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. Jim

    It is to bad that a lot of teams this week have had games taken away from them for calls and no calls on obvious penalties. The Giants should haven't won but the no call on defenseless receiver changed that games outcome. And last nights call was horrible. Don't get me wrong but the regular refs aren't much better, none of them know what is pass interference either. But what goes around comes around. Last year after the greedy players and owners took all that money that should have been divided up to make it cheaper for the fans and maybe to pay the refs more. It is know wonder this is happening. So they made their beds now they have to lay in it.

    September 25, 2012 at 8:33 am | Report abuse |
  2. geeeno

    look at the picture at the top of this article. jenning's left arm is nowhere near the ball. tate has both his hands on the ball. the official has his arms up. correct call! perfect picture to prove it.

    as to all the yahoos on television saying tate "only has one arm on the ball" and "jennings clearly caught it" sorry, in none of those slow mo shots can anyone see the ball. in the slo mo shots where you CAN see the ball, jennings is barely keeping it against his belly with one hand–no control over the ball. and in the end zone shot, which is the clearest shot of them all, he does not have possession. the call must go to the offensive player.

    September 25, 2012 at 8:33 am | Report abuse |
    • gedwards

      That's why possession isn't determined seconds after the play is over. The picture you refer to is well after any action is over that would determine the status. So much for "proof" - other than proof of someone's lack of analytical thinking and application of the rules.

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

      "The picture you refer to is well after any action is over that would determine the status."

      can you say something in english?

      September 25, 2012 at 8:52 am | Report abuse |


    Who want's to see a picture of the little Favre Monster?

    September 25, 2012 at 8:34 am | Report abuse |
  4. LuvRefs

    The replacement refs make the game more exciting to watch since no one knows how the game will end. The only ones crying the most are the people losing money betting on the game. People seem to forget the mistakes the "normal refs" made. Any one remember the botched coin flip?

    September 25, 2012 at 8:34 am | Report abuse |
    • jlf

      the ones who are crying the most are the fans who truly love the game of football and hate to see this mockery of the game!

      September 25, 2012 at 8:46 am | Report abuse |
  5. Joe

    We should all stop watching nfl until this is settled.what if the teams refused to play?

    September 25, 2012 at 8:35 am | Report abuse |
    • don

      I agree with Joe, we should stop watching the NFL, stop going to NFL games and stop buying NFL jerseys and fan gear. The only way the front office is going to notice what a farce the replacement refs are is to hit them where it counts, in the wallet.

      September 25, 2012 at 8:53 am | Report abuse |
    • james hulej

      you are right ,i am not watching or buying NFL

      September 25, 2012 at 9:44 am | Report abuse |
  6. americanbadass607

    Here is the answer to the problem; Stop going to, and watching the games until the regular officials are put back in. Our dollars speak so use them or in this case don't use them.

    September 25, 2012 at 8:37 am | Report abuse |
  7. ZepLedHead

    wont stop cuase peps keep watching and going. Stop both and it will change quick!!

    September 25, 2012 at 8:38 am | Report abuse |
  8. john

    come on the real refs are probably paying the replacements to be as bad as possible so they can pressure the NFL into a better deal

    September 25, 2012 at 8:39 am | Report abuse |
  9. FtForger

    One of the fans should file a class action suit against the owners and all fans should boycott until they get this fixed.

    The person that noted that the players are part of a union and are "crossing the picket line" to play...wrong.
    This isn't a strike, this is a lockout.

    September 25, 2012 at 8:39 am | Report abuse |
  10. colberding

    If I'm not mistaken the officials in the review booth are not replacements.

    September 25, 2012 at 8:40 am | Report abuse |
  11. Patti

    these refs are a total disgrace to the nfl. looks like we are playing hi school flag football.. While the teams suffer from these guys. whats next before they officials come back.

    September 25, 2012 at 8:40 am | Report abuse |
  12. cleat

    FAIL on the part of the refs- CLEARLY right into the hands of the packers- pulled in with a seahawk arm in the middle of it- some how the seahawk gets credit fro the call...
    If you see anything else- I hear they got some temp ref job open at the NFL....
    They have made some bonehead calls (vikinkgs/49rs replay/timeout debacle)... but this one takes the cake.

    September 25, 2012 at 8:41 am | Report abuse |
  13. cleat

    colberding- this call had to be made ON THE FIELD BY THE GHETTO REFS....NOT THE BOOTH.

    September 25, 2012 at 8:42 am | Report abuse |
  14. CanadianCowboyFan

    Thought I saw Bob Arum in the side lines smiling! HMMMMMM! Makes you wonder.

    September 25, 2012 at 8:43 am | Report abuse |
  15. derrick

    The NFL commissioner is so quick to issue out fines and suspensions to players. Now who issue out fines and suspensions to the commissioner for what took place in this game. After watching a game like this make you dont want to watch football anymore.Replace these refs ASAP Please, I can't wait for the NBA season this has made me sick.

    September 25, 2012 at 8:44 am | Report abuse |
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