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. Drumcode

    Cry me a river!! Go Bears!!!!!

    September 25, 2012 at 10:27 am | Report abuse |
  2. Ben

    All this whining and complaining about the replacement refs would have more impact if it didn't sound like all the whining and complaining that occurred about the regular refs.

    Truth is... Some plays are close. And all these people are complaining when the refs get it wrong...but they're also complaining when the refs get it right. If the refs called it an interception, then all of Seattle would be screaming "tie goes to the offense" and saying the replacement refs are terrible.

    September 25, 2012 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
  3. killngrill

    Are you kidding me? The worst non-call and the worst call in THE history of the the NFL! And both on the same play!!! Roger needs to go; NOW!!

    September 25, 2012 at 10:32 am | Report abuse |
  4. Conor

    Seattle sucks. So do their fans. They know they lost but revel in the victory anyway. That makes them a city of unprincipaled theives, just like their coach, Pete Carroll. This cheat was run out of LA for his corruptness at USC. We now have a new city and team to hate. Goodbye New York Yankees. Hello Seattle Seahawks. Pox on Seattle, their fans, their coach, the inept refs, and Roger Goodell and the owners for making this all possible. You're all killing the game.

    September 25, 2012 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
    • dp

      wow, this is really intelligent.

      September 25, 2012 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Emenace

      In their only super bowl game, the Seahawks were homered by the refs too. Don't worry, the Seahawks will be punished by the refs the rest of the season, you watch. I live in Washington but I wouldn't call myself a fan, just an observer. There were MANY terrible calls in this game that went both ways.

      September 25, 2012 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      Conor – this is a horrible comment bordering on abusive. I am from Seattle. Seattle is full of wonderful people and they are very much behind their sports teams. I can say that I am baffled by this game and what happened. I am not a bad person, the city is not full of thieves, and any other team would have reacted the same. Do not fool yourself!!!!!!

      September 25, 2012 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Berry holt

      Bright side, book makers can have an over/under on outrageous calls

      September 25, 2012 at 9:28 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Bob C.

    Jennings had it, but Tate managed to get at least one arm on it before Jennings fell to the ground. That's simultaneous possession, the call was correct. You don't gain possession until both feet (or your behind) land inbounds. You don't have to catch a ball with two hands either. You can use one hand, or one hand and your helmet, for example. We also can't see where Tate's other arm is, so it's possible he has both hand around the ball anyway.

    So you can argue about the NFL's insane rules on exactly what a catch is, but I think the refs got it correct (maybe by accident, but that doesn't matter). That's why they tell the defense players to KNOCK DOWN THE BALL on a Hail Mary pass. If Jennings had done that, the Packers would have won.

    September 25, 2012 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
    • dp

      first sane comment I have read today. thanks.

      September 25, 2012 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Doug C.

      So Bob, I see that you are qualified to be a replacement ref.

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

      Bob C. I'm curious as to the definition (or more rather your definition) of possession? Having your arm next to the ball is not possession by any means. It was not established that Tate had his hand on the ball at the outset. He even stated that he probably did not and so the question is whether GB established possession first which I think most people believe they did.

      September 25, 2012 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
  6. Fish

    I can see where they might think they both had possession, but the offensive pass interference call was pretty blatant.

    September 25, 2012 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
  7. JPickett

    I could not care less, as long as the refs don't show partiality towards one team or the other. The previous refs called some plays wrong too. Meanwhile this and other forms of entertainment distract us from Serious events in our country and in the world. The Roman government gave away free bread and sponsored "circuses" to distract the "99%". I see no difference today.

    September 25, 2012 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
  8. JT

    Who cares? American football is the worst sport ever. It's played by morons and criminals. It's 30 seconds of action and 10 minutes of standing around.

    September 25, 2012 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Doggie

      As opposed to European football which is 90 minutes of standing around followed by a free-throw shooting contest.

      September 25, 2012 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
  9. applesauce585

    "C'mon Man" even Stevie Wonder could've seen that was an interception and not a TOUCHDOWN! Everyone saw that c'mon now and Seattle's headcoach, won? C'mon man! smh

    September 25, 2012 at 10:37 am | Report abuse |
  10. Jim Reilly

    Seems absurd that the owners are willing to let the NFL deteriorate to this level and allow their players to continue to play these games which are reckless, dangerous and could cause numerous injuries and place the wrong teams into playoffs. If people quit watching they would resolve labor issues.

    September 25, 2012 at 10:38 am | Report abuse |
  11. Poor Poor Green Bay

    Inconclusive both had possession. They looked at the instant replay same finding. "sad day when an elite team looses" get over yourselves you choked last year and your miserable this year!! Go Sea Hawks

    September 25, 2012 at 10:38 am | Report abuse |
  12. A clifford

    What people u get what u pay for

    September 25, 2012 at 10:38 am | Report abuse |
  13. Jeff

    I think the broadcasts are just analyzing calls more than the game now. They can't WAIT until there's an error. Grant it, it happens more per game, but it happens with the regular refs too.

    And on that last play...if the Green Bay players, that outnumbered the Seahawks receivers in the endzone, would have just simply poked the ball away instead of going for the interception, we wouldn't even be talking about this.

    September 25, 2012 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
    • DavidinKansas

      We are talking about it because ESPN made it their entire post game broadcast so they could rant in order to help the regular refs negotiate.

      September 25, 2012 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      Everyone is crying over the call at the end of the game which gave the Seahawks the win. What about the blown call when the called PI on the Hawks on 3rd down to give Greenbay the 1st down which then lead to Greenbays first touch down. What would have happened if they hadn't blown that call? The Hawks could still be looking at a 7 to 6 win. Everyone needs to stop crying just becuase the Packers lost.

      September 25, 2012 at 10:56 am | Report abuse |
  14. DontTrustEm

    and they all woke up millionaires and your still broke! how about you worry about the replacement politicians that are ruining this country!

    September 25, 2012 at 10:44 am | Report abuse |
  15. skipper sam

    I am a Softball Umpire with 30 years experience. I would not even want to do the Bases of a MLB game.

    It would be an insult, to all the Umpires who worked their way up thru the minor league system.

    These Referee's are trying to do their best, but you have to remember, none of them were qualified to even be an NFL side judge last year.

    I do not know if any of them were even NCAA Division 1 Collage Football Referees last year.

    In softball we have a term for Umpires like this.

    Forrest Gump

    "Their calls are like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get."

    September 25, 2012 at 10:44 am | Report abuse |
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