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. nilla

    The Packers beat the Vikings on a defensive pass interference non-call at the end of the game in 2010. Had they lost that game, they would've missed the playoffs. No playoffs, no Super Bowl. Karma?

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

    How is the end of the game controversial? You can only have a controversy when there is viable proof contradicting a fact. This was nothing other than a horribly blown call. There is no controversy..... the refs just suck. And what I don’t get is just how stupid they are. I don’t buy the fact that the NFL is so much faster than college and they’re not prepared. They all just seem to be running around lost. What I see look to be men who have NEVER seen a single game of football and are missing the obvious things the average fan can see. Then to make it worse, they have replay and miss it there too. But I do like how they are letting there be a bit more physical play down field. The regular refs call PI too much if you asked me. At the end of the day, the regular refs blow calls too, but at least they blow the call immediately and don’t need 15 minutes to figure out where to spot the ball.

    September 25, 2012 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
  3. Kai

    It is absolutely Roger Goodell's fault. STOP WATCHING THESE HORRIBLE GAMES – THEN THINGS WILL CHANGE. BOYCOTT THE NFL THIS WEEK. Come on, do it for the love of the game!

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

      I couldn't agree with you more Kai, we football fans need to boycott all games until the league returns the real refs back to the field. These replacement refs are beyound ridiculous, I've seen better officiating at High School Friday night games in my home town. To the NFL, resolve this issue with the refs or all of your profits will go down the toilet just like the league is now.

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

      "To the NFL, resolve this issue with the refs or all of your profits will go down the toilet just like the league is now."

      LOL nice threat. Im sure the NFL is shaking in their collective boots right now while counting their billions of dollars.

      September 25, 2012 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
  4. emtjim

    I would suggest that if the Packers had scored just one more touchdown during the game or stopped the Seahawks from theirs, this would not be an issue. While it may have been a bad call it is not the only reason the Packers lost.

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

      Good answer! Just look the other way.

      September 25, 2012 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |
  5. neeBu

    I understand that the replacement refs are, in fact, replacements. But my question is, are the people in booth "reviewing the play" replacements as well? Because in the end, they are the ones who blew the call. I'm saying that, AND I"M A BEARS FAN! I'd be embarrassed if the Bears won in that manner, and certainly wouldn't be proud to call it a win.

    September 25, 2012 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
    • lindaluttrell

      Apparently Seattle has no class. They will take a win any way they can get it. Hope they LOSE every game after this one...fairly...

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

      "Apparently Seattle has no class. They will take a win any way they can get it. Hope they LOSE every game after this one...fairly..."

      Aparantely you are a cry baby bytch...congrats.

      September 25, 2012 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • James Allen

      Sorriest excuse for officiating I have ever seen. The blatantly wrong call on pass interference that moved the Hawks up the field and the imbecilic call in the end zone literally stole the game from the Packers and handed it to the Hawks. I am also a Bears fan and agree that I would be ashamed to accept a win like the Hawks did.
      Where did these replacement so called referees come from, Jr. High flag football???

      September 25, 2012 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • NN

      The upstairs review, by rule, was only to see if any player was out of bounds or if the ball hit the ground. The upstaris review is not allowed to make a decision on possesion of the ball.

      September 25, 2012 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      Actually lindalutrell – Seattle has alot of class. It was a bad call. The Super Bowl was taken away from the Seahawks and they handled it with total class.

      September 25, 2012 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
  6. dd

    Read the news! Chicago kids and taxpayers screwed by the Teachers Union. Chicago music lovers screwed by the Chicago Symphony Union. Travelers around the world screwed by the American Airlines Pilot Union. The EU routinely has labor unions screwing the people. Labor unions have always had terrorist motives. They want to screw their employer and the customers of the employer. The Democrats have supported this model for decades. The NFL Ref Problem is an Obama problem. The Chicago Schools are the worst in the country because the leading Chicago Pol, Obama, supports unions rather than the people. Union dues buys votes! The Business vs Union battle is out of control and the people lose. Obama's NLRB supports this crap! Blame Obama!

    September 25, 2012 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
    • spikemanlou

      You are a complete idiot, why bring politics into a sporting event? Like I've always said, you racist Nopublican Tea Baggers will blame this President for everything. When are you going to blame him for the drought and the Hurricanes? Just stay home wearing your white robe and cone shaped hat, that will give you plenty of time to solve all of the world issues by blaming this President, you moron!

      September 25, 2012 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
  7. ronvan

    WHAT A JOKE!!! How can you even say that the Hawks player had the ball? Hand on it yes! BUT, the Bears player had CONTROL of the ball from the time he touched it!!! PLUS, what about the offensive pass interference when the Hawks player literally shoved the packers player COMPLETELY out of the play? One Ref. says interception, the other a touchdown!!? The other thing is that, my understanding, is that the REVIEW person (s), upstairs, are actually senior refs. NOT temps.!? Soooo, if true, then what WE THINK & SAW makes it a GOOD call????? Sorry, not for me!! Green Bay got screwed!!!! It is TIME for the REAL Refs. & the OWNERS / NFL to get off their MONEY issues and get this RIGHT!!!!

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

      They are not the Green Bay Bears. They are the Green Bay Packers.

      September 25, 2012 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
  8. YGBKM

    Bad call. It happens. Guys like Steven Smith, LeBron, and Sam Jackson are just jumping on the popular decision bandwagon. This has happened to EVERY team in the NFL at one point or another, at least this wasn't a playoff game.

    September 25, 2012 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
    • MissEE

      Not a playoff game at this time, but the outcome of this game could have huge affects on the future playoff picture, since it was a conference game. If Seattle and Green Bay are both playoff contenders later on, this game could impact the seeding and/or home field advantage throughout the playoffs. It is a HUGE Deal.

      September 25, 2012 at 11:53 am | Report abuse |
    • JW

      So as long as wrong things are happening to everyone it's alright? Are you from the Syrian government?

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

      Seahawks had a super bowl taken away in 2006 vs. Steelers.

      September 25, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
  9. MissEE

    As a Packer fan, I am hugely disappointed. First, I was disappointed in how they played during the first half of the game, credit is due to the Seahawks. BUT, during the 2nd half, the Packers played much better and deserved their comeback and win. They were robbed. To lose a game due to bad play is one thing, but to lose because of the officials bad call is just unacceptable.

    September 25, 2012 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
    • lindaluttrell

      That front line was not protecting their QB! I believe EIGHT sacks in the first half...

      September 25, 2012 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • MissEE

      That's why I said the FIRST HALF. They played like crap, but made the adjustments at half time and came back. That's what a team is supposed to do at halftime, and they did it.

      September 25, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Edd

    Pete Carroll is a tool and has no class. He knows his team lost. He wants the discussion of the final play to end? It's been less than 24 hours. If he had been on the losing end of that play, we'd be hearing from him for days.
    And Golden Tate...If he's not nominated for an Emmy, as best acting in a comedy next year, then HE too, will have been robbed.

    September 25, 2012 at 11:53 am | Report abuse |
  11. Chuk

    All these fans are preaching to the converted. The league owners will do anything to save a buck, even if it ends up hurting their cash-cow. They just care about their pocket books NOW.

    September 25, 2012 at 11:53 am | Report abuse |
  12. JW

    The worst thing about the replacement refs is that they have no clue as to what pass interference or illegal contact is. The second worst thing is that they don't call 99% of personal fouls and they call 150% of holding at the line. This isn't real football and real fans should stay home by the tens of thousands. $$ Is the only matter and empty stadiums and boycotted TV viewing would matter. BOYCOTT THESE SCABS!

    September 25, 2012 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
  13. lindaluttrell

    People make mistakes. Different views of the play, etc. But OWN it! I could not believe after the official review that this call was NOT reversed. I still have to ask how much money were these scabs paid to ensure a win for the home team. CORRECT SCORE: Green Bay 12 – Seattle 7! I'm nearly 62 and have been watching football for over 50 years and this is, without a doubt, the WORST call I have ever seen! Hey, NFL...I'm available to ref ... at least I know a face mask when I see one...they also missed at least three of those AGAINST Seattle!

    September 25, 2012 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
  14. pyester

    With all due respect to the wanna-be officials, tuesday-morning quarterbacks/coaches, ESPN common taters – 2 officials made a tough call. By rule (remember those) possession can only happen on the ground. Possession does not take place in the air. It makes no difference whether GB had control of the ball in the air, it's who has possession of the ball on the ground that determines the outcome. When players of opposing teams have simultaneous control, possession is awarded to the offense.
    Yes GB had control of the ball in the air. The covering official determined that both teams had control of the ball when the players were on the ground.
    You may not like it, but that's the reality. Also possession plays are not reviewable.
    Gripe all you want about the officials. Granted they have made some bad calls but in this case, it appears to have been the correct one.

    September 25, 2012 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
    • R.U. Sirius

      Pyester – google the NFL Rule book about "simultaneous catch"... The ESPN folks covered it petty good last night. If both the receiver and defender simultaneously (at the same time) catch the ball, the passing team retains possesion. If one player catches it first (Jennings), and later the other player (Tate) grabs the ball, possesion goes to the first player who "controls" the ball. Obviously, I'm paraphrasing, but the replacements did not understand this rule. The review can only determine if the ball was caught, or dropped – not who maintains possesion. Goodell should give the win to GB...

      September 25, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
  15. JT

    Eh, who cares. It's the talentless sport of thugs & morons with more criminals in its ranks than most, or all, other sports. If I could, I'd ban it,but then, what would dummies watch on TV and at bars while they stuff their faces with junk food? Best to keep 'em off the streets. I guess.

    September 25, 2012 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
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