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. imvotingforobama

    I dont like football.

    September 25, 2012 at 8:45 am | Report abuse |
  2. Go Pack Go

    I can NOT take it anymore. Die Hard Packer Fan officially on NFL strike – no TV no Radio – nothing until replacement ref's are no more.

    September 25, 2012 at 8:45 am | Report abuse |
    • noteabags

      Your loss.

      September 25, 2012 at 8:46 am | Report abuse |
    • snOOzE

      I think it's time for an NFL boycott. What would happen if everyone decided not to watch football on TV anymore? How much $ would the NFL lose if we stopped watching these games on TV?
      We do this sorta thing with gas, why not football. I'll bet it wouldn't take more than 1 Monday night footabll game.

      September 25, 2012 at 8:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Les

      Whatever happens in these games is irrelavant. Focus on removing Obama from office in November. That is what is importatnt and it will affect you!

      September 25, 2012 at 9:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Rex

      OK. So what's for lunch? (In other words, who cares?)

      September 25, 2012 at 9:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Brandi Wolf

      Not even a packer fan and I agree. If I want to watch refs job someone I'll watch wrestling.

      September 25, 2012 at 9:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Joe Meat

      Seahawk receiver had possession, albeit only for an instant. But, once he had possession of the ball, that is a touchdown, and at that moment, the play is over. Touchdown. That the defensive player then wrestled the ball away from him is inconsequential. Touchdown already scored. Play over. Good call.

      September 25, 2012 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Ac Summers

      You will be in front to the tube next week at 5am espn waiting for the game to start, so stop it.
      Suck it up and man up cheezehead..Packers lost.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jake

      Joe Meat your clearly blind if you think the Seattle player had possession because clearly it landed in Jennings hands and he had both hands on the ball had the ball against his body and was on the ground. A clear interception.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rich2012

      The Seattle receiver clearly did have some kind of possession of the ball with both hands wrapped around the ball and with his feet touching the ground. The Green Bay defender did not have his feet down while he tried to gain possession afterwards but that doesn't matter because both had possession afterwards anyway and tie goes to the offensive player. There is no rule about one player having more of a percentage of the possession than the other. Even though it appeared the Green Bay had "better possession" after he came down and rolled on the ground the Seattle receiver clearly had hands wrapping the ball up. It was a touchdown by Seattle either way you look at it...initially when the receiver's feet touched down and after the defender landed. Great call by the refs.

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

      The sad thing is that ratings will go up now to see what happens next. Its a 16-week long, $10 billion revenue car accident at this point.

      September 25, 2012 at 6:58 pm | Report abuse |
  3. noteabags

    This is payback for Super Bowl 40 which was given to the Steelers.

    September 25, 2012 at 8:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Old enough

      "Given?" Id like to hear you definition of "given".

      September 25, 2012 at 9:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Woodrow

      So screwing GB is payback for a bad call that happened years earlier in a game that they weren't even a part of? With a screwed up sense of justice like that I'm hoping you're not a manager, judge, or politician of any kind. Actually...politician would fit.

      September 25, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Elmer Fudd

    If I were McCarthy, I would notify the NFL Commissioner immediately that I would not be playing in any more games until the referee situation is resolved. Either they reschedule or GB forfeits...but either way it is an honorable and ballsy thing to do and as a GB fan, I could live with that. For McCarthy...he can say that it is painfully obvious the outcomes are being affected by the refs, and that player safety is being compromised.

    September 25, 2012 at 8:49 am | Report abuse |
  5. buggymuffin

    Funny how everyone is focused only on this play and seems to be overlooking all of the other bad calls, some of which kept Packer scoring drives alive. When it comes to refs, sometimes the bad calls go your way, sometimes they don't. If you want to talk being robbed of a victory, the Hawks were robbed by bad calls in Superbowl XL. At least this was a regular season game. Now bring back the real refs!

    September 25, 2012 at 8:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Elmer Fudd

      The whole game was like a photo op for the refs...stopping on every other play for camera time for one penalty or another that just started getting ridiculous. I quit watching at halftime as it was just annoying. I wish I'd not paid for my NFL Sunday Ticket at this point. I want my money back.

      September 25, 2012 at 9:26 am | Report abuse |
  6. peacewalker

    I love how Pete Carroll says it was a "good call". Once a cheater, always a cheater.

    September 25, 2012 at 8:50 am | Report abuse |
  7. gedwards

    Thinking that that method always works is a big reason the Lions lost.

    September 25, 2012 at 8:51 am | Report abuse |
  8. Soccer Mom

    The NFL needs to address this TODAY. This is a PR nightmare for them, and one that will cost them. Anyone could clearly see that the Seahawks NEVER had the ball. EVER.

    September 25, 2012 at 8:53 am | Report abuse |
    • 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 9:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Brandi Wolf

      @Pete: You're wrong. Check the rulebook about simultaneous posession. Pay special attention to if one player has posession (say, both arms, both hands and a chest vs. just an arm) and how joint posession is not awarded in that case.

      Thanks for comming out.

      September 25, 2012 at 9:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Truthbetold

      @pete. The GB player had possession of the ball. The seattle player had possession of the GB player. Its that simple. Its a horrible call.

      September 25, 2012 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Joe Meat

      Seahawk receiver had possession, albeit only for an instant. But, once he had possession of the ball, that is a touchdown, and at that moment, the play is over. Touchdown. That the defensive player then wrestled the ball away from him is inconsequential. Touchdown already scored. Play over. They got the call right. That's all that matters.

      September 25, 2012 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Jake

      @Pete and Joe Meat. The Seahawk had one hand on it BUT The Green Bay Player had both hands on it touched it and caught it first, and had the ball up to him ands till had it when he was down. All the seahawk did is put his hand underneath the ball so it would look like he had a tiny bit of possession when he had none at all.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • SpenderH

      The NFL ruled today that the reception was a simultaneous catch and it was reviewed and confirmed. Touchdown Seahawks.

      September 25, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • scemcee

      @Pete GB never had even partial possession. Read the rules before you post, maybe?

      September 25, 2012 at 7:01 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jim

    I used to ref high school football and some small colleges, which does not make me an expert (much less as to the pro rules), but it did give me the opportunity to judge a few plays pretty much like the one being discussed. Frankly, after looking at the replay, I think the refs got it right. Both players had possession, thus it was an offensive reception. The rules do not require that both players have both arms on the ball, only that the offensive receiver have possession, which he seemed to have. A one-armed catch is still a catch. In any event, it is not an obvious call either way.

    September 25, 2012 at 8:55 am | Report abuse |
    • repeat

      Exactly. Possesion in the end zone PLAY OVER, TOUCHDOWN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      September 25, 2012 at 9:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Go Browns

      what about the push off by the wide receiver right before with no offensive pass interference called?

      September 25, 2012 at 9:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Bsquared72

      The OFFICIALS got it right and wrong. Right because of the possession by both players, wrong because of the missed offensive PI. Looks like their eyes were on the ball instead of their keys. I to officiate and the offensive player pushed off.

      September 25, 2012 at 9:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Boo

      You apparently don't know the NFL rules...check out the playbook rules and get back to us.

      September 25, 2012 at 9:11 am | Report abuse |
    • Bsquared72

      How about you tell me the rule - Boo.

      September 25, 2012 at 9:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Woodrow

      @Bsquared72 – it's online. Let us know if you need help with the big words.

      September 25, 2012 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Ferd

    If the NFL is all about protecting the players and the integrity of the "NFL" then this labor dispute should have been settled before the beginning of the season. The Commissioner should be FIRED!

    September 25, 2012 at 8:56 am | Report abuse |
  11. Had enough

    Its time the teams go on strike untill the Foot locker refs go back to College games and the Pro Refs are back on the field.

    September 25, 2012 at 8:59 am | Report abuse |
  12. Boo

    I don't care what the final score said. I don't care what the officials said. THE PACKERS WON THAT GAME!

    September 25, 2012 at 8:59 am | Report abuse |
    • caesarbc

      The Pack is 2-1.

      September 25, 2012 at 9:02 am | Report abuse |
    • rvastag

      no ... I just looked at the standings. The Packers are 1-2.

      September 25, 2012 at 8:07 pm | Report abuse |
  13. caesarbc

    Everyone should stop watching NFL games. That was bull S%$&!!!!
    If these players are going to play their hearts out and risk getting hit by mack trucks every play risking life and limb... then those calls had better be right. This was a disgrace to the game. BRING BACK THE REFS OR I WE WILL ALL STOP WATCHING!!

    September 25, 2012 at 9:00 am | Report abuse |
  14. caesarbc

    Everyone should stop watching NFL games. If these players are going to play their hearts out and risk getting hit by mack trucks every play risking life and limb... then those calls had better be right. This was a disgrace to the game. BRING BACK THE REFS OR I WE WILL ALL STOP WATCHING!!

    September 25, 2012 at 9:01 am | Report abuse |
  15. repeat

    An offensive player possesses the ball in the end zone. PLAY OVER, TOUCHDOWN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    September 25, 2012 at 9:01 am | Report abuse |
    • bczu

      He didn't control it, it was clearly in Green Bay's possession.

      September 25, 2012 at 9:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Chuck

      Joint possession goes to the offense, TD. Also, the clock is stop after a score. I just wish ESPN would get the call correct.

      September 25, 2012 at 9:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Brandi Wolf

      Totally wrong. Even the former ref in the booth stated it was wrong. What you said about joint posession is true, but it wasn't joint posession. The rule specifically states that if a player posesses the ball (two hands, two arms and a chest for example vs. say, a single arm) and another player then gets two hands on the ball joint posession is *not* the call.

      Thanks for comming out.

      September 25, 2012 at 9:32 am | Report abuse |
    • scemcee

      ... except that no offensive player had possession at any point, so its an interception. Even the NFL knows it wasn't a touchdown. No one thinks it was a touchdown by any stretch of the imagination. I'm pretty sure the ref thought it was GB ball, and was mistakenly calling the TD for them.

      September 25, 2012 at 7:04 pm | Report abuse |
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