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

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, 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. GoPackGo

    Give Roger Goodell a call at 2124502027 and let him know we want the real ref's back. What a joke.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Allen W.

      I might have chanced that call if you could count.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:17 am | Report abuse |
    • GoPackGo

      What do you mean if I could count?? That's a real number buddy 1-212-450-2027 Clay Matthews posted it on his FB I called along with thousands of others. It might be busy but if you keep trying you will get through.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:25 am | Report abuse |
  2. Michael

    If the game comes down to a referee call then you have to live with the results. I am sure there were mistakes made on both sides but bad/tough calls are part of the game.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Selective Outrage

      People are only outraged because this particular call went against Green Bay. If it were any team other than Green Bay, Pittsburgh or Dallas, it would get little press coverage and no one would care. Green Bay should have scored more points.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:22 am | Report abuse |
    • Gangnam Style Chat app

      yes, how come no one has brought up the old defensive adage for hail marys of knocking down the ball or tipping high outta bounds? or better yet, pass interfernce in the end zone with no time on the clock is a game ender anyways, always, just knock the offence down......trying to catch the ball as a defender in the end zone is a bozo move same with runing the ball outta the end zone on punts or kickoffs-- stupid coaching .

      September 25, 2012 at 2:25 am | Report abuse |
  3. Brett F

    Good call, like in baseball–tie goes to runner. Ref on field that called touchdown had a better view than any cameras. Packer babies should stop crying and go eat some cheese.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:14 am | Report abuse |
    • neken7

      Tie goes if they both actually catch it. Tate didn't catch it, he hand an arm on it while the other guy had two hands on it and was holding it to his chest. This is terrible football officiating.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:19 am | Report abuse |
    • Roger

      Favre buddy, love ya but go back to ole miss and harass some girls. The entire game was a joke from the Ref point of view.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:24 am | Report abuse |
    • joebob

      Both hands and feet inbounds = a catch. Tie goes to the Seahawks.

      September 25, 2012 at 3:37 am | Report abuse |
  4. James

    Everyone on planet Earth saw the Packers get Rodney King'd. Ashamed of the NFL right now....

    September 25, 2012 at 2:17 am | Report abuse |
  5. iamallknowing

    The ref call was right, it was mutual possession. The pass interference call was not called as typically they dont call these in last play hail mary plays.
    go away little people .
    oh by the way I am a big seahawks fan! the gbay packers had some calls go there way so they shouldn't feel so bad, we lost a superbowl on bad calls a few years back, what goes around comes around.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Clint

      Jeolous packer fan.....

      September 25, 2012 at 2:38 am | Report abuse |
  6. Bill

    The referees made the correct call but it didn't go according to ESPN's agenda. There were bad calls on both sides of the ball so don't act like GB had it any worse. The GB defender was "faceguarding" and that pass interference call was correct. He wasn't using his arms or hands to interfere but he had his helmet jammed into the receivers face before the ball got there. It's a tough call and they got it right. The erroneous pass interference call was actually against Seattle's #39. ESPN is just leveraging for higher contracts for their FIXED syndicate ran goon squad refs. They act in an uproar as if the old referees were perfect and there were never any blown calls. Tom Brady tuck rule come to mind to anyone? That was the AFC championship too, not the THIRD game of the year. Don't believe everything ESPN's cronies tell you. Their unrelenting bias is transparent. In addition I would like to add that if on the last play the GB defender had swatted the ball away instead of selfishly going for an unneeded interception it would have been game over. He should have been trained better and in a league where statistics equal higher contracts this is inevitable. A more intelligent defender would have batted the ball away if he had a "better" look at the ball than Tate. That is a point that has not been made by any of the so called "experts" For the record I have no affiliation to either team, just the unbiased truth. UNLIKE ESPN.. Funny CNN owns ESPN too..

    September 25, 2012 at 2:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Thomas

      Couldn't agree with you more. Well Put. God forbid Greenbay lose and ESPN not being able to talk about how great Aaron Rodgers was for 5 days. Great point about the defender not swatting the ball away instead of going for pick. If he does that it's over right there.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Gangnam Style Chat app

      exactly, Madden use to scream on monday nite football about swathing the ball away in the endzone and not go for interception, PLUS if the dbacks pulled pass interfernce on that last play the time had run out before the pass interference and the game woulda been over no play to finish the game, packer coaches stopped coaching as they were too them

      September 25, 2012 at 2:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Tommy

      You guys are legally blind or just as ignorant as you sound. Jennings catches the ball with both hands comes down as Tate has one hand on the ball and the other hand on Jennings arm. Jennings then brings the ball to his chest. Any idiot can see Tate did not catch the ball. I am not a Green Bay fan but there is no way Seattle won that game. That was an interception. Not to mention all the idiot calls earlier. Next thing you are going to say is that Golden Tate did not push Shields on the ground.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Thumped

      ESPN is 80% owned by Disney and 20% Hearst Corporation, not CNN.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:52 am | Report abuse |
  7. Gangnam Style Chat app

    Oh where were Cuban and LeBron when the phoenix suns were robbed diuring the NBA finals a few years ago, then during the summer those same refs were foudn to have been part of a gambling ring...where were they and how come they have never ever talked about that?????

    September 25, 2012 at 2:22 am | Report abuse |
  8. Chris

    I'd feel bad for the Packers if this made up for Superbowl XL being given to Pittsburgh on bad calls. But it doesn't. So buck up Green Bay fans; even regular season refs can hurt you worse. You'll be fine.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Roger

      you guys have won enough super bowls. it was time to share the wealth 🙂

      September 25, 2012 at 2:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Clint

      Uh, he was talking about Seattle having the superbowl given to the Steelers by the refs.....and Seattle has not ever won a was their first attempt.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:42 am | Report abuse |
  9. Name*michal

    Tie does not go to the runner ,either you beat the throw or you are out

    September 25, 2012 at 2:26 am | Report abuse |
  10. Kevin

    Good to see LeBron knows the difference between 'to' and 'too'.

    You get em, killer.

    Also, worst call in NFL history outside of switching to 'Heidi' during a field goal.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:26 am | Report abuse |
  11. government cheese

    Unions have ruined things again. The Unions want to protect bad refs. Sounds like school unions.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Ted O'Connor

      The Union" Refs were not on the field. The Refs on the field are "Scabs." The "union" Refs are professionals who would have called the game properly. Don't think too much may over tax your brain.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:38 am | Report abuse |
  12. Chromedbustop

    If I were a Seahawks fan, I wouldn't be celebrating too much. Next game you could be on the losing end of one of these horrible calls by the ref, then we'll see if you sing the same tune.

    As it is I think only Seahawks fans and desperate league officials see what happened as being the right call.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Clint

      A a Seahawks fan, I'll celebrate any win we can get. We have had our share of bad calls over the years. Missed the playoffs a time or two because of it. Lost the Superbowl because of it.

      I'll take it. Sad thing is, this call overshadows the fact that the Seattle Defense had 9 sacks on GB tonight. (3 shy of the record in one game)

      September 25, 2012 at 2:45 am | Report abuse |
  13. Dan

    The call is far more challenging than most analysts are acknowledging. While Jennings (Greenbay) appears to have control of the ball, both of his feet have yet to touch the ground and so full control of the ball hasn't been established with his body still airborne. When Jennings and Tate (Seattle) finally reach the ground, both players appear to be locked in a struggle for the ball and so a "tie" for the ball is arguably the correct analysis, from which a TD is conceivably the correct call here. In a court of football law, the replacement refs may be ultimately vindicated.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:33 am | Report abuse |
  14. Stefanie

    Just to clarify, that actually isn't the real Derrick Rose.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:35 am | Report abuse |
  15. Tommy

    Hey Michael are you legally blind? This was the worst game I have ever seen officiated. Bad calls like the whole game. Walden tackles Russel out for the tackle box running and he gets a call of roughing the passer, really? Then Sidney Rice is mugging Shields and they get Shields for pass interference. Really? Then that last play both ref's looked like deer in headlights. Golden Tate pushes Shields down to the ground Jennings goes up catches the ball, Tate does get a hand on the ball but Jennings comes down with the ball in his chest and Tate only has a hand on the ball and these idiots ref's call this touchdown? Anyone with any common sense knows that this is a interception. And you put on your headline "Did the NFL replacement refs get it wrong?" Hell you got your headline wrong.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Clint

      Yeah, not a single wrong call against Seattle. Packers fan I guess......

      There were bad calls against both teams.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Tommy

      Clint I am a Houston fan and not a Green Bay fan and you? You need to understand fairness of the rules. I guess you are an Obama fan, since you think everyone should have a shot whether they catch the ball or not.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Wow1234

      Way to bring skewed political ideology into a discussion about football. IF you didn't see bad calls go against Seattle, you are just the lemming you sound like.

      September 25, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
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