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. government cheese

    Greed by the refs!

    September 25, 2012 at 3:02 am | Report abuse |
    • tbag

      You wouldn't pay a surgeon a million dollars and the anesthesiologist just 7.50/hr. Proportionally, that is what NFL refs make in the multibillion dollar business of the NFL, even though they are absolutely crucial to a quality product that sells. They should make what they are worth in the market. If you're talking greed, then it should be about the owners hording a small piece of an enormous pie.

      September 25, 2012 at 3:26 am | Report abuse |
  2. ogeesan

    What about the Dallas game where the ref threw his hat in the endzone and receiver slipped on it. It would not have affected the outcome but what a fluke.

    September 25, 2012 at 3:03 am | Report abuse |
  3. government cheese

    Most people on these posts don't want any challenges.

    September 25, 2012 at 3:06 am | Report abuse |
  4. Bob Semnar

    The solution is simple. Boycott the NFL by not wearing or buying NFL gear until they bring back the real refs.

    Copy and paste this message everywhere, facebook, twitter, etc. Power in #s, which results in loss of $$$$ is the only solution.

    My 0.02

    September 25, 2012 at 3:07 am | Report abuse |


    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 | Reply
    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 |
    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 | Reply
    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 |
    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 | Reply
    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 | Reply
    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 | Reply
    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 | Reply
    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 | Reply

    September 25, 2012 at 3:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Ryan

      Damn bro you just wrote a fictional novel

      September 25, 2012 at 3:12 am | Report abuse |
  6. Margeaux

    Seriously now. This is not a top news story. Who the "f" cares.

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


    September 25, 2012 at 3:10 am | Report abuse |
  8. government cheese

    Football refs get paid over a hundred thousand dollars, for a part time job.

    September 25, 2012 at 3:14 am | Report abuse |
  9. greenbay

    REALLY!!!....Seattle had their Super Bowl taking away from them and we tripping over a regular season game...come on!!!

    September 25, 2012 at 3:18 am | Report abuse |
  10. government cheese

    Why are refs holding out if bad refs don't get fired? Sounds like the teachers unions. 60% graduation rate.

    September 25, 2012 at 3:18 am | Report abuse |
  11. popcorn

    FOOTBALL is becoming more like WWE SOAP OPERA DRAMA... Soo fake and scripted program.

    It's touch down already. Forgot to slap the ball instead of catching it. FAILED EPIC.

    September 25, 2012 at 3:22 am | Report abuse |
  12. IslamWeinstein

    The only thing that strikes me about this whole story is LeBron's tweet. Sum Body ought too teach that man how too use the english langwhich.

    September 25, 2012 at 3:23 am | Report abuse |
  13. Altee11

    It's becoming really difficult to watch these games; the quality is way down. Who would have thought the referees would be missed so much. It's starting to look like a comedy of errors. Maybe football will become a sitcom with the refs and coaches having Jerry Springer style fights.

    September 25, 2012 at 3:24 am | Report abuse |
  14. josh rogen

    I don't remember being any problem with NFL refs when Bush was president

    September 25, 2012 at 3:27 am | Report abuse |
  15. John

    Get over it–it was a tough call, and had the regular refs been in there, it still could have gone either way. Life goes on, get a grip, AND BESIDES IT'S JUST A GAME!!!

    September 25, 2012 at 3:33 am | Report abuse |
    • TomNPitt

      Rules are the rules. With the real refs it would still have been a touchdown. The real refs might not have signaled time out; but a touchdown, BY RULE, was the correct call.

      September 25, 2012 at 8:59 am | Report abuse |
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