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. wmbarker

    I will continue to watch the game scores on the news but I will not be watching any games any longer.

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

      that's the ticket!

      September 25, 2012 at 9:32 am | Report abuse |
  2. glades2

    Would there be the same outcry if the Packers had won (lol)...

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

      Outcry comes from lack of trust of the amaturrs on field with Professionals.

      September 25, 2012 at 9:33 am | Report abuse |
  3. repeat

    Possession by the offensive player in the end zone. PLAY OVER, TOUCHDOWN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    September 25, 2012 at 9:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Rem1061

      Right, Possession, which having one hand on a ball which is wrapped up in the defenders arms is NOT possession. No TD.

      September 25, 2012 at 9:37 am | Report abuse |
  4. Joe

    I think the players and coaches should go on strike until the NFL decides it must have professional referees to play a professional game. Why have two teams consisting of the best players in the world play each other when the third team on the field (refs) don't know the rules of the game, much less have the skills to see and make the right calls? If this goes on any longer, more & more games are going to be decided by blown calls, coaches will be walking around the field getting in the road of plays, more fights on the field will break out, fans will become unruly, and players (and refs) are going to get hurt. And the NFL, which has always been a league of the highest integrity, will become an even bigger joke than it has already allowed itself to become.

    September 25, 2012 at 9:31 am | Report abuse |
  5. glades2

    Poor Las Vegas oddsmakers – they are having to pay out for games that should have gone the other way, had it not been for bad calls (LOL)...

    September 25, 2012 at 9:32 am | Report abuse |
  6. D

    There have been bad calls all years the difference is we now have replacement officials but check this reality out. How many views of a play did we have 5 years ago? How good was HD 10 years ago? In all sprts we have lots more views to analize a play not so before. Baseball is the worse honestly so many strikes call balls and so many balls called strike in teh same game is like the strike zones changes and inch here and there.

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

      You can rationalize all you want, but you can compare to LAST SEASON to find more consistent officiating. That "10 years ago" argument is totally off-point. The replacement refs are terrible. Do the "real" refs get every call right? Of course not, but they're obviously better than these hacks. Wake up.

      September 25, 2012 at 9:42 am | Report abuse |
  7. hobbit

    I do not watch now or listen. I will once real NFL games return. I do love ready about the NFL comedy they call a game!

    September 25, 2012 at 9:33 am | Report abuse |
  8. Maxy

    REally Tim? Have you ever played football? I wonder, it is not that simple to say "he shouldve knocked the ball away" WHAT!!?? LIke that is not how an excellent defensive player plays, that is why he is a PRO , also knocking the ball away could result in a tip drill, do you know what that is, in essence it could of been caught by someone else, Either way you, go for a pick , and that is what Jennings did , and that is what Jennings Did , Tate, you and the whole world know it

    September 25, 2012 at 9:33 am | Report abuse |
    • DC1973

      I have to disagree with you on this one. If they'd been less worried about getting that interception stat and just knocked it down, the game would have been over, with no call for the refs to blow. That was the one thing that Dilfer right from the beginning, and throughout the broadcast. Jennings knocks it down, game is over. Yes, I know it's a fast-paced game, and you don't always think perfectly clearly, especially with the game on the line and no time left on the clock. But you know he was thinking about the celebration he'd get to have for intercepting it.

      September 25, 2012 at 9:38 am | Report abuse |
  9. Spudman2u

    All I have to say is, See Super Bowl XL. And yes, I am a Seahawk fan, and yes I am not over it.

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

      I agree. I am also a Seattleite and have not forgotten that game either. I still mention it to remind people that we won the super bowl and it was taken away from us. Unfortunately these things happen, but it is what it is.

      September 25, 2012 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Give me a break

    All this nonsense over $3.3 million...

    September 25, 2012 at 9:34 am | Report abuse |
    • DC1973

      Exactly. Driving a billion dollar brand into the ground to avoid giving the refs another $3.3 million makes the owners seems petty and stupid.

      September 25, 2012 at 9:40 am | Report abuse |
  11. Catch_22

    I saw the play and it looked like both players caught the ball at the same time; maybe the GB player had a better angle on the catch, but that doesn't matter bcse it appeared that both players caught the ball; and in that situation the rules say the offensive player wins. I saw nothing wrong with the call and I also think the Replacement Refs are doing a great job and should be made permanent. The funny thing is that people aren't realizing how bad the Normal Refs actually were... I am one of the few it seems who thinks the Replacement Refs are better in many ways, especially because teams like Packers and the Patriots don't get all the calls; more balanced.

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

      @ Catch-22, you're only partially correct. If it's a simultaneous catch you're correct; however, it wasn't a simultaneous catch, which is defined further down in the rulebook that if one player has control of the ball first and the other play grabs onto the ball, it's not a simultaneous catch. Jennings clearly had the ball first and Tate reached in–> not a simultaneous catch. Also, to the others who mentioned the replay, the replay official isn't allowed to look at who had possession, only if they were inbounds, etc, therefore the replay call was correct. Yes, Green Bay got robbed.

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

      You must be a replacement ref or a family member. Tate had one hand on the ball, that's it. Jennings had both hands on the ball and was holding it in his chest. What about the interference in open field in front of the ref by Tate while the ball was coming down. I have no love for GB (pure Giants) but right is right, and that was just wrong.

      September 25, 2012 at 9:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      You do make an interesting point!!

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

    TOUCHCEPTION! The munchkins from Oz win! Holding on Snarf from Thunder Cats! ANYTHING GOES!

    The nicest thing I can say about these replacement refs is that they make these game exciting like a Buffalo Wild Wings commercial

    September 25, 2012 at 9:37 am | Report abuse |
  13. Dose of reality

    Why don't the fans stop watching or attending all games n protest?

    ( of course that wouldn't happen but it would end the strike immediately)

    September 25, 2012 at 9:38 am | Report abuse |
  14. Referee

    "OK, OK, OK. Green Bay, I'm sorry. Tell ya what, when I work the WNBA Finals, I'll make sure to blow a call against Sue Bird and Seattle to make it up to you guys."

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

      Very funny!!

      September 25, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
  15. PhillyfanJS

    It is time that the fans speak out. This travesty has gone on long enough. We need to BOYCOTT the NFL until they get the referees back. Don't watch games, don't go to games, don't even wear gear. It may not be much, but we have to do SOMETHING.

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