain. A replay review leads the official to declare a first down without the benefit of a measurement. The Packers score a touchdown, and decide to go for a two-point conversion. Browner breaks up the play. Those two points end up being the margin of defeat. Seattle wins.

Seattle starts at their own 20, and benefits from two questionable calls on roughing the passers and defensive pass interference. They reach the Packers 7-yard line, but do not score. The calls were certainly dubious, but no points were scored as a result. The Packers get the ball at their own 2, and fumble on first down, gain no yards on second down, and get two yards on 3rd down. A first down there would have ended the game. They had run effectively much of the half, but did not convert with the game on the line. Seattle wins.

The Seahawks start their final possession at the Green Bay 46 with 0:46 left to play. Wilson throws incomplete down-field to Evan Moore. It appeared to be pass interference, but there was no call. Seattle completes the next pass 22 yards to Sidney Rice. The team is in position to win the game on a questionable call, and that is what happens. 

Revisionist history will remember this game as one the Seahawks stole, or the NFL gave to the Seattle. Some Packer fans will choose to believe they were robbed of a victory. Even some Seattle fans will be convinced this was a shameful outcome. There were 119 plays in that game. The Seahawks made winning plays far more often than the Packers over the course of the evening. There were questionable calls on both sides that led to points being scored for both teams that maybe should not have been. Referees, replacement or not, make bad calls in almost every game in every sport. It is part of competition. A real official apologized to the Seahawks for mistakes he made in a Super Bowl. Even so, the Seahawks lost that game because Jerramy Stevens dropped passes and a practice squad safety was forced into action because of injury, not because of officials. They were responsible for the outcome of the game, the same way the Packers are responsible for the outcome on Monday. Seahawks players and coaches deserve credit for a stunning performance. They won the game. Hats off.

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