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. Kevin

    I'm a big Seahawks fan, but the Packers had that stolen from them. That was definitely pass interference and an interception. Easy to say, since the Seahawks get the win – but it wasn't right.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:09 am | Report abuse |
  2. Mark

    (Jim Mora voice): "What's that? Ah - Officals? Don't talk about - officials?! You kidding me?! Officials?! I just hope we can call a game! Another game!"

    September 25, 2012 at 1:09 am | Report abuse |
  3. wydok

    Not watching again until the real refs are back. Fulltime refs would be better.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:10 am | Report abuse |
  4. Tom Hartman

    Totally ridiculous, the most casual fan could tell it was an interception. What in heaven's name were they seeing?

    This is making a mockery of the NFL.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:10 am | Report abuse |
  5. Stupid

    The NFL is done, I'm tuning out and no longer see this as a legit sport. What a joke, what an embarrassement to everyone involved. The game looked rigged, like some of those replacement refs and being paid off under the table. Heads better role including the NFL bigwigs. Unless a seriously large amount of people lose their jobs over this I will not return to the game, this is my promise.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:11 am | Report abuse |
    • soccermama

      Good for you! If everyone does it, or at least most, things will get beter, They won't until then because the fans are willing to provide loyalty to an undeserving league.

      September 25, 2012 at 8:19 am | Report abuse |
    • LegalCarry

      I am having a problem with heads better role

      September 25, 2012 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Bnoble

    Roger GODell is ruining the game of football. Never has the NFL itself been invoved in so mch controversy and heresay...he's got to go.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:11 am | Report abuse |
    • jahjones

      Godell works for the owners; the owners are taking a hard stance that their offer to the regular officials was fair. Whatever else you may blame him for in this particular instance he isn't to blame; he's doing the bidding of his bosses.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Cory

    Think I'm going to read a book or go for a walk this sunday instead of waste my time watching something that the Head Honcho's at the NFL care so little about.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:11 am | Report abuse |
  8. pimpson

    They didn't get it wrong at all. A simultaneous catch goes to the offense. Go read the rulebook.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:12 am | Report abuse |
    • lilmidas

      your right on the rule but it wasnt . the green bay back had the ball to his chest. it would be different if they both only had hands on the ball.

      September 25, 2012 at 1:15 am | Report abuse |
    • agathokles

      When the Packer has two hands on the ball (pulled to his chest) and the Seahawk just one, how can that be "simultaneous possession?"

      September 25, 2012 at 1:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Ken

      You are a blind dick

      September 25, 2012 at 1:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Magoo

      Are you kidding me??!!!! It was blatanly caught by the Packer Jennings and then Tate put an arm on it as they fell to the ground. Have you not seen the instant replays?? Not to mention Tate causing pass interference by pushing Shields prior to this. The refs definately called it wrong and the game should be reversed.

      September 25, 2012 at 9:39 am | Report abuse |
    • LegalCarry

      in no way is this a simultaneous catch – my seven yearold granddaughter could have made the right call – even before the catch on the blatant and obvious offensive pass interference.

      September 25, 2012 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Sean S.

    As a Seahawks fan, I am just as outraged as everyone else. You never want to win a game that way. If this doesn't end the lockout, I don't know what will. And I don't know if I'll want to watch anymore...

    September 25, 2012 at 1:12 am | Report abuse |
  10. lilmidas

    i ll tell u what i think....the line on the game was green bay minus 3 and a half points. wonder who most of america had their money on hmmmmmmmmm . and its even funnier when the extra ref in his little black jacket personally gets a call from goodell to pass this news on to the other refs. NFL is fixed people !

    September 25, 2012 at 1:12 am | Report abuse |
  11. Teamski

    This is an absolute abomination. How anybody at any level of football could call that a TD is beyond me.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:12 am | Report abuse |
  12. LeAnn Lemke

    I can't sleep because I'm so riled up about it. How, by any stretch of the imagination (especially after being reviewed!), is that a touchdown? Jennings clearly intercepted the ball and had it when they hit the ground. This is the most obvious example (so far) of a game's outcome being determined (changed, reversed) by a replacement referee error.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Chip Douglas

      Jennings caught the ball, while off the ground. A catch is not a catch in the NFL, until BOTH feet come back to the ground. In mid-air then Tate gets his arms in their to have simultaneous possession. Then they come to the ground together. That can be defined as simultaneous possession. It is not defined by who got the ball first while in mid-air, or who was holding 70% of the "catch/ball". 1 word: Ambien.

      September 25, 2012 at 9:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Marcus

      Chip, if that helps you sleep at night...... Everyone else in America saw the ball in the Packers chest with two hands and Tate grasping for position after they were on the ground. Even Tate admitted that he was trying to wrestle the ball away, implying that Jennings already had it....

      September 25, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Stupid

    The NFL is a joke, it's all about oney to them. We can't see half the games on regular TV, refs can't call plays, you can't celebrate after a touchdown, things are rigged..... it used to be a fun sport, the last few years it's totally stupid. I like football less and less these days. This was the lat straw, I'm done!

    September 25, 2012 at 1:13 am | Report abuse |
  14. ... Kentucky long-rifleman ....

    ...As a Seahawk fan I must point out that the officials missed about 4 holding calls on the Packers;
    ......and, if Green Bay would have made the 2-point conversion, the Seahawks would have only TIED the game at the end.
    ...but, in the end, Green Bay displayed their dignity by returning for the extra point.
    ........................GIVE US THE 1ST TEAM OFFICIALS...................

    September 25, 2012 at 1:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      Please do not forget that the seahawks superbowl victory was taken away by real refs.

      September 25, 2012 at 6:48 am | Report abuse |
    • paul

      Chip Douglas is correct sorry Marcus he doesnt need it to sleep well at night. Know the rules you do not obtain possesion in mid air and they both had arms on ball when on ground and yes he was trying to wrestle ball while in air that is what he is supposed to do. When they landed they both had some of the ball. Correct call. I know these refs are second rate but they are for both teams. Stop crying final call correct. And if a push isnt called you cant call it on replay Good night move on.

      September 25, 2012 at 9:13 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Brad

    These refs are turning the NFL into a joke and will lose fans because of it!!! Clearly an interception by GB! I'm disgusted!!!!

    September 25, 2012 at 1:13 am | Report abuse |
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