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. rvastag

    I hope the fans and the media scrutinize every call just as much when the regular refs return.

    There are missed penalties (and phantom penalties) in every game of every season. This is not a new thing. I will agree that the replacement refs are not as polished and are making a few more mistakes, but if the regular refs were officiating that last play in Seattle, the outcome may have been exactly the same - a no call on the pass interference, a conference by the on-field refs to make the touchdown call, and the replay booth upholding the on-field call.

    I think the replacement refs have been unlucky in that there have been some untimely weird plays.

    September 25, 2012 at 8:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • kobrakai7474

      You are very incorrect. Part of the problem is that there was NO on field conference. One of the refs made an immediate Touchdown call WITHOUT conferencing on the field even as another official right next to him was preparing to signal "touchback" (affirming the interception). Once that signal was made, it was accepted WITHOUT further discussion, and the resulting review was only based on whether their was indisputable evidence to overturn the call.

      September 25, 2012 at 8:44 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Bobby Geeter

    CHILL RACHEL!

    September 25, 2012 at 8:14 pm | Report abuse |
  3. dread

    why dont NFL just bring down the CFL refs to ref while they get the whole dispute to go away. CFL is no different to NFL then 4 downs to the cfl 3. All rules are the same after that.

    September 25, 2012 at 8:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • kobrakai7474

      CFL refs are kind of busy at the moment. They have their own league to referee.

      September 25, 2012 at 8:45 pm | Report abuse |
  4. PeglegChippy

    Everyone stop going and watching for 2 weeks and the real men will return.

    September 25, 2012 at 8:26 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Steve

    O, I forgot the media. Report facts and not your opinion. We should have replacement media, preferably with morals, honesty and standards'

    September 25, 2012 at 8:26 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Evan

    This was wrong, pure and simple. It's the principle of the matter, and we must not excuse it because this is "just a game"! This is America's sports, people! Wake up!

    September 25, 2012 at 8:27 pm | Report abuse |
  7. cheesehead

    What do you expect from a bunch of lousy scabs? All past NFL games this fall should be replayed with authentic refs and all future ones boycotted until real refs return to the game.

    September 25, 2012 at 8:28 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Tom

    NFL is a joke. The funny thing is that people still support it by buying tickets. Peoplw should stop buying tickets and goods. Then onlyt hese goofees will leran.

    September 25, 2012 at 8:29 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Boz

    The only thing "simultaneous" was the two refs raising their arms in opposition.

    So why did the sane ref not win the call?

    September 25, 2012 at 8:31 pm | Report abuse |
  10. unthscitsservices

    I will watch my NFL but, here me now, I will boycott every advertiser that I see until the NFL bigwigs settle this dispute! #boycottNFLAdvertisers

    September 25, 2012 at 8:34 pm | Report abuse |
  11. alfabob

    I think the official who signaled "Touchdown!" actually believed that Green Bay was on offense and that Aaron Rogers had thrown the ball to Jennings, who caught it. He was too embarrassed to admit his mistake.

    September 25, 2012 at 8:37 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Lena

    Tate stated " the refs made the call, not him". Although this is true he as well as the rest of the Seahawks and some of their fans know that the ref made the wrong call. The call was in their favor so they are happy and telling everyone else to get over it. However if it was the other way around they would be upset just like we are ( but they would never admit to that fact). Tate knows he didn't deserve that touchdown call and I think it's very unsportmens like to accept something you know you didn't earn. However what is done is done. I agree with Rodgers. Nothing will be done because people still go to games, by team products and such. They are still raking in the money. In my opinion the fans should boycot the NFL until something is done about the refs. However there are too many people who just don't care because it didn't happen to their team, this time.

    September 25, 2012 at 8:40 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Hawks Fan

    To everyone the Seahawks won the final call was not right but there was a missed call on the Packers that extended their last drive. If they had called that we would have had more time and we would have scored. Also we played much better throughout the game we had eight sacks in one half.

    September 25, 2012 at 8:40 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Charles

    The NFL. Is becoming a joke due to these replacement referees. If they allow this to continue then the damage that's done to the league is on them.

    September 25, 2012 at 8:43 pm | Report abuse |
  15. sqeptiq

    You can call it what ever you want. Officially it's a catch, a touchdown, and the game. It's not the first game ended on a bogus call nor will it be the last; deal with it or quit watching. Too many of you are whining crybabies.

    September 25, 2012 at 8:44 pm | Report abuse |
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