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. David Huber

    Did they replace them with refs from India? I would not be surprised. We are our own traitors and downfall.

    September 25, 2012 at 9:14 am | Report abuse |
  2. Floyd from Ilinois

    Given the number of homer calls Green Bay gets at Lambaugh, they haven't got a lot of credibility whining about 'bad calls'.

    September 25, 2012 at 9:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Real Football Fan

      Anyone who thinks these calls were good or right is obviously a Bears fan and/or NOT a true fan of football. I want FOOTBALL BACK! Good teams playing good games that are not decided by horrible calls.

      September 25, 2012 at 9:22 am | Report abuse |
  3. llewisraney

    Its not about the money, pensions or anything else. NFL is trying to bust the NFLRA Union. It's about control. Roger wants the fox to hand him the chicken and the keys to the chicken coop, as well. For the prosessionalism and integrity of the game, the NFLRA has got to have SOME autonomy. The professional Officials are free thinking men whose families are supported by their 'day jobs'. NFLRA is their advocation; they do it because they love it. They are obsessed by doing their job to perfection. Two-faced Roger is stepping on their necks, saying, I don't care if your job is done right, I want it done MY WAY!

    September 25, 2012 at 9:18 am | Report abuse |
  4. Skeptimist

    I used to like football but the sport has been perverted by the NFL and the NCAA, two "self-regulating" monopolies that have become too rich and powerful to be shamed by their blatant hypocrisies. My fondness for the game is now reduced to a few good memories.

    September 25, 2012 at 9:18 am | Report abuse |
  5. Jay Altman

    Here's everyone blaming the refs because the game did not end the way they wanted. First of all, the play was reviewed by replay video, upholding the call on the field, removing the decision making from the refs on the field. Also, everyone knows that if both players have some sort of possession creating a "jump ball" situation, possession is given to the offensive player. Everyone also seems to be blaming the NFL for this whole situation, demanding that they bring back the so-called "real" refs. Well, it's not the NFL that walked off the field people, it's the "real" refs.
    I firmly believe that the temporary refs are doing the absolute best they can despite severe intimidation by the players, coaches and "fans." I have seen plenty of very bad calls from the so-called "real" refs, so there is nothing different going on here. The fact that they are temporary refs seems to be the justification for concentrating so much on what they have missed. Everyone should be encouraging these refs to try to do better as they become more familiar with the faster pace and higher skills of the professional games they have so graciously consented to work in, and not just constantly disparage them. I am sure every one of you loud-mouth clowns would be extremely unhappy if your boss treated you like that while you were becoming accustomed to your job! Remember also that without these guys, there would be no games at all, and, as some one above said, the missed calls work both ways. Ultimately, it's the teams that win or lose, not the refs. And, as someone else said, the Packer player should have knocked the ball down instead of trying to log an interception for his stats. If he had just done what he should have done, there would be no controversy at all.

    September 25, 2012 at 9:19 am | Report abuse |
    • Not a hater, but I do hate LeBron

      That's a really good comment Jay. I agree wholeheartedly. The regular refs miss stuff all the time and it's their own greedy fault they aren't on the field.

      They make about $200K per year to work 16 days and now these part-time NFL employees want a better retirement package (defined benefit) than the full-time NFL employees enjoy (defined contribution). Screw em.

      LeBron doesn't even know the difference between to and too. What a moron. And don't defend him by saying he didn't go to college. Too = also is something he should have learned in 2nd grade.

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

      Guess you, like the refs, missed the push in the back just prior to the ball arriving. Flag....offensive pass over!

      September 25, 2012 at 9:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Reason & Logic

      It's true that dual possession is given to the offensive player but dual possession can hardly be credited when the offensive player has one hand on the ball and the defensive player has the ball clutched to his chest.

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

      You can't defend a bad call by saying the defender should have knocked the ball down. That's irrelevant, it was still an absolutely terrible call. Anyone who watched the play could see it was a clear interception. And while the normal refs made mistakes all the time, plays are almost always called right after review. This was a terrible call on the final play, and affected the winner of the game. Completely ridiculous. The wrong team is getting a W this week.

      September 25, 2012 at 9:31 am | Report abuse |
    • llewisraney

      Yup, "best they can" just about sums it up. It's remarkable, really, that given their lack of experience and knowledge of the Big Boys Rule book, that these games haven't been worse that they have been. Bless their hearts...

      September 25, 2012 at 9:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Jobre

      1) Because the official ruled a touchdown (while another ruled touchback) the review could not overturn possession. It could only verify whether or not the ball hit the ground. Therefore the "confirmed call after review" didn't really confirm whether or not there was a touchdown or interception.
      2) Not gonna get into "who had possession?". Just watch the replay. Its clear.
      3) There was a missed pass interference call
      4) "Real refs miss calls too" ... Real refs don't misinterpret rules, delay games, award extra timeouts, spot the ball incorrectly after penalties. Those are not judgement calls, that's a lack of understanding of the rules.
      5) "Teams win and lose games, not refs" is such a cop out. The refs are affecting every portion of the game. Obviously the teams win or lose the game because they still have to play despite the refs play vital roles.
      6) This whole "support the refs" and don't "disparage" them is just silly. This game is too fast for them and they are not prepared to do their job effectively.

      September 25, 2012 at 10:18 am | Report abuse |
  6. Frank in Pensacola, FL

    Lack of structure, lack of confidence, lack of control...all of that on the part of the replacement refs leads to players and coaches pushing the boundaries to gain more advantage. So, more yelling and tantrums by coaches. More late hits, questionable hits, contested catches, personal fouls, etc. You take a tightly controlled system w/a lot of possibility for critical error and a lot of volatility and you loosen it up, this is what you get. As the problems get bigger and as more people angle for more advantage to win the games, the refs are going to get more and more critical, obvious blown calls.

    Expect the NFL to come down hard on...the players and coaches, not the refs. Why? Because right not it's not costing the league money. When it does, they'll act to reinstate the regular refs. Not before. Why bother when they can levy fines and MAKE money, and achieve the same result?

    It's going to take a serious injury, or a call that is so ridiculously bad as to be laughable (picture something so stupidly obvious as to be on the Daily show, the Colbert Report, the Today Show, Letterman, and Leno). It will have to be shown over, and over and over again, embarrasing the league, the players, the coaches, and the brand. It will have to be the Challenger explosion of the NFL before the league will get off it's $3.3 million behind and correct the situation.

    September 25, 2012 at 9:20 am | Report abuse |
    • llewisraney

      even an injury that can be directly blamed on lack of professionalnOfficials won't do it. The owners will have to believe they are loosing advertisers, viewers and fans before they go to the NFLRA and actually negotiate like adult businessmen. An orchestrated Lockout of a certain game, so that here is a defined loss of fans and viewers is best way to stop this crap.

      September 25, 2012 at 9:40 am | Report abuse |
  7. dirty Joe

    I've seen Green Bay benefit from more calls like this (by the "regular" refs) than I care to recount. It's really the pot calling the joint green for them to complain.

    September 25, 2012 at 9:21 am | Report abuse |
  8. JeffinIL

    Hey, hey, hey, it's a strike. They deserve to be replaced. Everybody was all hot for the Chicago teachers to be replaced for striking. What, officiating a game is more important than teaching?

    September 25, 2012 at 9:21 am | Report abuse |
    • llewisraney

      it's not a strike, dude. It's a Lockout. Means the NFL said, my way or the highway.

      September 25, 2012 at 9:30 am | Report abuse |
    • JeffinIL

      My bad. Sorry.

      September 25, 2012 at 9:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Just another football fan

      get the politics out of it next thing you are going to say is Obama is a conservative

      September 25, 2012 at 8:15 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Bob

    I was at the game when Seattle lost to the Jets on the last play of the game when the regular refs ruled that the Jets quarterback (I think it was Vinnie) had scored on a running play where he was clearly tackled 3 yards short.
    It cost Seattle a playoff berth.

    September 25, 2012 at 9:22 am | Report abuse |
  10. Vmann2000

    Nobody can see where the left arm of tate is. If that arm is around the ball and on the chest of the Greenbay defender then the ref got it Correct. Dual catch.. Goes to the offense. Quit winning Greenbay you were out played the whole game..

    September 25, 2012 at 9:23 am | Report abuse |
    • John

      Guess you, like the refs, missed the push in the back just prior to the ball arriving. Flag....offensive pass over!

      September 25, 2012 at 9:29 am | Report abuse |
    • John

      Quit winning??? Learn how to spell
      Greenbay??? Again, learn how to spell

      September 25, 2012 at 9:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Vandy

      Quit winning or whining? Or would that be another missed call? I'm ok "mostly" with the replacement refs-I know they'll make mistakes. BUT when a blatant foul is not called, and the result is a game changer, that I have a harder time with. It's like giving a permanent marker to a 3 year old in the Louvre.....we are losing much more than games here. We are losing respect for the business of the sport.

      September 25, 2012 at 9:40 am | Report abuse |
  11. Tim

    The whole controversy could have been avoided if Jennings had simply knocked the ball away instead of trying to intercept it - he clearly had that chance but for some reason decided to try the interception. That's the #1 thing coaches tell you on hail marys like that - KNOCK THE BALL AWAY. But yes, HORRIBLE call - it was an interception.

    September 25, 2012 at 9:23 am | Report abuse |
  12. Zappacostta

    You can't blame the officials. That's like yelling at your two year old for spilling a glass of milk. Blame the one who filled the cup too much, not the one who spilled it.

    September 25, 2012 at 9:25 am | Report abuse |
  13. Charles

    Call me when the strike is done. After watching the games this weekend I think I'll sit out the NFL this year.

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

      Sure am glad hunting season has started. Football on Sunday? Nah, I'll pass.

      September 25, 2012 at 9:35 am | Report abuse |
    • llewisraney

      It's not a strike, guys! It's a Lockout.

      September 25, 2012 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |
  14. llewisraney

    Lockout isn't going to change until fans and viewers stop going to games and stop watching games, en masse. An orchestrated LOCKOUT of NFL games is the answer to this train wreck. SOMEBODY rich has got to feel like he is loosing money. They have no shame, player safety is just the politically correct by line of the day, integrity of the game means nothing to them. . .
    I watched Atonement last night, instead of MNF. It was a barrel of laughs compared to the travesty of those pitiful amateurs on the field with professional athletes.

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

    As far as the Packers/Seahawks go. That ball was clearly intercepted. I hope the NFL and the refs come to terms soon, it would be a shame if this is what the rest of the season is going to be like.

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