NFL: Refs missed penalty in controversial play, but Seattle victory stands
September 25th, 2012
06:00 PM ET

NFL: Refs missed penalty in controversial play, but Seattle victory stands

Replacement referees missed a penalty that would have rendered moot a controversy over whether a Seattle Seahawks receiver caught a game-winning touchdown pass a moment later, the National Football League said Tuesday.

The Green Bay Packers would have won the game had offensive pass interference been called against Seahawks receiver Golden Tate, but the missed penalty wasn't reviewable. So the officials' controversial on-field ruling that Tate subsequently scored a touchdown by having joint possession of the ball with a Packers defender stands.

The touchdown - which over the last day has become a symbol of player and fan frustration over the NFL's replacement referees - gave Seattle a 14-12 win. "The result of the game is final," the NFL said in a news release Tuesday.

Photos: Blown calls

The NFL also said that it supports a referee's decision, after he reviewed the play Monday night, that no indisputable evidence existed to overturn the on-field ruling that Tate scored.

Commentators on ESPN, which showed the "Monday Night Football" game, questioned whether Tate really caught the ball, penalty or not. The play has sparked a full-open revolt by fans and players over replacement referees, who are standing in for officials that the NFL has locked out during a labor dispute.

"Fine me and use the money to pay the regular refs," Packers guard T.J. Lang tweeted minutes after the game ended, one in a series of profanity-laced tweets accusing the referees of taking the game from his team.

Here's how the play unfolded: With seconds remaining and Seattle down 12-7, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson threw a deep pass into the end zone. Tate and Packers safety M.D. Jennings went up for the ball, and referees eventually ruled - after officials gave competing signals - that both possessed the ball simultaneously. Under NFL rules, simultaneous possession goes to the offense, so the officials ruled the play a touchdown for Tate with time expired.

Replays, however, showed two potential problems: First, Tate appears to shove Packers defender Sam Shields in the back while the ball is in the air, a move that normally would draw an offensive pass interference penalty. Second, the footage appears to show Jennings first having both arms wrapped around the ball while Tate had one arm on it, so simultaneous possession appears questionable. The ball eventually was pulled tight to Jennings' chest.

The referees reviewed the play, and let it stand, giving Seattle the win.

The NFL essentially said Tuesday that the Packers should have won because Tate should have been called for offensive pass interference, "which would have ended the game" with the Packers ahead.

However, a missed offensive pass interference call is not reviewable, the NFL said, so nothing could be done about that part of the play when it was reviewed by referee Wayne Elliott.

As for the ruling on the catch, the NFL said: "Eliott determined that no indisputable visual evidence existed to overturn the call on the field, and as a result, the on-field ruling of touchdown stood."

"The NFL Officiating Department reviewed the video today and supports the decision not to overturn the on-field ruling following the instant replay review," the NFL said Tuesday.

Discussion of the call virtually took over Twitter in the United States and sparked rising calls for the NFL to quickly settle its labor dispute with officials.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy declined to specifically address the call in his post-game news conference but said later that he had "never seen anything like that in all my years in football."

See the play in photos | Week 3: Photos

Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers called the officiating "awful."

Coming away with a close win, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll was less critical.

"From what I understand from the officials, it was a simultaneous catch, that's how they called it," Carroll told reporters. "Tag goes to the runner. Good call."

But he said it's sill time for the dispute to end.

"It's a very, very complex process to handle these games and make the decisions, and there's nothing easy about it," he said. "And it takes years and years of experience to pull it off properly and in a timely fashion and to keep the flow of the game alive and all of that, and it's just time for it to be over."

"The league deserves it," Carroll said. "Everybody deserves it."

Controversy over the replacement officials has been simmering since the preseason. A series of missed or muffed calls has riled coaches, players and fans.

On Thursday, the NFL Players Association sent a letter to league owners saying the decision to hire replacement referees "has led to a deteriorating of order, safety and integrity."

"This affirmative decision has not only resulted in poor calls, missed calls and bad game management, but the combination of those deficiencies will only continue to jeopardize player health and safety and the integrity of the game that has taken decades to build," the union wrote.

It's also affecting gamblers. Betters lost an estimated $150 million on the call, gambling expert R.J. Bell said on the gaming website Pregame.com.

Bell also writes that home crowds seem to be influencing officials and that scoring is up from Las Vegas expectations.

The outcry for a resolution appeared to be growing after the Monday night game.

On Tuesday, the website FootballZebras.com, which tracks officiating in the NFL, said the Monday night call was "beyond the tipping point, this is the drowning point."

New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney got into the game on Tuesday, saying he would introduce legislation against holding sporting events officiated by replacement referees.

"This past weekend in the NFL has not only made a mockery of a great sport, but shined a very bright light on how important fully trained and professional officiating is to player safety," Sweeney said in a statement released by his office Tuesday morning. "We wouldn't allow a factory or construction site to operate without fully trained supervisors on hand to ensure the safety of employees. Why should we do anything differently when the job site is a playing field?"

Discussion of the game also accounted for at least four of the top 10 topics on Twitter in the United States, where everyday fans and celebrities appeared united in their frustration. Even President Obama weighed in on the issue.

Does this ruin football for you? Share your commentary with CNN iReport.

Stephen A. Smith, never one to keep his opinion close to the vest, let it fly on Twitter throughout the end of the game.

According to Sports Illustrated's Peter King, the two sides in the labor dispute are about $3.3 million apart.

Here's a look at some more of the reaction on Twitter:

That last one might not be an official account.

Regarding the NFL's labor dispute with its regular officials, sticking points include salary issues and changes to the officials' retirement program.

What do you think of the final play, of the game or of the replacement officials?

Click here for the best photos from Week 3 of the NFL season.

soundoff (2,120 Responses)
  1. Karen

    No more NFL until real refs are back. Trying to pass off these games as legitimate and the best possible is like telling movie-goers they have to watch "Spiderman" in black and white because the theatre can't afford to pay for color.

    September 25, 2012 at 10:44 am | Report abuse |
  2. w2lucky

    Not the refs fault. They may be awful but they are only as good as their experience. It's the NFL and Goodell's fault. They let this happen week after week and fine coaches and players who complain. Only 3 million apart? That's chump change compared to what they haul in for one game.

    September 25, 2012 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
  3. Geff

    When the fans stop coming, the owners will listen.

    September 25, 2012 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
  4. DavidinKansas

    I agree with Jmo. They are hunting for mistakes and trying to paint every controversial call as a wrong call. I remember being extremely frustrated with the regular refs the past three years. The coach's challenge came about because the refs have been bad for years. What i see mostly is an agenda to help the regular refs win a better labor deal. Does anyone else notice how adamant people like Drew Brees (primary negotiator for the players union) have been about these refs. Drew Brees had nothing to complain about in his game but he held a press conference to complain about it anyway.

    September 25, 2012 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
  5. Greg

    We were taught in youth football to knock the pass to the ground instead of trying for an interception in this situation!

    September 25, 2012 at 10:49 am | Report abuse |
  6. dp

    dont lose sight of the fact that the Packers would not have scored their only touchdown if these same refs hadnt blown a pass interference call on 3rd down, keeping their drive alive, and allowing them to get in the end zone.

    September 25, 2012 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      Thank you!! I'm glad someone else was paying attention!! If it wasn't for that call the game could have ended 7 to 6 Hawks anyway.

      September 25, 2012 at 10:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      I agree – that was beyond frustrating too.

      September 25, 2012 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
  7. bill

    As a season ticket holder from michigan, the game was the worst to watch ever, hands down. The roughing the passer get real! Then the 32 yard interfernce call, the defense malled the cb, wow!, then the puss off on the last play with a ref right there looking at the play, and yes the touchdown, it time to get rid of the scab refs, Hand down!!!! I want my money back, from my season tickets if this continues. Any lawyers want to sue Goodell

    September 25, 2012 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
  8. advocatusdiaboli

    Interesting that players can get many millions and yet the very critical (as we can see) referees get tiny salaries in comparison. Maybe the owners adn fans should back the refs and get them back in the game?

    September 25, 2012 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
  9. Denise

    Why is everyone so mad at Roger Godell?? There is a bargaining agreement going on that BOTH SIDES cannot agree on. I hope both Roger and the "regular refs" watched the game last night – as well as most of the previous games – and could not sleep. Push in the back on the kicking team? No such penalty exists yet it was called. Red flag thrown when a team has no more time outs, and then thrown again when the team still has no time outs and therefore no more challenges? What a joke. I hear both sides are 3 million dollars apart in negotiations. Tell you what, let's just split the difference and call it a 1 1/2 million dollar compromise. Fans don't care what the negotiating sticking point is. We just want our money to go toward a quality product, which it is not right now.

    September 25, 2012 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
  10. JD

    What's even worse is the two previous blown calls: Offensive pass interference prior to the fake TD and the stupid roughing the passer that led to the interception that should have ended the game. Deep inside the Hawks know they did not win, it will come back to bite them later. Better not get to full of yourselves, long season ahead.

    September 25, 2012 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      It bit the Seahawks 6 years ago when the super bowl was taken away when playing Pittsburgh by the real refs.

      September 25, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Bregginkrak

    Dare you to just stop watching football. Just don't show up for the games. If Roger see's empty seats and low ratings that is when he'll bring back the refs. If you can't do that then stand by for more poorly called football.

    September 25, 2012 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Wow

      Agree – and to take it a step further, boycott purchasing any products endorsed by the NFL or who have purchased commercial air time during the NFL games. If anyone can turn up the heat on the NFL to take action, it would be the sponsors.

      September 25, 2012 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
  12. kmom

    Funny how they whine unfair calls against GB, but when the Seahawks played in the Superbly against Steelers there were so many terrible calls made against Seattle, but you didn't see that in the media.

    September 25, 2012 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      Thank you!!

      September 25, 2012 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
  13. skipper sam

    Ok quick name the last time you saw a flag for offensive pass interference in the end zone on a last second Hail Mary pass.

    In the NFL ?
    In Division 1 Collage Football ?
    In High School Football ?

    Anyone ? Anyone ? Bueller ? Bueller ?

    September 25, 2012 at 10:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Dan

      Bingo! Not in my lifetime.

      September 25, 2012 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
    • Rick Drake

      First of all, you rarely see such such a blatant push off as occured on this play, second, doesn't change the fact that Tate didn't catch the ball, it was intercepted. I can only guess you're a Seahawks fan.

      September 25, 2012 at 11:08 am | Report abuse |
    • skipper sam

      Trust me unless your a Packer fan you have to agree with the no pass interference call.

      Really folks use the internet and find offensive pass interference in the end zone on a Hail Mary play.

      Don't run your mouth just post the game and date when it was called.

      Now the catch might be worth a debate..

      But Offensive Pass Interference ?

      Get real....

      September 25, 2012 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
  14. jredsand

    From Seattle It'sMonday Night Life
    Tonight featuring Larry, Moe and Curly

    September 25, 2012 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
  15. Bob Zanis

    Games are no fun to watch or play when the rules aren't properly governed. If this goes unaddressed for too long, the NFL will suffer as fans and players care less.

    September 25, 2012 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
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