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. MissyW

    I saw a initial simultaneous possession followed by an interception when GB pulled the ball to his chest and away from Tate's body. Its great the Seahawks won but who wants to win that way?

    September 25, 2012 at 1:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Woodrow

      Um...touching the ball doesn't = possession. Possessing the ball does.

      September 25, 2012 at 1:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Roger

      I guess Woodrow does!

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

    Unbelievable. There was also a bad pass-interference call before that one, allowing Seattle to get close enough for this debacle of a finish. I'm not particularly a fan of either of these teams, but the Packers were robbed!

    September 25, 2012 at 1:13 am | Report abuse |
    • D P

      Everyone seems to forget about the Pass Interference that allowed the Packers to score a touchdown in the first place... Refs blew a lot of calls that first screwed the seahawks and then packers... 7-6 Seattle Wins.

      September 25, 2012 at 1:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Woodrow

      Add interception in FG range that was overturned b/c of a botched call. 9-7 Seattle.

      September 25, 2012 at 1:25 am | Report abuse |
  3. BearsFan

    Even I agree they got robbed.

    But on a serious note, who the hell cares what lebron thinks?!

    September 25, 2012 at 1:13 am | Report abuse |
  4. viperpenn


    September 25, 2012 at 1:14 am | Report abuse |
  5. ben fenster

    it is hard to imagine anyone looking at the replay could think that there was anything other than a Green Bay interception. This is not a matter of just poor refereeing. The play was so evidently miscalled it must be a sure sign of outright corruption.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Woodrow

      EXACTLY. First call could be a mistake (though hard to imagine that two refs standing next to each other could be opposite each other), but to also do that on a replay would seem intentional. Everyone that looked at it on replay said interception. There's no case to be made for a reception unless you consider Tate's touching the ball possession.

      September 25, 2012 at 1:18 am | Report abuse |
  6. Majorlee

    The final horrible call was just more of the same. Sam Shields was called for a PI that was not...and then Kam Chancellor was also called for a PI that was actually a great defensive secondary stop that kept the dirve going for the Packers that gave them the lead. THe way I see it the Zebras scored more touchdowns than the players, Two, one for each team. Shameful

    September 25, 2012 at 1:14 am | Report abuse |
    • D P

      Yup, Hawks win 7-6 with the real Refs

      September 25, 2012 at 1:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Woodrow

      Not so fast - how about the interception in FG range overturned and given back to Seattle with 15 added on...that was only roughing the passer in 2-hand touch football (maybe that's what the ref had been used to before his big break). That'd be 9-6. The last two drives by Seattle didn't just give them chances. It took field position and scoring opportunities (especially with that interception) away from the Packers. Crazy calls...

      September 25, 2012 at 1:21 am | Report abuse |
  7. Lon Walls

    The ending of that Packer/Seahawk game was an abomination. As everyone says, the replacement refs are "doing the best they can." Unfortunately, as the season proceeds, their efforts are not good enough. My sincere concern is not just the botched calls, but the control of the players. More than just the league's integrity is at stake. Sooner or later, key players and league stars are going to get seriously hurt. And then will come the major lawsuits.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:14 am | Report abuse |
  8. popcorn

    CNN = ESPN frontpage. Failed Epic.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:14 am | Report abuse |
  9. Kevin

    Packers showed class after this heartbreaking loss.Roger Goodell shows NO class by allowing this to continue.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:15 am | Report abuse |
  10. Woodrow

    It wasn't just the final call. How about pass interference on GB when, if anything, it was interference AND facemask on Seattle. Or how about a tackle that was called roughing the passer that turned an interception in FG range into 15 yards and a first down.

    WORST officiating I've ever seen in my 56 years..

    September 25, 2012 at 1:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Gangnam Style Chat app

      try watching the CFL, blame the players and coaches, players pulling bad penalties and packers coaches for not coaching d players better for last second hail mary's, wheres MADDEN's famous bark for hail mary dfence??

      September 25, 2012 at 1:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Roger

      100% agree. I've watched for 40 years and seen quite a few botched calls, but I don't think that we went more then 5 or 6 plays between botched calls in this game.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:30 am | Report abuse |
  11. E1k

    Ya wanna know how bad this is? I'm from Chicago and I feel sorry for the Packers? They got jobbed... and then replayed and jobbed again. This whole season has been a joke... How can you enjoy a game that has no rules. The refs call penalties that don't happen, they don't call penalties that do happen, they don't know the rules, they let players get out of hand, they let coaches get out of hand. There is just no point to watching this stuff anymore. This is wrestling.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Gangnam Style Chat app

      LOL best entertainment the past 3 weeks ever for NFL, only a couple blowouts, and finally holdings called, how can you say its not entertaining when several games in 3 weeks goto OT, first half bowouts becoming losses or OT's, only losing team fans whining, how can you argue with a simultaneous catch? too bad MADDEN not around he woulda slammed Jennings for not trying to knock down or fip outta bounds, instead he's trying to catch the ball!!! better yet, take the pass interference and one play from the 1 yard line determines winner-- Jennings had a BRAIN FART- offence playing defence will happen everytime!!!!

      September 25, 2012 at 1:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Jake

      @Gangnam Style Chat app I declare you a absolute idiot. That is all.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
  12. winslow

    Thank God we have the CFL I am Canadian Packers should have won.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Gangnam Style Chat app

      No, Jennings shoulda knocked outta bounds if he coulda controlled it, he didnt so obviously Tate caught it, yeh CFL where montreal a few years ago has a non holding and clipping call against bc lions to win a playoff game- wanna watch bad refereeing watch the CFL!

      September 25, 2012 at 1:18 am | Report abuse |
  13. Claudette


    September 25, 2012 at 1:16 am | Report abuse |
  14. Russ

    Intercepted! Packers shoulda won! Get the real refs back.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:16 am | Report abuse |
  15. Gangnam Style Chat app

    Jennings is an offensive player, he thought the packers were playing for a touchdown, its a simultaneous catch- seen it everytime 2 players catch it at the same time in endzone= Jennings shoulda tipped it up high bakwards outta bounds- proves Tate caught it, first rule of defence on last second plays is knock it down or outta bounds no catches.... .

    September 25, 2012 at 1:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Woodrow

      Seriously? You do know the Packers have two guys named Jennings, right? One on D and one on O. Please tell me you didn't watch that game thinking he was playing both sides the whole time.

      September 25, 2012 at 1:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Gangnam Style Chat app

      ONLY an offensive player would try catching a ball in his own endzone at the end of a game! so what would happen with no time on clock if he made a pass interference play? refs woulda blown game dead and run off, better yet, he sees the ball and on defense in endzone first rule is knock ball away, all he had to do if he was ina control position is tip the ball high backwards,,,,also, how is it a touchdown when a running back with one hand on the ball and a dman with a hand on the ball croses the plane??? same reason as this TD

      September 25, 2012 at 1:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Jake

      @Gangnam Style Chat app Please just dont talk anymore cause your just making yourself sound stupider with every second... It's people like you which give Americans a bad name.

      September 25, 2012 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
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