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. VMG

    Looked like an interception to me, but I think the regular refs would have had a problem with this call also.

    September 25, 2012 at 7:35 am | Report abuse |
    • jesuguru

      But the regular refs would not likely miss the blatant push in the back.

      September 25, 2012 at 7:41 am | Report abuse |
  2. RIB

    So the refs didnt see the Push in the back from 3 yards away? NFL is joke

    September 25, 2012 at 7:35 am | Report abuse |
  3. Ken

    Clearly the final play was an INTERCEPTION and not a touchdown! Cheating is not winning Seattle!!!

    September 25, 2012 at 7:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Dan Stevens

      That's what happens when players cross the picket line!

      September 25, 2012 at 9:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      And what about what happened to the Seahawks in the Superbowl vs. Pittsburgh? BAD CALLS BY REAL REFS that gave Pittsburgh the Super Bowl.

      September 25, 2012 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
  4. leo

    well two refs, two different views

    September 25, 2012 at 7:37 am | Report abuse |
  5. johncnichols

    So the NFL says show respect for the Ref's and punishes teams for wrong doing; how about holding the ref's accountable too? Even in lower level games these calls are outrageous; yet the NFL does nothing about it for 3 weeks so far. Lost any "respect" I had for the NFL office staff and their decisions.

    I bet the bookies are hating life right about now !!!!!!

    September 25, 2012 at 7:38 am | Report abuse |
  6. Vikins rule!

    Hey they blew the call, but since it happened against Green Bay, its all good!

    September 25, 2012 at 7:38 am | Report abuse |
    • John G.

      Hey!! Learn to Vikings!!

      September 25, 2012 at 7:40 am | Report abuse |
    • John G.

      Learn to spell Vkings, and I will learn to post comments when I am awake!!

      September 25, 2012 at 7:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Packer Backer

      LOL Vikins rule! Could be worse .. we could be Bears Fans!!

      September 25, 2012 at 7:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Casual Observer

      Gotta hate it when you call someone out on a spelling error and mis-spell the very word you were saying they spelled wrong.

      September 25, 2012 at 8:07 am | Report abuse |
    • John G.

      Casual Observer, I need to wake up before I start posting. I am laughing right now at my posts too!

      September 25, 2012 at 8:24 am | Report abuse |
  7. RIB

    Cant blame Seattle for the win... If I win the lottery I know I don't deserve it but... Hey! I'm Rich and I don't care what anyone says

    September 25, 2012 at 7:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Gerry

      Rich folks with class don't flaunt their wealth – you're obviously an unsecured idiot...

      September 25, 2012 at 8:26 am | Report abuse |
  8. stupid is as stupid does

    vmg really regular refs wouldnt have blown that call. I hate greenbay but they was robbed.

    September 25, 2012 at 7:44 am | Report abuse |
  9. danita

    Why do people pay to see these adult men run up and down a field... It's funny how tax payers never worry about how much taxes poeple like this pay.

    September 25, 2012 at 7:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Ali

      if that's your opinion then why the hell are you even commenting on this?

      September 25, 2012 at 8:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Dan Harris

      Funny enough, us tax payers love it so much, we use tax dollars to build the stadiums!! HA, take a hike!

      September 25, 2012 at 8:31 am | Report abuse |
    • CrazyCraib


      September 25, 2012 at 8:32 am | Report abuse |
  10. If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

    This needs to be in the Dis-Belief blog section!

    September 25, 2012 at 7:45 am | Report abuse |
  11. Wine me dine me just don't fine me!

    Fine or no fine .. I would've kept my team in the locker room for that rediculous PAT out of pure protest!!

    September 25, 2012 at 7:48 am | Report abuse |
  12. Emily

    As long as fans keep watching these tainted games, the NFL has no incentive to resolve this.

    September 25, 2012 at 7:51 am | Report abuse |
  13. streetheat1

    I was stunned by the on field conflicting calls by the refs and the glaring oversight of the offensive pass interference by Tate. However when I viewed the replay I was confident the on field ruling would be overturned. To say I was stunned when the official review confirmed the call, is a vast understatement. The only thing I can logically believe is that the reviewing official 1) had a bias toward Seattle, 2) Was afraid to upset the home team crowd or 3) is really a girls J.V. basketball ref who has no idea what NFL football is about. I am neither a Packers or Seahawks fan I just like football and these replacement guys are ruining the game!

    September 25, 2012 at 7:51 am | Report abuse |
  14. Edward Alvarez

    Looks like it's an interception to me. a touchback! so the Packers are the real winners in this game

    September 25, 2012 at 7:52 am | Report abuse |
  15. AnnieMae

    Don't forget the push in the end zone. This was not called by the refs, although John Gruden said that it should have been called. The ball was clearly intercepted. Bring back the regular refs now! Until you do, I will not watch NFL football.

    September 25, 2012 at 7:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Fabian Walker

      Refs NEVER call pass interference calls on end-of-game hail mary plays in the end zone. NEVER. So that is irrelevant, as are the two opposing calls. The blame should go to the review official and whoever is "upstairs" with the League who confirmed the TD call. But the REAL blame lies with the Packers'
      M.D. Jennings. The controversy never even happens if he slaps the ball down, as they are TRAINED repeatedly to do. NEVER try and intercept it.

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