The day Golden Tate ‘caught’ Russell Wilson’s last-second Hail Mary
Two days after Seattle’s win, the NFL admitted offensive pass interference should have been called and reached an agreement to end the referees’ lockout
In a nationally televised ESPN Monday Night Football game, Seattle Seahawks rookie Russell Wilson launched what is now an infamous Hail Mary pass into the end zone. With seconds left on the clock, Seattle was down 12-7 against the Green Bay Packers. What happened next caused one of the league’s biggest controversies.
To make room for a catch, Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate blatantly shoved Packers cornerback Sam Shields in the back with two hands, making it harder for Shields to make a play.
In front of 68,218 fans at CenturyLink Field, Tate and Packers defender M.D. Jennings both leaped toward the football in the left corner of the end zone.
At that moment, it looked like it would take a miracle for the Seahawks to come out on top, as Seattle receivers Charly Martin and Tate were up against five Packers on the last play of the game.
“It was just kind of a melee,” Martin said. “I take a lot of flak, being the white guy who can’t jump, because there are some pretty good pictures out there where I am about 2 inches off the ground and everyone else is skyrocketing over me. I just tell them, ‘Hey, they used me. They used me as a springboard.’ I kind of boxed them out for Golden, and they pushed me down.”
Every player sprung up, but it was Jennings who intercepted the 24-yard pass before falling to the ground with the ball in his possession. When both Tate and Jennings landed on the ground, they tussled for the ball, which caused confusion among the officials.
“I kind of looked at the officials, and they both weren’t really sure what was going on,” said Martin, who was on the ground next to Tate and Jennings.
The game was officiated by replacement referees, who had primarily worked at the college or high school levels, as the NFL Referees Association faced a several-month lockout. When it came time to make a call, there were two. One official ruled the play an interception by Jennings and another ruled it a touchdown by Tate.
After further reviewing the call, referee Wayne Elliott announced that “the ruling on the field stands.” But which ruling? The touchdown stuck, making the Seahawks’ Sept. 24, 2012, win official.
“Anyone who has played with me believes I caught that ball …,” Tate said after the game.
Jennings thought otherwise.
“You don’t have time to make a decision on batting it down or catching it,” said Jennings. “So I just decided to go up and catch the ball. That’s what I did. I felt like I came down with it, but the ref saw it differently. At first, I couldn’t believe it. But I knew they would go take a look at the play, and I thought the ref would overturn the play. I’m surprised they didn’t.”
The game didn’t just end there. Both teams, having already gone back to their locker rooms, were called back for an extra point attempt.
One day after the game, the league admitted that Tate’s obvious shove should have been called an offensive pass interference, which would have silenced any conversation about whether Tate caught the football or Jennings intercepted it. Instead, it would have been an inarguable win for the Packers.
Two days later, and likely as a result of this game, an agreement was reached to end the referees’ lockout.