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. dan

    ahhh i see now what teh refs did. i didnt know that. in that case it was a good call.

    "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."

    September 25, 2012 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      The simultaneous catch question is moot – Tate clearly shoved a Packers defender to the ground just before he makes his jump – offensive pass interference

      September 25, 2012 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
  2. hop

    If there was ever a game where the game's end result should be reversed, this is it.
    (Houston fan)

    September 25, 2012 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Wow1234

      Yes – because Super Bowl XL was a wonderfully ref'd game...

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

      September 25, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      How about the Super Bowl game – Seattle vs. Pittsburgh – that game should be reversed too!!!!!

      September 25, 2012 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
  3. ralphiec88

    It's a close call, and after a video review it was upheld. Where's the problem?

    And Sam's right, there's no guarantee regular refs would have made a pass interference call in that situation.

    Blown calls are hardly new, only the scrutiny is.

    September 25, 2012 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
  4. Sehawks have received the shaft for years. Now you know how it feels.


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

      China's answer to Football is crushing its citizens with steamrollers:
      God help us all....

      September 25, 2012 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      Thank You!!!!!

      September 25, 2012 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
  5. John Mann

    Yes. The refs blew it big time.

    September 25, 2012 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
    • Middle Man

      Agreed calling that PI on Sherman to keep the Green Bay drive going so they could score was garbage. If the refs hadn't given Green Bay that free 15 yards they wouldn't have scored and it wouldn't matter who had the ball at the end of the last play.

      September 25, 2012 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
  6. ptw

    Are people already forgetting how bad the regular officials are? I think the officials are really overplaying their hand with their demands relative to their overall importance.

    Anyway, as long as games are still selling out and tv ratings are high, I don't see the NFL feeling pressured to budge. As long as they get it settled for the playoff run or even just for the playoffs, they'll be fine with it.

    September 25, 2012 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
  7. If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

    There are always a few close, but missed, calls .. these calls were sooo bad they couldn't eve be accused of fixing the game!

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

    Not to mention, they also missed a horse-collar, and two face masks against Seattle...

    September 25, 2012 at 11:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Middle Man

      not to mention several holding calls that B.J. Raji got away with, or the times the refs helped Green Bay drives going by being really really generous with the spots after 3rd down so they could score.

      September 25, 2012 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
    • SeattleMike

      Not to mention the phantom pass interference calls and bogus various other calls that extended that last two Pack drives that were STOPPED by the Seahawks. So this one can swing both ways buddy. The Seahawks D stuffed that "epic-unstoppable" offense. The refs were the only reason that game ended up ending the way it did. And, just for giggles, how many drives did the Seahawks get moving on only to have penalties stop it? Yes, there were horrendous calls both ways but the Pack was allowed to score a TD with the calls made on their drives.

      September 25, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
  9. 12th Man

    On August 6, 2010, while visiting the Seahawks' preseason training camp for an annual rules interpretation session with the Seattle media, Bill Leavy (officiating Ref) brought up Super Bowl XL without being asked, and admitted to having blown calls.
    I'll take blown calls from Replacement Refs over blown calls from long-time Refs.
    Or just call me a fan. A win is still a win.

    September 25, 2012 at 11:14 am | Report abuse |
    • TinKnight

      There's a difference between a "blown call" that is determined only through replays and review, and a "screwed up call" where it's quite obvious that the call is missed on the initial viewing.
      It's very clearly in possession of Jennings, the defender...that wouldn't have even been called a reception had there not been a defender there, as the receiver never had control of the ball.

      September 25, 2012 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth


      September 25, 2012 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Anonymous 3


    September 25, 2012 at 11:14 am | Report abuse |
  11. Ron B

    The refs are SCABs... what else did anyone expect?

    September 25, 2012 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
  12. jamesS20

    won't be watching NFL till they get the real refs back. Its a waste of time. What a farce NFL has become!

    September 25, 2012 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
  13. WOTAN

    This is not professional football, it is professional comedy, yet nobodies laughing because its bad comedy.

    September 25, 2012 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
  14. jamesS20

    NFL is a Farce with these refs.

    September 25, 2012 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
  15. Shedward

    YAY packers lost.... LOL

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