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. acorn00

    I won't watch another game until these guys are gone. They should also reset all the teams records to 0-0 and start over with the reall officials.

    September 25, 2012 at 9:54 am | Report abuse |
  2. darrenhankins

    the commissioner and owner are just greedy men

    September 25, 2012 at 9:54 am | Report abuse |
  3. Epacific

    In Superbowl XL, Seattle's Jackson caught a pass in the end zone for a Seahawk touchdown, only to have it nullified by a bad call. This was but one blown call against Seattle in 2006 which cost them the championship game to the Steelers. The rest of the league told Seattle to suck it up and get over it: blown call or not, they lost. So, to the Packers and the rest of the NFL, I say: blown call or not, Green Bay lost. Get over it.

    September 25, 2012 at 9:55 am | Report abuse |
    • CJ

      What bothers me, and I believe most others, is that this wasnt 'one blown call' it was two. First the obvious and blatant pass interference, shoving a defender to the ground, then catching the defender that caught the ball being called a touchdown. It was an epic amount of blown calls in less than a second, topping off a night of horrible calls.

      September 25, 2012 at 9:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Artie

      From the Seahawk Fan standpoint I guess you're right, even Steven, but you can't say this was blown call, this was a criminal act.

      September 25, 2012 at 10:02 am | Report abuse |
    • bankkiller1

      That is what I say!

      September 25, 2012 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
    • jimmy

      Green Bay lost fair and square, guys.

      September 25, 2012 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
    • JB

      How is Seattle always involved? Wasn't it a bad call in a late 90s Seahawks/Jets game that finally led to instant replay? That's just uncanny.

      September 25, 2012 at 10:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Bregginkrak

      As a Seahawk fan I now know how it feels to be a Steeler fan. Kinda dirt, but with a sheet eating grin on the inside. Oh my, but we'll take the win, cause we are going to need it.

      September 25, 2012 at 10:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      Thank you and I am from Seattle and I still think about that game.

      September 25, 2012 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
  4. bankkiller1

    You have to beat the refs is what I was told when Seattle lost to the Steelers....remember?

    September 25, 2012 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
  5. Ronald Raygun

    packers lost that is so funny, whats even funnier is everybody crying about it. get over it, its a stupid game that causes traumatic brain injuries for your entertainment

    September 25, 2012 at 9:57 am | Report abuse |
  6. pianom

    There once was a horse named Seattle Slew, now she gets a mate called Seattle Screw...

    September 25, 2012 at 9:58 am | Report abuse |
  7. Paddyo

    The NFL does not care. Fans still show up to the games and people still watch on TV. Fans should send the NFL a message and all agree to walk out of games this weekend. The NFL will not really care, but it would send a message as to just how messed up these first 3 weeks of football has been.

    September 25, 2012 at 9:58 am | Report abuse |
  8. Budward62

    I think this is very funny. The owner greed, supported by the NFL is coming home to roost...ruining football. Blacking out home games, unending commercials, and now the refs debacle. Time to find something else to do on Sundays. I hope the NFL collapses

    September 25, 2012 at 10:00 am | Report abuse |
  9. Portland tony

    If one just one of these replacement officials has had a room comped in Vegas or Atlantic City the NFL will be out of business. There are 100s of millions bet on these games weekly....and as it is the replacements don't know whe re their next paycheck is coming from...All a bookie has to do is get to one official for one play in one game .....

    September 25, 2012 at 10:00 am | Report abuse |
  10. What the

    The caption on the photo should read "Clueless in Seattle"

    September 25, 2012 at 10:00 am | Report abuse |
    • Panthro

      Good one!!! In my humble opinion, I think that referee just wanted to be the hero in front of all the Seattle fans by calling it a TD...he actually blew both calls, the offensive interference (non-call) and the TD call..That dude needs to go...

      September 25, 2012 at 10:18 am | Report abuse |
  11. Kim S

    3.3 million is about what the league spends on toilet paper, so the NFL thinks the the locked-out Refs are worth less than toilet paper.

    September 25, 2012 at 10:01 am | Report abuse |
  12. Subnx

    When both the offense and the defense have hands on the ball the offense wins. By the time they hit the ground Tate had his hands on the ball . He wins. The announcer didn't know the rule and kept bashing the official.

    September 25, 2012 at 10:02 am | Report abuse |
    • bozobub

      It's not "hands on the ball", it's "control of the football", NOT the same thing. Guess who doesn't know the rules?

      September 25, 2012 at 10:13 am | Report abuse |
    • DC1973

      You have to have more than your hand on the ball to have possession. Tate never had control. Never.

      September 25, 2012 at 10:16 am | Report abuse |
  13. Extremophil

    I don't hear anyone from Seattle complaining about the replacement refs.

    September 25, 2012 at 10:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      I am from Seattle and I think the refs suck. They have called other awful games this year. Yes I want Seattle to win but we should have won the super bowl against the steelers and those were the real refs supposedly. I am baffled from last night's game. Still stunned.

      September 25, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
  14. dcase20

    I'M DONE. This is all over taking away their pension. I've had it. Baseball playoffs are about to start so I've got plenty to watch without this mess.

    September 25, 2012 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
  15. jimmy

    Bless those replacement refs. I hope they keep doing G-d's work! Go Seahawks!

    September 25, 2012 at 10:08 am | Report abuse |
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