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. John

    It was a touchdown, as Tate clearly had his hand on the ball, between the ball and Jenning's chest. It was a simultaneous reception, thus a touchdown. All of you morons and the announcers are wrong. Yes, the officials are oafs, but no reason to be equally stupid.

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

      Yeah,,,,You Go Johnny Boy......Spoken like a true Seahawk fan...

      September 25, 2012 at 8:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Pete

      Yes John, every one is wrong except you

      September 25, 2012 at 8:10 am | Report abuse |
  2. Dean

    This is like watching the Obama presidency.

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

      More like watching the republican campaign. These guys won't be invited to the big party at the end of the year like every other republican candidate they ran out there this year. Too embarassing. Its like they had Herman Cain calling plays last night.

      September 25, 2012 at 8:16 am | Report abuse |
    • f-the-rich

      You must be a replacement ref. Got that call way wrong. If anything this is a metaphor for the Mittens and Opie show that continues to entertain on a daily basis.

      September 25, 2012 at 8:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Aaron Rodgers

      .......or the Romney Campaign or the republican convention or the republican debates or......

      September 25, 2012 at 8:21 am | Report abuse |
    • TomNPitt

      Takes a republicanist to find a political spin in this.
      How about – a better job is done by Union Labor Officials than by "right to work cheaper" scab oficials.

      September 25, 2012 at 8:30 am | Report abuse |

    For years the Packers got every single call ever. Now they get ONE SINGLE CALL not ni their favor, and they cry and whine like little children.


    September 25, 2012 at 8:06 am | Report abuse |
    • dave

      It's not just Packers fans, it's the announcers, coaches, and anyone who watches football.

      September 25, 2012 at 8:14 am | Report abuse |
    • DriftSS

      It was ALOT more than one bad call. There were at least three huge blown calls in the last drive alone. Seattle wouldn't have gotten a single first down in the 4th qtr w/o officiating help. GB got did about 1/2 the teams in the league since these pathetic refs have been in place.

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

      Bears fan, I take it?

      September 25, 2012 at 8:20 am | Report abuse |
    • angryersmell

      It's sad whenever a team has such dedicated fans who are also crybabies. Not Green Bay; which ever team you cheer for I mean.

      September 25, 2012 at 8:20 am | Report abuse |
    • jlf

      this has nothing to do with previous calls..they deserved the right call last night because it was clearly eveident the ref was wrong.

      September 25, 2012 at 8:20 am | Report abuse |
    • chilipepper

      What about when Jerry Rice clearly fumbled in a playoff game against the Packers and it wasn't called?

      September 25, 2012 at 8:27 am | Report abuse |
  4. Get a job Hippies

    Dean awesome comment. This is what happens when you get a union controling something. The get made and strike and we get screwed by the replacement refs

    September 25, 2012 at 8:08 am | Report abuse |
    • soccermama

      Are you kidding me? This is a multibillion dollar enterprise and we are talking something like 100K per game. That's just wrong. THe NFL deserves to lose its fan base because they have shown over and over again that they don't give a good goshdarn about them. It's all about greed. Why put up with it? This fan is voting with her feet. I have better things to do.

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

      I also blame the union. They just want power and have unrealistic demands. They ruined the car industry, steelworkers, teachers, airlines, and now the NFL. Unions are never good for business, employees and particularly the consumer..

      September 25, 2012 at 8:20 am | Report abuse |
  5. Al Bundy

    I know these guys are doing the best job they can, but it's obvious they are in over their heads. The NFL should be ashamed.

    September 25, 2012 at 8:08 am | Report abuse |
  6. Joel

    The refs don't know the rules well enough. It was a clear interception. It might have been an interception and then an attempted take away, but this was not a normal play. Interception in end zone.......end of story.

    September 25, 2012 at 8:11 am | Report abuse |
  7. Chocolog

    Everyone knows bad calls happen. The difference is these calls are horribly pathetically bad, they are happening one after the other in the same season, and with replacement refs. So of course it is different.

    September 25, 2012 at 8:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Jim Laee

      You have a good point, but it's beginning to look like somebody hand picked these guys to look like incompetent boobs.

      September 25, 2012 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Heywood

      Yes, bad calls happen, no argument. Those same bad calls should be overturned by intant replay. Isent that why thay have it? Simply watching the replay in any angle should have clearly shhat it was a pick. Any id i ot with sight would have seen that.

      September 25, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Shane

      You're right bad calls do happen. But bad calls are usually not this obvious.

      September 25, 2012 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • bigot

      even a replacement official can copy and paste their same post countless times....come up with something new.

      September 25, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • k

      That doesn't explain why the replay booth got it wrong. Something tells me there is an untold story there.

      September 25, 2012 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave seattle

      Exactly! Everyone talks about the final play, yet that final play wouldn't have been necessary if the Seahawks hadn't been screwed twice by bad calls that allowed the Packers to take the lead in the 4th quarter. if the regular refs were involved, the Packers would have been forced to kick a field goal instead of being allowed the opportunity to score their final TD. In the end, the bad referring went both ways and the Seahawks deserved that win because the Packers did not earn their final TD either!!!

      September 25, 2012 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • jon

      We are NOT talking about a blown pass interference call here for god's sake, we are talking about an INTERCEPTION.

      September 25, 2012 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
  8. S.R.

    Wow, this is how Romney will run the country if he gets elected!!!

    September 25, 2012 at 8:14 am | Report abuse |
  9. weasel

    Not a on-field decision. It was reviewed. Who reviewed the play. It was looked at for five minutes.

    September 25, 2012 at 8:15 am | Report abuse |
  10. DriftSS

    Absoltely worst officiating I have ever seen! At least three completely blown calls on that last drive alone. No way defensive pass interference to get into GB territory, and was clearly both offensive pass interference by Seattle in the endzone...AND GB intercepted the ball and had both hand to chest possession while Seattle had an interlocked single arm in contact with the ball. That is NOT possession with one hand like that! BOYCOTTING ALL OF THIS WEEKEND GAMES. COME ON AND JOIN ME. Watch MLB, mow your lawn...ANYTHING but give the NFl your time and money till old refs in place again.

    September 25, 2012 at 8:15 am | Report abuse |
  11. Tim

    Don't Blame the NFL for not allowing the Ref's Union to blackmail them. Get rid of the unions, you get rid of the problem.

    September 25, 2012 at 8:16 am | Report abuse |
    • John

      Unions made this country great, and it's the reason why we have better working conditions, benefits and better pay.

      If corporations ( who are not people ) had their way we would still be working for nothing, have fewer benefits and 80 hours a week ( oh I forgot since most work places no longer have unions that is exactly what we are doing )

      September 25, 2012 at 8:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Cutty

      Unions are why this country does not have children working in factories like China Tim. As for the Pack they got beat before that call. Their line looked like cheese and AAron was just baaaaad. When you leave the game to the officials your asking for trouble. To all you Pack fans I want to request a little tune called 96 tears. why don't you cry cry cry a 96 tears. I don't always like replacement refs but I love watching the Packer lose, Bear Down my friends. stay thirty my friends.

      September 26, 2012 at 8:34 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Dave C

    I love the replacement refs! For the past couple years the regular refs have been overofficiating everything to the point they were having as much impact as the players. Now they have a bunch of guys in who aren't calling every ticky-tac thing and fans are crying over it. We haven't witnessed this type of football from the NFL since before instant replay. It's great, its more fun, its like the wild west! Instead of crying like a bunch of babies that forget how stupid the tuck rule is, maybe everyone should just sit back and enjoy this while it lasts.

    September 25, 2012 at 8:19 am | Report abuse |
  13. just curious

    Would this have caused, this much controversy if it was reversed, with the packers as the passing team?

    September 25, 2012 at 8:21 am | Report abuse |
  14. twiz1

    Hey so the games take a little longer and there's a bad call here and there while they get trained...SO WHAT? My ticket prices have gone through the roof in the last decade I say we let the scabs train up and replace the friggin' unionized refs....a union for ref's??? SERIOUSLY??? What do they need a union for??? Should I assume that before and after each game someone took them to a sweat shop where they were forced to make clothes for Martha Stewart at less than a living wage????

    September 25, 2012 at 8:22 am | Report abuse |
  15. Asim

    I'm neither Packers' nor Seahawks' fan but this BS call was just that BS. Come on NFL where is the integrity? I used to love to watch football but lately have come to realize that it's simply not as fun anymore. Packers got robbed and replacement clowns (refs) have got to go!

    September 25, 2012 at 8:23 am | Report abuse |
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