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. careyokie

    the ref that called touchdown hesitated till he looked at other ref and mistakenly thought he was calling td when he was calling incomplete pass.too quickly he called td to confirm but was too late to change his call
    bad ref bad

    September 25, 2012 at 4:54 am | Report abuse |
  2. RichardSRussell


    And the bad call on the TD wasn't even the worst one on that SERIES.

    September 25, 2012 at 4:56 am | Report abuse |
  3. Elizabeth

    Hey Adam – are you going to boycott the NFL until the Seahawks are given their Super Bowl rings that they won when that game against Pittsburgh – that game was taken away from the Seahawks by real refs.

    September 25, 2012 at 5:01 am | Report abuse |
  4. RDM3

    It looked like a simultaneous catch, and the tie always goes to the receiver. This is fodder for this referee controversy. Much ado about nothing.

    September 25, 2012 at 5:09 am | Report abuse |
  5. BrentR

    No worse than when roethlisberger was tackled then he picked up the ball and set it over the goal line and the regular officials gave the superbowl to the steelers. Now that was messed up for sure.

    September 25, 2012 at 5:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      How true you are!!!!

      September 25, 2012 at 6:53 am | Report abuse |
  6. JohnParryJones

    When both receiver and defender come down with the ball, a "tie" is awarded to the receiver. The media are out to get these replacement officials. I think they made the right call.

    September 25, 2012 at 5:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Bo Knows

      Of course you think they made the right call. Their time will come just like everyone else’s

      September 25, 2012 at 5:34 am | Report abuse |
  7. rick1948

    It doesn't matter how good or bad the refs are as long as both teams are being refereed in the same way. AS long as they are, the "game" is fair.

    September 25, 2012 at 5:19 am | Report abuse |
  8. mb2010a

    It's just a silly game people...get a life.

    September 25, 2012 at 5:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      Good point!!!!!

      September 25, 2012 at 5:30 am | Report abuse |
  9. jim atmad

    The photo is perfect. The Packer clearly has the ball. One ref is waving for an official's time out, indicating a change of possession, and the other is signaling touch down.

    September 25, 2012 at 5:36 am | Report abuse |
  10. blerg

    Well, the NFL has officially joined Politics, Business, Media, Government, Education and every other aspect of our society in that it has no integrity because a small number of billionaires want more money.

    September 25, 2012 at 5:46 am | Report abuse |
  11. ddtrey

    HORRIBLE! Simply HORRIBLE!!!!!!

    September 25, 2012 at 5:46 am | Report abuse |
  12. Name*Travis Kennon

    where was that out cry Against the referees in the Seattle Seahawks and Pittsburgh Steelers Superbowl. there were several bad calls in that game that cost the Seahawks in the Superbowl

    September 25, 2012 at 5:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      Thank you – being a Seattleite – I appreciate your comment. That still bugs me to this day.

      September 25, 2012 at 6:11 am | Report abuse |
  13. Roy

    The replacement refs needs to be replaced by zebras till the real refs are back.....

    September 25, 2012 at 5:54 am | Report abuse |
  14. Delmar

    I don't know which is better to watch with all the bad calls, and drama the NFL or WWE? Now all we need is Packers Defender Sam Shields standing in front of a mic spiting and yelling at the cameras......

    September 25, 2012 at 6:05 am | Report abuse |
  15. Steve

    Fans pay First-Class prices for tickets to watch third-rate football.

    To hell with the NFL! Another national-pastime game being corrupted by owners greed. I'm going to the only sport left with any integrity; Nascar!

    September 25, 2012 at 6:10 am | Report abuse |
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