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. Helen Keller

    Even I saw it was an INT

    September 25, 2012 at 3:38 am | Report abuse |
    • jesuguru

      That was a DUMB comment. (get it?)

      September 25, 2012 at 4:09 am | Report abuse |
  2. paul

    these refs are as useless as huge breasts on nuns!!

    September 25, 2012 at 3:40 am | Report abuse |
  3. Name*michal

    Boycott Bud Light , the official beer of the NFL, until the real refs come back

    September 25, 2012 at 3:45 am | Report abuse |
  4. NoGr8rH8r

    How is it Pro Football when the Refs are Amateurs?

    September 25, 2012 at 3:46 am | Report abuse |
  5. DocReality

    This has been the lead article on the website for several hours now. Is sports really that crucial given the current state of the world. Or did Obama instruct CNN to run this article while he continues to destroy everything around him?

    Really, CNN. Get a backbone. Erin Burnett's too good for you...

    September 25, 2012 at 3:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Footballfanz

      Ya blame CNN for reporting a sports story that hundreds upon hundreds of ppl decided to respond too. Bad CNN, bad. Don't you guys know your only supposed to print things interesting to Doc lol.

      Really Doc, stop blaming the media for reporting things others find so interesting. If anything you should be bugged by all the people responding to this game, not the media outlets. Get a grip.

      September 25, 2012 at 4:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Just for the record

      I must ask why you are on here commenting if you think it's such a waste of time. Perhaps people just need a break from all of the pathetic politics and the chaos in the world. I see it as a healthy outlet.

      September 25, 2012 at 4:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Publius

      I totally agree. Making any sporting event a headline is IDIOTIC. Keep the news page to news, and the sports page to sports. Why did I come here to comment? Where else can I complain about such stupidity in the media and the public in general?

      September 25, 2012 at 4:41 am | Report abuse |
  6. Elizabeth

    Okay – the Obama comments are ridiculous. This is football and the president has nothing to do with the outcome of this game.

    September 25, 2012 at 4:00 am | Report abuse |
    • Frank in Pensacola, FL

      absolutely right. It's the Romney/Ryan trolls cluttering up the board as w/all the rest of life as we know it. Next they'll be demanding the "truth" about the refereeing dispute while working in the background to gut the pensions and pay of the full-time refs...

      September 25, 2012 at 10:56 am | Report abuse |
  7. Steven

    I was rooting for the Seahawks to win. I am frankly emabarrassed at this win. It is a meaningless and hollow victory. I am even more embarrassed by the lies and half truths of the interviewed Seahawks players (TATE, WILSON) ... If I were them, I would not have gloated nor would I have been happy about the victory ... I would have merely admitted that the touchdown was officially declared and shook my head and walked off. The Seahawks coach should show some class too and do the right thing and just vacate the victory (turn it back to Green Bay) and WE NEED REAL REFS!!! The sport has become just the latest joke in GREED. It is so humiliatingly hilarious that if I weren't laughing, I would be crying my eyes out. There are not words to describe the damage that is being done to the NFL in the name of GREED by the OWNERS. It is time to cave and give us back the real REFs NOW NOW NOW. Thursday, in my opinion is just right. If the real REFS can't do Thursday, the game should be postponed.

    September 25, 2012 at 4:07 am | Report abuse |
  8. Name*Kay M

    It is what it is! Life isn't always fair so get over replacement refs! It could be worse & no NFL at all. To NFL it's about the money and fans are still attending & supporting games so if want first tier refs back quit supporting games-That simple!

    September 25, 2012 at 4:15 am | Report abuse |
  9. Steve

    Its time to boycott these corrupt pro leagues. I am done with pro sports.

    September 25, 2012 at 4:22 am | Report abuse |
  10. BearsFan

    I'm a Chicago Bears fan, and even I think the Packers got robbed.

    September 25, 2012 at 4:24 am | Report abuse |
  11. Publius

    Reviewed and the same call was made. Second guessing with a thousands reviews is not a fair comparison, and it was a judgement call who had control. You think the defensive, but some think the offense.

    Does this sportswriter realize when a touchdown is made, the clock is stopped, too? Idiot.

    Review EVERY single call made last year by the unionized refs. There were plenty of bad calls, too. The press is just trying to make a story here. Dealing with ref calls has ALWAYS been part of the game. Those that think a bad call at the end of game is somehow different do not understand the game. A bad call on teh opening kickoff can change the game, too. Bad calls happen, even by the older refs. Deal with it!

    September 25, 2012 at 4:39 am | Report abuse |
  12. Kona

    Yes, the refs blew it again! When is the NFL (No Fun League) going to close down this circus and let the real pros do the job? The longer this goes on, the less legitimacy this season will have.

    September 25, 2012 at 4:41 am | Report abuse |
  13. Neutral observer

    I think this is all being blown wayyyy out of proportion. It is pretty hard to say (with certainty) that this was not simultaneous possession and therefore a touchdown. People (including the ref on ESPN and Gruden, whom I am actually a fan of but not of his rant in this case) keep saying Tate had one arm on the ball, but if you watch he brought the other hand over BEFORE they both got to the ground and would therefore be down. Ball to the chest means nothing. I've seen several plays where someone even went over the top or reached around a player and had it called "simultaneous." The push is a separate issue... definitely pass interference, but not something normally called on the last play (every jump ball hail mary has PI)... that said, it was pretty egregious and probably should have been called in this case.

    September 25, 2012 at 4:43 am | Report abuse |
  14. Jeff

    Go Bears!!!

    September 25, 2012 at 4:52 am | Report abuse |
  15. Adam

    II am boycotting the NFL until they change the victory to the Packers.

    September 25, 2012 at 4:52 am | Report abuse |
    • SportsFan

      Did you watch the full game? There were blown call which went against Seahawks too. On at least two of GB scoring drives, GB was 3-and-out before field goal range due to terrible calls.

      Refs should be sent to kindergarten. But don't be so fast handing victory to GB.

      September 25, 2012 at 5:08 am | Report abuse |
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