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. Richard Stallman

    No one is mentioning that A. Rodgers was sacked 8 times in the first half B. Shouldn't the Packers have one this game handily anyways? I mean it shouldn't of even been close. That was a bad call but they have only themselves to blame

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

    Hurray for the replacement officials 🙂
    A Bear Fan.

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

    Do you know what will get the real refs back? when you stop watching/giving money/buying nfl crap. do you honestly think the nfl cares about anything more than money?

    September 25, 2012 at 8:24 am | Report abuse |
  4. Mrbard

    Perhaps the owner of the Green Bay Packers and the other teams who disagree with the calls made by the replacement refs will pony up and pay the pension plans of the real refs.

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

      The Packers are owned by the fans, there is no single owner

      September 25, 2012 at 8:28 am | Report abuse |
    • warnat

      OWNER of the Packers??? You do realize that the Green Bay Packers are owned by the local community and not one person, right? And don't worry, many of us here in WI will be screaming at the NFL for days/weeks to come...

      September 25, 2012 at 9:03 am | Report abuse |
  5. plenty

    Makes for an exciting game, an added element of mystery has been added to the game.

    September 25, 2012 at 8:26 am | Report abuse |
  6. Pete

    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

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

      Not true. Tate didn't have any control of the ball. You need possession in the end zone for a touchdown, which he clearly didn't have.

      September 25, 2012 at 8:37 am | Report abuse |
    • warnat

      it's obvious that you just started watching football this year...maybe even last night...

      September 25, 2012 at 9:04 am | Report abuse |
  7. Grendel Khan

    Simultaneous reception goes to the receiver. You don't like the rule, change the rule. Don't blast the guy for accurately calling what he saw. But the Wah-Wah Packers will still whine....

    September 25, 2012 at 8:26 am | Report abuse |
  8. David B

    It was the 34th anniversary yesterday of the holy roller game between the Chargers and Raiders when Dave Casper recovered a fumble that had been intentionally kicked into the end zone. Dave Casper played tight end for Notre Dame.

    The "receiver" last night, Golden Tate, is a rookie out of Notre Dame. Go Irish!

    September 25, 2012 at 8:27 am | Report abuse |
  9. scmaize

    I believe the amount the real officials are seeking would amount to about $150,000 per team. How much is a win worth, not to mention the integrity of the game?

    September 25, 2012 at 8:28 am | Report abuse |
  10. Joe

    NFL Rules clearly state that a tie goes to the offensive player. So Touchdown, good call. At least on that one. Its not like the regular officials don't blow calls or games. Just usually it benefits the Packers not the other way around.

    September 25, 2012 at 8:29 am | Report abuse |
  11. Killinmeslow

    Just another reason why UNION people are the best trained, best qualified and best paid to do there job!
    NFL fix this before someone gets really hurt!!

    September 25, 2012 at 8:30 am | Report abuse |
  12. Everett R Lindsey

    I refuse to watch any more NFL games, that did it. If this game allows to go on the record books the NFl has lost all integrity.

    September 25, 2012 at 8:30 am | Report abuse |
  13. Phil Esteen

    All this commotion and furor over a child's game?

    Wow, sports is simply too freaking important to some people.

    Please move on...

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

      People enjoy watching sports, just as people enjoy posting on blogs.

      September 25, 2012 at 8:35 am | Report abuse |
  14. Norman Thomson

    Absolutely the worst call I have seen in 40 years of watching sports. And, I will not even pay attention to the NFL until it stops being a lie as to who wins a game!!!!!!

    September 25, 2012 at 8:31 am | Report abuse |
  15. jlf

    the last two calls against the Packers were CLEARLY wrong...the defensive interference play against the Packer that led to the chaos was CLEARLY offensive interference against the Seahawks and the Hail Mary was CLEARLY a Packer interception...this should have nothing to do with who is your favorite team, it should have to do if you are a true fan of NFL Football. the GREEDY owners and INCOMPETENT commissioner are making a mockery of the game! the fans and the players derserve better!

    September 25, 2012 at 8:32 am | Report abuse |
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