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. jon w

    As a longtime Seahawks fan, it is about time a bad call went their way. I still am angry about the way Super Bowl 40 was stolen from us by bad ref calls. I will take the win with a big grin on my face.

    September 25, 2012 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      I smile with you jon w. I am still baffled but I smile with you!11

      September 25, 2012 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
  2. j

    You have put the strikingrefs on a pedestal. If you recall, there was a widening outcry that the refs were becoming lazy in their calls and were letting replay make the decisions. The diffrerence now is these refs are not up-to-date on NFL interpretations. But broadcast networks like FOX and NBC like to micro evaluate the calls. There is enough blame to go around. It is not only the replacement refs fault. $180k for a ref who is increasingly reliant on a replay offivial, needs to take a pay cut. And teams that allow players of questionable morals also need to adress this. And a league who allows the misuse of players and officials to make a buck also needs to come clean.

    September 25, 2012 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
  3. rb

    Blown calls are nothing been going on in Lambeau for years. great to see the Pack on the other end of it for once.

    September 25, 2012 at 10:55 am | Report abuse |
  4. David

    I thought the regular refs were bad.. But now I realize how good they were, and the replacement refs seem to be having eyesight problems?

    September 25, 2012 at 10:59 am | Report abuse |
  5. Sympathetic Viewer

    The replacement refs are what is keeping the league going this year. If it wasn't for them, we wouldn't be watching the NFL this year. They have been placed under a microscope, when this is in no way what they are used to as refs. Imagine a high school English teacher taking over for a college Math teacher. I am sure they would do a decent job, but they are going to make mistakes because the scope is different. Besides, this may be exactly what the actually refs want to see. If this league continues to feel and hear the disgust of the fanbase, it may prompt some valid and beneficial negotiations that could brings the strike to an end.

    September 25, 2012 at 11:00 am | Report abuse |
    • Neil

      That is a really good point. And, yes, the refs are just doing a job–bad though it may be–and doing it to keep the games going.
      Every team is at the same disadvantage with these referees.
      I feel, though, had it been the Packers winning this game in this manner, I don't think the controversy would be as bad.

      September 25, 2012 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
  6. Peter Lux

    As a seahawks fan, who desperately wanted the hawks to win, this game makes me feel sick. Instead of talking about what was really a great game with Seattle's defense completely dominating the packers in the first half racking up 8 sacks... then at halftime the packers coaching staff were able to make adjustments that nearly completely righted the ship. Instead of talking about THAT, we're stuck talking about how the pack was robbed (they clearly were). It makes me sick. The NFL is BS at this point.

    And packers fans, we know how that feels having been burned by refs badly before (SB XL). I am sorry. And embarrassed for the league.

    September 25, 2012 at 11:00 am | Report abuse |
  7. KeyserSoze

    It was clearly a tie catch and therefore a TD. The pushing and shoving on the play was not what was being ruled.

    End of the story, lets move on.

    September 25, 2012 at 11:00 am | Report abuse |
    • Nick

      Did you watch the same replay as the rest of us? Jennings had the ball with two hands tucked into his chest. Tate had one arm stuffed in there. Two hands tucked to the chest versus one hand. Seems clear to me.

      September 25, 2012 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
  8. Wow1234

    Does anyone remember Super Bowl XL??? Bad calls happen regardless of scrub refs or real refs. Zebras have a ton of input on games.

    At least it isn't a playoff game, or heaven forbid, a SuperBowl.

    September 25, 2012 at 11:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      I am from Seattle and still remember the super bowl game taken from the Seahawks – so it has happened in a Super Bowl game.

      September 25, 2012 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
  9. American

    Rally people it is a game. No one was harmed, the millionaires still get their millions for playing and the sun rose this morning. Get a grip on whats important.

    September 25, 2012 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
  10. JB

    I really feel sorry for the refs, they have not had the proper training to be doing this and it's just stupid for the NFL to allow this to continue.

    September 25, 2012 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
  11. tonythetiggr

    2005 NFL to Seattle Seahawks: Get over it! You lost
    2012 Seattle to NFL: Get over it! You lost.

    September 25, 2012 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
    • Wow1234

      Perfectly stated

      September 25, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      Even though I am from Seattle and saw the Super Bowl taken away from the Seahawks – I was not happy – but yes I got over it. The city did not go crazy when we were robbed. Well put!!!!!!

      September 25, 2012 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Rules Beat Opinions Everyday

    It doesn't matter what Tate did; Jennings had initial possession and, therefore, he had an interception.

    Item 5: Simultaneous Catch. If a pass is caught simultaneously by two eligible opponents, and both players
    retain it, the ball belongs to the passers. It is not a simultaneous catch if a player gains control first and an
    opponent subsequently gains joint control.

    September 25, 2012 at 11:06 am | Report abuse |
  13. lindaluttrell

    This is, without a doubt, the WORST call I have ever seen in the NFL! Jennings lept up ABOVE the sea hawk receiver, CAUGHT the ball, CAME DOWN with the ball, and WAS ON THE GROUND WITH THE BALL! TOTAL POSSESSION THE WHOLE TIME!! The offender merely put his hands on the ball, trying to strip it...and THIS is a touchdown??? This was clear as day on the replays. I want to know how much money these scabs had bet on the home team...or how much money were they paid to ensure a win last night! They should have just GIVEN Seattle the point after like they did the touch down...why kick it??? CORRECT Score: Green Bay 12 – Seattle 7! Pity you fools your next trip to Green Bay...

    September 25, 2012 at 11:08 am | Report abuse |
  14. danial54

    They blew it big time........

    September 25, 2012 at 11:08 am | Report abuse |
  15. Trainsam

    First the NFL penalizes fans of the New Orleans Saints by suspending a coach and several key players for a year, when there is growing evidence that they made some of the stuff up and when they could have made them coach and play give their salary to charity. What did the fans do to deserve the punishment they are going through? Then, the NFL can't get a deal with the officials, and as a result, the fans are again penalized and forced to watch games where cheating runs rampant and unchecked, and calls are just missed altogether. NFL, if you really don't like the people who buy all your tickets and merchandise, and tune in to all your televised games, then why don't you just say so. Fellow fans, it is time to stop watching this madness. The only thing the NFL understands and cares about is money. Stop giving it to them, and the absurdity will come to a sudden, screeching halt.

    September 25, 2012 at 11:08 am | Report abuse |
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