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. Thor

    It's complete crap, just like the patriots game. These guys keep making completely off the wall calls in the final minute of the game that fundamentally changes how the game is to be played and the NFL, a nine Billion dollar enterprise, can't pony out the dough for the respect of their sport. It's getting more and more apparent as time goes on that these guys will be missing calls and more importantly making calls that don't exist during crucial parts of the game. I can't even watch anymore because it's unfair to any team who has to play with these officials

    September 25, 2012 at 9:40 am | Report abuse |
    • DC1973

      And now Belichick is facing fines because he wanted an explanation from a ref who was blatantly ignoring him, after calling a kick that was at least four feet to the right of the upright a good field goal.

      September 25, 2012 at 9:44 am | Report abuse |
  2. DC1973

    I'm just waiting for the players to get ticked enough that the NFLPA walks out in protest of unsafe working conditions. That'd end things real quick.

    September 25, 2012 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |
  3. a slozomby

    due to nfl licensing restrictions no link to the video of the play is included.

    September 25, 2012 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |
  4. skog

    First of all yes it was a bad call, second, these are replacement refs. They are working at a higher pace game and making calls without the benefit of the thousand of slo motion angles the fan and announcers have access to. Third, there is supposed to be an non replacement ref watching over the calls to make sure calls are correct. Why are they not doing more about it ? and for now lastly, the players, coaches and fans are emboldened to try to take advantage of the replacement refs and are complaining louder and more boisterous than they would had a non replacement ref made the same call.

    September 25, 2012 at 9:42 am | Report abuse |
  5. surfy6

    Green Bay put themselves into jeopardy with 3 quarters of ineffective football aided by bad call and non-calls. The call at the end was a travesty. I would, if I were a shareholder in the team, consider filing a lawsuit against the NFL, naming Roger Goodell for gross negligence. I really believe that will be the last NFL game I watch this year, if for no other reason, but to maintain a lower blood pressure. I'm neither a GB nor Seattle fan but I do enjoy the game and like to see the best product put on the field, team, coaches and officials.
    Back to College Football and free up my Sundays. Go LSU! ;o)

    September 25, 2012 at 9:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      Should Seattleites have done the same thing when the super bowl was taken away from the Seahawks by Pittsburgh?

      September 25, 2012 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
  6. kyphi

    come on, Ref, time to end your strike.

    September 25, 2012 at 9:43 am | Report abuse |
    • NB

      Ref's aren't on strike. They were locked out by the NFL.

      September 25, 2012 at 9:50 am | Report abuse |
    • derp

      Come on NFL, pay the darn refs.

      It is glaringly obvious at this point that they deserve the money.

      September 25, 2012 at 9:53 am | Report abuse |
  7. Kevin

    Here is a horrible fact here that makes me side with the real refs. If all the players in the NFL are sick of the replacements, and the REAl referees want about 3 million dollars, JUST THE STARTERS from each of the 32 NFL teams would only need to pay about $8,500 from their lucrative multi million dollar offers to make that change happen. No wonder these referees are on strike. I would too and now they have shown their worth and I think they deserve it! I look forward to the thunderous unanimous applaud from the world when these refs walk back onto that field!

    September 25, 2012 at 9:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Math not strong point

      Kevin you need to go back to school. 8500 x 32 = ???

      September 25, 2012 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
    • derp

      "Kevin you need to go back to school. 8500 x 32 = ???"

      I think you both are a little off.

      32 teams times 53 players = 1696 players, or $1,769.00 per player to cover the $3,000,000.00.

      Chump change for an NFL player, and a drop in the bucket for the NFL.

      September 25, 2012 at 10:05 am | Report abuse |
    • makeitrain

      Kevin said the STARTERS. 22 starters on each team. About $4261 per. Looks like Kevin was only using 11.

      September 25, 2012 at 10:38 am | Report abuse |
  8. betterdays

    Twenty-six pages of comments on a football game! I guess we've got our priorities straight. I know I have.

    September 25, 2012 at 9:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Artie

      We can clearly see that.

      September 25, 2012 at 9:55 am | Report abuse |
  9. EJ

    The interception/catch should be a mute point because the alledge Seattle reciever comitted offensive pass interference which should have drawn a penalty and thus wiped out the play.
    Green Bay got a raw deal on this one but to bash the refs is also unfair because they have been asked by a greedy league to do something they are clearly unprepared to do.

    September 25, 2012 at 9:48 am | Report abuse |
  10. WVLady63

    Aaron Rodgers got ripped off! The ball clearly belonged to the Packers! What a travesty!!!!

    September 25, 2012 at 9:51 am | Report abuse |
  11. His Dudeness

    I would prefer dinner and a movie first if that's how the refs plans to treat me an my team.

    September 25, 2012 at 9:52 am | Report abuse |
  12. Trey

    How quickly people forget Ed Hochuli's blown call...

    September 25, 2012 at 9:52 am | Report abuse |

    It was Perfect !!! Screw the Packers !!!

    September 25, 2012 at 9:52 am | Report abuse |
  14. jredsand

    The final drive the worst threequence in NFL history...
    1. roughing the passer on GB interception
    2. pass inteference on GB on the sideline, without a doubt Seattle interference
    3. the Seattle push in the end zone, without a doubt interference and obvious interception

    September 25, 2012 at 9:53 am | Report abuse |
  15. Artie

    Put it whatever way you want, this was an outrageous call, the worst I've ever seen considering it was reviewed in slow-mo . I am not a fan of neither GB nor Seattle but in all honesty the Packers got badly jobbed.

    September 25, 2012 at 9:53 am | Report abuse |
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