Touchdown signal or admission of cluelessness? Seahawks WR Golden Tate's controversial, game-winning TD catch against the Packers will be the talk of the nation this week. (Getty Images)

The scoreboard timer showed zeroes -- zeroes that normally signal the end of a game but in this case signaled the beginning of a national controversy.

After the tangled arms and clasping hands had finished grappling for control of the ball, and after two conflicting signals emerged from two seemingly baffled replacement officials, the Twitter-verse exploded and Wisconsin sports bars ignited when Seahawks WR Golden Tate was awarded the game-winning touchdown despite obvious visual evidence to the contrary.

The Seahawks' 14-12 win over the Packers felt neither final nor fair, but it's ramifications will be felt everywhere from the Tuesday morning standings to perhaps the playoff race and the future of these replacement officials if a league office that has heretofore resisted concessions finally agrees to bring back NFL caliber refs.

Though neither team made a convincing argument that it had played well enough to win, Green Bay seemed to have the better argument after the final, controversial play. But, in the confusion and chaos that ensued, Seattle coach Pete Carroll held his arms aloft, QB Russell Wilson smiled a self-assured (or at least self-assuring) smile of victory, Tate swore he had no knowledge of an obvious offensive pass interference that enabled his catch, and Green Bay’s players and coaches retreated to the locker room to stew, scream and swear in private.

In the final game of the third week of play with replacement referees, it appeared bad calls and officiating ineptitude finally cost a team a game.

When the game turned: Easy. On the final signature play of an ugly Monday Night Football game -- a game fraught with penalties both right and wrong -- controversy erupted. With Green Bay leading, 12-7, and eight seconds remaining, Wilson hurled a long, Hail Mary spiral into the Packers’ end zone.

Nearly half a dozen players leaped, with Packers safety M.D. Jennings appearing to catch it. Tate then tried to wrest the ball away as the scrum fell to the ground and wrestled there for several more seconds. Two replacement referees ran over from different angles, with one raising his hands for a Seahawks touchdown and another lifting his hands to signal a touchback, which would have indicated a Packers interception in the end zone.

After conferring, deciding and then reviewing, the play was ruled a Seattle touchdown and, with no time left, a Seattle victory. Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy initially ran his team off the field in protest, but later brought the Packers back out for the obligatory extra point. It was, incontrovertibly, the most controversial decision of many contentious calls by the replacement referees so far this season.

Highlight moments: Let’s leave the final play alone for a bit. Midway through the fourth quarter, the Packers were trailing 7-6 in a game that had featured two offenses dragging their feet through mud. But with less than 10 minutes remaining, Packers QB Aaron Rodgers found WR Greg Jennings on the right sideline and Jennings appeared to stretch in for a touchdown. Since all scoring plays are automatically reviewed, the touchdown was examined and it was ruled Jennings was short.

On the next play, third-and-1 from the Seattle 2-yard line, Rodgers scrambled and was tackled near the line of scrimmage. Initially, he was ruled short of the first down. But McCarthy challenged the spot, won the dispute and the Packers got a first down at the Seahawks’ 1. The Packers gave the ball to RB Cedric Benson, who charged in for the touchdown, putting them up 12-7.

Green Bay then went for a two-point conversion to go up by seven points. Rodgers threw to the left side of the end zone, a pass that was not really a back shoulder throw or a jump-ball corner fade, but 6-foot WR James Jones was covered by Seahawks’ 6-4 CB Brandon Browner, and the pass fell incomplete.

Rodgers later said that officials had mistakenly given the Packers a kicking ball for the two-point conversion, rather than a regular ball, implying that it was harder to complete a pass with that ball. The end result was that the Packers gambled on the two points and came away with only a five-point lead.

Top-shelf performances: If you want to go by the stat line, you’d probably have to go with Wilson, who finished 10 for 21 for 130 yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions for a 99.3 rating. Or you could look to Tate, who had both touchdown receptions, including the game-winner, if only the box score is to be believed.

But the Seahawks player who most stood out and impacted the game early had to be DE Chris Clemons. Clemons had a career-high four sacks, all in the first half, which quadrupled his season total to that point. He was one of several Seattle defenders who abused Green Bay’s offensive line, harassed Rodgers and kept the Packers’ offense from developing any sort of rhythm in the first half.

What they said about the final play:

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers: “It was awful. Just look at the replay. The fact it was reviewed ... it was awful. That's all I'm going to say about it."

Packers coach Mike McCarthy: “It’s very hard to swallow. I didn’t see it. I was in the far corner. I haven’t seen the replay of the play. I was told M.D. Jennings intercepted the ball. I haven’t seen anything like that in all my years in football.”

Packers TE Jermichael Finley: "I played Pop Warner, junior high, high school and I've never seen one like that. I don't know. You have to run that one back [on replay]."

Packers WR Greg Jennings: "Like I said, the refs did a great job. Hey, I can't get fined if I'm saying the refs did a great job. They're going to call the game and whatever's called, we have to respond to it and show resolve and bounce back. ... Quite honestly, the league has a lot to look at. Like I said, Roger, the refs did a great job. Please don't send an envelope to my locker. Appreciate it."

Packers CB Charles Woodson: "It seemed like we came down with the ball, but they didn't see it that way. I guess their guy came down with it. Game's over. I'm going to try and take the high road as long as I can. We had opportunities to win the game, and they made a call there at the end, and it didn't go our way. So we'll just live with that."

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll: “What a Monday Night Football game. Tremendous night.”

Numbers you should know: 8, as in the Seahawks sacked Rodgers eight times, which tied a career high for the quarterback. Interestingly, all the sacks came in the first half, when Rodgers was pulverized. In the second quarter alone, the reigning MVP was brought down five times. Conversely, the Packers only got one sack on Wilson, who was routinely hurried but rarely hit. Packers OLB Clay Matthews, who entered the game with six sacks in two games, finished with just one QB hit.

Going forward: For the Packers, who dropped to 1-2 and are third in the NFC North, the Monday night debacle was the first road game of a grueling stretch. They play next week at home against the Saints, but after that they’re away for three straight games, at Indianapolis, Houston and St. Louis.

For the Seahawks, sitting at 2-1 and tied for second in the NFC West, they travel to St. Louis next week and Carolina the following week. Following those two games, Seattle has stiff tests at home against New England in Week 6 and at San Francisco the following week.

Follow Packers reporter James Carlton on Twitter: @CBSPackers.