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. Dave B in AZ

    This is part of Obama's plan to redistribute the wins in the NFL to make it more even. GB won but it was not fair that they win so much.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:39 am | Report abuse |
  2. Ty

    You really have to understand all the details of what is considered true possession of the ball. This is the officials job, not the broadcasters, fans or viewers. Besides, plenty of bad calls were made by the old officials. I will NEVER forget the bad calls made in the Seahawks vs Steelers championship game. The Seahawks were cheated out of a superbowl win, by the so called more experienced referees. No one did any major protesting over that. I am sure everyone has witnessed bad calls by officials in various sports. Stop attacking these guys because they are new and easy targets. It was not a bad call... The officials need to be left alone.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Soccer Mom

      It was not a bad call? NFL coaches who have way more experience than both of us beg to differ. Broadcasters who make their living covering and analyzing NFL games disagree. I haven't heard anyone outside the Seattle organization say that was a good call. Seattle never had possession...

      September 25, 2012 at 9:21 am | Report abuse |
  3. kingstroke

    CORRUPT NFL just like NBA. FIXED NFL & WWE. What ever happened to the XFL?

    September 25, 2012 at 2:43 am | Report abuse |
  4. government cheese

    Obama like football.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:46 am | Report abuse |
  5. government cheese

    Obama has brought politics to football.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:47 am | Report abuse |
  6. Maxwell

    That ref is probably the best troll ever.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:51 am | Report abuse |
  7. Ted O'Connor

    The "Owners" run the league. The Commissioner is their "Punk Boy." The Owners did not get rich by sharing their money with anyone else. The Owners don't care about us saps who just love the game. We can drop dead as far as they are concerned. These are men who are very much aware of the physical damage suffered by players. They have first hand knowledge of the sad cases involving men who are crippled and brain damaged after years in the NFL. The Owners are confident that we will keep watching every Sunday and Monday no matter how bad it gets. As long as we keep watching the stupid beer, pick up truck and fast food ads the Owners are in good shape. And we will keep watching and that is why the Owners just laugh at us.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:51 am | Report abuse |
  8. government cheese

    The unions strike again. They want bad refs no to be disciplined. Sounds like Chicago school systems.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:52 am | Report abuse |
  9. John

    If I were the Seahawks head coach or the Seahawks owner, I would disavow the win; I would tell the league we don't want to win this way. Not only was the call in the final play wrong but several bad calls in the minutes leading to the final call were entirely wrong, and probably fifty million viewers nationwide can attest to their being wrong. Maybe the Packers can at least register a protest with the league office. Disgraceful.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:53 am | Report abuse |
  10. Ralebird


    It is time for the fans to serve notice to the NFL that we will no longer stand for their destruction of the game we love. It is our understanding that the real, qualified officials and the NFL have been reported to be only four million dollars apart for the season in reaching a settlement to end the lockout initiated by the NFL. We, the fans are worth more than the $200,000 per week that separates the parties and we now have a perfect opportunity to prove to Roger Goodell and his cohorts how much we are truly worth.

    Beginning this Thursday night in Baltimore, and continuing for one week, we call for all fans to not enter any NFL stadium until the national anthem has been performed. In the event a ticketholder is attending with the elderly, children or anyone with mobility or similar problems we ask that they be assisted in entering at their convenience but refrain from making a purchase of any kind within the stadium environs until the performance of the national anthem. We call on the NFL and its teams to be prepared with extra ticket takers and security personnel to facilitate entry of the majority of their customers in a much shorter time frame than has been the norm. This is NOT business as usual.

    Further we call for a one week suspension of purchases of any and all NFL licensed merchandise from any source whatsoever. While there is a possibility that a settlement may be reached prior to week four of this season, we call for this economic boycott to be implemented nonetheless as our only way to be heard. We further call for the boycott to be continued on a weekly basis until such time as a settlement is reached and the qualified officials are once again on the field.

    (About me: I'm a fan, just a fan, certainly not the biggest fan – actually a "long-suffering" Jets fan [sorry, Rex] and a onetime season ticketholder. I first had this idea in 1987 when replacement players were used, but the infrastructure for such a statement did not sufficiently exist – it does now. Ticketholders pay exorbitant amounts of money to support their teams and should not be asked to remain away from the game; this compromise allows us to be heard where the biggest ears in the NFL will hear loud and clear and still support our teams. Thanks for listening and your support. Spread the word!)

    September 25, 2012 at 2:55 am | Report abuse |
  11. government cheese


    September 25, 2012 at 2:57 am | Report abuse |
  12. Elizabeth

    I will admit I am a Seattlelite and a huge Seahawk fan but I am completely baffled. I will admit I am happy that we quote "won" but I can also say that I feel for the Green Bay Packers and the city of Green Bay. They have to all be in shock. Even though Aaron Rodgers was sacked 8 times in the first half and they were only held to 12 points the whole game – this is bizzare. I know when the Seahawks were in the Super Bowl against Pittsburgh and we were robbed of that game by the actual real officials. It was beyond belief. I still to this day believe the refs robbed the Seahawks of the Super Bowl. What I will say is that at this rate with these refs to have a game called badly is a travesty, but if we see a player or players severely injured because of their negligence, stupidity, and all the other adjectives that can be said, that will be beyond anything else that is the outcome.- other then a ruling of the outcome of any game be it the Seahawks-Green Bay, the Patriots – Ravens, etc. As Jesse Palmer said the game of football is more dangerous now then at anytime in the history of the game. It is time that the NFL settles with the professional refs before a player(s) is either severely injured or even more – killed. Think about that – BEYOND SCARY!!!!!!!!!!

    September 25, 2012 at 3:00 am | Report abuse |
  13. Sherri

    It was obvious, especially after the instant replay, that Jennings had the ball, and it was a Packer interception, NOT a touchdown by Seattle... Even a "blonde" could make that correct judement call!!! I am sorry, I simply DO NOT understand why major errors like this are allowed, when the Packers clearly WON this game! Honestly, there is a great deal of integrity, professionalism, and money on the line here... Sooo get with the program, and do what is right, NFL!! Something needs to change, Darlin'!!!! :o) Just a 'blonde's" opinion!!!!!

    September 25, 2012 at 3:00 am | Report abuse |
  14. jpgusto

    My only gripe with this whole controversy is people tend to forget that the full-time refs used to fudge calls on a regular basis as well hence video replay, challenges and booth review.

    September 25, 2012 at 3:01 am | Report abuse |
  15. Bob Semnar

    Simple solution = Boycott NFL until they bring back the real refs. Don't buy or wear NFL gear until the real refs are back.

    Finally, copy and paste this everywhere... Facebook, Twitter, emails, etc. Power in #s, hittting the NFL in their pocket $$$$$$ !

    September 25, 2012 at 3:01 am | Report abuse |
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