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. Frank

    Yet another prime example of why UNIONS need to be disbanded! They should train all the new refs and FIRE THOSE WHO DEMAND their salaries! How much m ore ridiculous c an it GET?

    Give me this much money in salary or we will walk off the job! Try that in the private sector. This is nothing short of EXTORTION by THUG UNIONS!

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

      Yeah, it's all the unions' fault. That makes sense.

      September 25, 2012 at 8:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Jon

      You do know that the NFL is a privately owned organization, right?

      September 25, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
  2. tomas tarrell

    I agree, the final play was an INTERCEPTION and not a touchdown! How can Seattle hold their heads up, I would be in shame?? Cheating is not winning Seattle!!!
    We all know Green Bay won this game. How about the NFL commisioners getting it right and overturn the ruleing??????

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

      Same about when the Seahawks lost the super bowl to Pittsburgh and those were real refs calling that game.

      September 25, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • bigot

      how about you stop complaining. Its over, next game.

      September 25, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Durl Stephens

    I will NOT watch another NFL game until I hear that the real REFS are back!

    September 25, 2012 at 7:55 am | Report abuse |
    • PoopooDeeDoo

      Oh yes you will

      September 25, 2012 at 8:05 am | Report abuse |
    • bigot

      until thursday night.

      September 25, 2012 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Bob

    Who cares , Hockey season starts Soon.......

    September 25, 2012 at 7:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Bill Clayton

      exactly. Who cares if Hockey season starts soon lol

      September 25, 2012 at 8:01 am | Report abuse |
    • mrbubbles

      have you forgotten about the lockout? there is no NHL this season.

      September 25, 2012 at 8:09 am | Report abuse |
  5. Sublime

    It wasn't even a tie, M.D. Jennings clearly had it. The WR had one hand stuck in between Jennings arms when they both came down. I guess to the replacement refs that means completion. Honestly, I would even accept it if it was a tie and they were knotted up, but it wasn't even close to being a tie. I am honestly still speechless with confusion. One thing is certain, that was the last NFL game I watch until these refs are removed from the field. It's just too frustrating to watch.

    September 25, 2012 at 7:56 am | Report abuse |
  6. luvlar95

    Bad call true but everybody's overlooking something. A good defensive back should NOT try to intercept the ball in that situation because of exactly what happened in this case, a struggle for possession. I coached football for many years and players are taught to deflect the ball, knock it down, in a situation like this. The ref blew it but the defensive back got greedy for an interception and he's to blame too.

    September 25, 2012 at 7:58 am | Report abuse |
  7. Offensive interference

    Although the last call was absolutley wrong, the real problem call was the offensive interference call a few plays prior ... that's where the game was taken from Green Bay.

    September 25, 2012 at 7:58 am | Report abuse |
  8. Edward Alvarez

    every time I watch the replays, i always laugh to the top of my lungs. oh NFL, you're turning into a comedy show.

    September 25, 2012 at 7:59 am | Report abuse |
  9. Don MN

    GB and many other teams have been endorsed by the regular ref's and have gotten away with too many penalties because they are the favored team. As Viking fan I blame Jim H. for Sundays (Vikes & 49ers) antics because he new how many time outs he had left.

    September 25, 2012 at 8:00 am | Report abuse |
  10. If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

    This needs to be in the DIS-Belief blog!!

    September 25, 2012 at 8:00 am | Report abuse |
  11. George Smith

    This garbage about the last play being blown by the refs is just that. This is just a coverup for a brain fart by the defending player

    Had the Green Bay defender not tried to be a hero and just knocked the ball to the ground we wouldn't be talking about this. He should be the target of criticism, not the refs

    September 25, 2012 at 8:00 am | Report abuse |
    • Pete

      spoken like a true Vikings fan.

      September 25, 2012 at 8:07 am | Report abuse |
  12. Bob

    You cant change the call the game is over stop crying like little school girls.......

    September 25, 2012 at 8:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Al Bundy

      Not crying. Just point out the inequity.

      September 25, 2012 at 8:07 am | Report abuse |
  13. rob

    Reality check. it was GW Bush's fault....

    September 25, 2012 at 8:02 am | Report abuse |
  14. Bill

    Jennings has both arms on the ball and the ball pressed against his chest. Tate has one arm wrapped around the whole package. Take away the color of the uniforms and it just looks like the player in back is tackling the player with the ball. Pretty clear call to me. As to the interference, one of the commentators mentioned that ref frequently ignore pass interference on those types of plays, and I would agree that the normal jostling and shoving in the pack does get ignored. But a blatant two handed shove in full view of everyone is a little different. Time to end this labor dispute.

    September 25, 2012 at 8:02 am | Report abuse |
  15. Bob

    Every one who is complaining must be Packer Fans..............

    September 25, 2012 at 8:05 am | Report abuse |
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