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. kape @ Gtown

    A Travesty, or in other words, a false, absurd, or distorted representation of something. Are these replacements being paid off to throw games? I hope the NFL loses money. That's the only way to get back to normal.

    September 25, 2012 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
  2. Go Refs

    I really don't like wasting my time watching overpaid, overweight men on steroids wearing tights running around with a ball. If these new refs can make the game a little more interesting, I may just have to start watching.

    September 25, 2012 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
  3. hockeyrob69

    Rule 17 of the NFL

    Section 2 Extraordinarily Unfair Acts
    Article 1 The Commissioner has the sole authority to investigate and take appropriate disciplinary and/or
    corrective measures if any club action, non-participant interference, or calamity occurs in an NFL game
    which he deems so extraordinarily unfair or outside the accepted tactics encountered in professional
    football that such action has a major effect on the result of the game.

    September 25, 2012 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
  4. rich

    that was the greatest call EVER!!!!!!! I LUV THIS GAME! oh by the way DA BEARS

    September 25, 2012 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Paul

      This week it was The Pack. Next Week it might be da bears.

      September 25, 2012 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Roger

      Yes – that would be funny for me if called on the Bears instead of the Pack. 🙂

      September 25, 2012 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
  5. MNFfanfromTX

    The only call i saw that was blown was the blatant push on the back violation. The TD should of been disallowed due to this. Now having said that, the replacement refs are doing there best in a much faster game than they're use to. If they didn't see the violation, that's expected, but the call of the receiver and defender having possession of the ball together was obvious, if you watch it without a negative opinion of the refs. The play was viewed in the booth and ultimately decided by them. Nuff Said!!! Green Bay feels what the Sea-Hawks felt when it happened to them, and this was with the pro refs, so this is somewhat justice in my eyes. I feel for the replacements, because it takes some courage to do their jobs. The pro refs and the NFL are the real villains in this drama in my opinion.

    September 25, 2012 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
  6. Joe Meat

    Seahawk receiver had possession, albeit only for an instant. But, once he had possession of the ball, that is a touchdown, and at that moment, the play is over. Touchdown. That the defensive player then wrestled the ball away from him is inconsequential. Touchdown already scored. Play over. Good call. That's why it held up under video replay. They got the call right. That's all that matters. Helluva game.

    Oh, and the refs weren't responsible for the EIGHT SACKS of Green Bay in the first half! Wow....them's beasts out there!

    September 25, 2012 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
    • jason

      That is not true. The reciever must keep possession all the way to the ground. He only had one arm on the underside of the ball, and the other hand was barley touching the ball. No possession.

      September 25, 2012 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Unbiased

      I can't believe your post. The Seahawk receiver first pushed a GB defender out of the way, then another GB receiver had possession of the ball. The SH receiver never had possession. Two officials each make the exact opposite call, the referee crew should have consulted with each other first before making a call. The call that was counted as being made first, the TD call, is one that can't be overruled via review unless it's determined that the ball hit the ground or possession was not maintained. Per the rules as written it can't be over ruled as an interception rather than a TD. But because the GB defender had the ball, it never hit the ground, the initial call, in spite of it being quite arguably the wrong call, couldn't be changed. This particular sequence of events on this particular play was not good. I'm not talking about the other muffed calls during the game, calls that hampered both teams, those can be debated on their singular merits. And as for "poetic justice" for Seattle, any prior calls that were bad for them in this game or in a former Super Bowl, two wrongs do not make a right.

      September 25, 2012 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe Meat

      How did the refs cause those EIGHT first half SACKS?!? Green Bay isn't very good this year. Stop trying to blame the refs. Especially when they got the call in question RIGHT, as CONFIRMED by the regular NFL ref ON REPLAY REVIEW!!!

      September 25, 2012 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Da

      How can you even say that ...did you watch the game? Jennings had the ball the entire way down tight to his does that make for a seattle touchdown?

      September 25, 2012 at 7:29 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Joe Meat

    Green Bay is not a very good team this year. They gave up 8 sacks just in the first half. It's going to be a looooooooong year, Green Bay.

    September 25, 2012 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
  8. ArchieDeBunker

    Rick Riley said it best: "The NFL spent the last 30 years creating the Mona Lisa – and now they're painting on a mustache."

    September 25, 2012 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
  9. Football Fan

    I think people should stop attending the games. To pay that kind of money to watch substandard officials is crazy. The replacements have taken the game away from the players, and to pay to see that crap is insane. Stay home and watch the mess on TV for free. Maybe to Owners, after being bitten in the wallet, will get the issues with the real officials resolved.

    September 25, 2012 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
  10. marty miller

    Concidering the other bad calls that went against Seattle, I 'd call it poetic justice...

    September 25, 2012 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
  11. Bob

    Simple way to wake up the NFL: A fan boycott.

    September 25, 2012 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Joe Meat

      The replacement refs are better than the regular refs. I'm not boycotting...I'm enjoying football again. Seahawk receiver had possession, albeit only for an instant. But, once he had possession of the ball, that is a touchdown, and at that moment, the play is over. Touchdown. That the defensive player then wrestled the ball away from him is inconsequential. Touchdown already scored. Play over. Good call. That's why it held up under video replay. They got the call right. That's all that matters.

      September 25, 2012 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
  12. cr

    Thank God for basketball. Can you imagine what LeBron James would be doing in life if he couldn't shoot a ball through a hoop? What a moron.

    September 25, 2012 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
  13. Jim S

    Commissioner Goodell: How much longer are you going to allow the league to be tarnished like this? I have read that the NFL and the referees association are $3.3 million apart. In a league where the profits are what, $9 billion annually, how could you let this go so far. Pay the refs an extra million – $4.3 million and get them back in time for this week's games!!!! Are you really this stupid????

    September 25, 2012 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
  14. Joe Meat

    I have watched the replay 50 times. Still see an obvious touchdown every time. Possession in the end zone is a touchdown. If someone takes the ball away after the touchdown is scored, well, that player is just wasting energy. Clear touchdown. Packers were dominated in so many ways other than just that awesome comeback. Their offensive line lost that game, not the refs. Pack is not very good this year. Deal with it, Packer fans.

    September 25, 2012 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      If you have watched this play 50 times as you claim and still see a touchdown then I hope you never get behind the wheel of a car because you are blind. First off it was a blatant offensive pass interference call that was not called but besides that it is not even a close call that the defensive player comes down with the ball and has it firmly held against his chest. The offensive player has one arm and hand on the ball and in the scuffle tries to wrestle it away but it is always in the possession of the defensive player. This by definition is an interception and there is no tie goes to the receiver call as he never had possession. BTW I am not a Packers or Seahawks fan but a football fan that looked at this play with no bias. Definitely a blown call.

      September 25, 2012 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Joe Meat

      SHow did the refs cause those EIGHT first half SACKS?!? BooYaa...looks like Green Bay needs to stop whining about replacement refs and find a REPLACEMENT OFFENSIVE LINE. LOL Stop trying to blame the refs. Especially when they got the call in question RIGHT, as CONFIRMED by the regular NFL ref ON REPLAY REVIEW

      September 25, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
  15. jrh512

    Are the replacement refs bad? Absolutely! However, at the end of the day, the replacement refs are doing the best the can so quit your whining....

    September 25, 2012 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
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