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. Barry Landon

    The call on the last play of Monday night's football game was so bad that you would have thought that the Refs had a wager on the Final Score. What were they looking at on the last play film review??? It was very clear that Tate pushed the Packer defender in the back just before he jumped to make a try for the catch. It is clearly a football rule that you cannot push off to gain an advantage to catch the ball.... The game winner should be reversed by the NFL and the Packer's should be declared the winner of the game...

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

      and the Seahawks declared the Super Bowl winners against Pittsburgh in SuperBowl XL!!!!!

      September 25, 2012 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
  2. DM

    Those refs owe me a new TV, nothing more to say

    September 25, 2012 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
  3. Karl Hungus

    Well, Seattle had SuperBowl XL stolen from them for poor officiating. So I guess they deserve a bit of slack the other way. it all washes out in the end anyway.

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


      September 25, 2012 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Wendy

    Now if only people would care as much about the treatment of teachers who affect the future careers of their children as they do about a game that will entertain them.

    September 25, 2012 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
    • bigot

      if only teachers cared enough about their students to be evaluated......

      September 25, 2012 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • george h

      bigot explain to me how you can evaluate student outcomes on art and music ? how about drama club ? I'd love to hear how you can properly quantify metrics for these subjects ? You can't it;s art it is part skill and part personal expression of what art is. Art is also in the eye of the beholder... so get a clue.

      September 25, 2012 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • DeTamble


      if only teachers cared enough about their students to be evaluated......

      Hard for a teacher to "teach" when they are too busy babysitting
      because of BAD parenting.
      By the way, under no child left behind,
      The bottom line was to "pass" kids regardless of whether they learned anything.
      No wonder there are so many STUPID people walking around........

      Like you !

      September 25, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • STLBroker

      Good points but how about evaluating things that can be VERY easily quantified, like math, science, reading and writing?

      September 25, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • STLBroker

      Teaching is a tough job, no doubt about it. However, if one decides to pursue that career and gets paid for doing it, it is perfectly reasonable that their performance be evaluated like everyone else that gets paid to do a job. Yes there are bad parents and some kids require more attention than others but that is the world we live in. That said, I think these evaluations should account for all these factors and teachers should be given every opportunity to succeed. Just like any profession though, I'm sure there are some that should seek another career because they are just incapable of being good teachers. Just because someone can get a degree in education doesn't necessarily equate to being able to teach children.

      September 25, 2012 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Woodrow

      Sorry – but the argument that teachers can't be evaluated is flat wrong. Teaching, like every other profession, needs to have an evaluation criteria where those that shouldn't be in the position can be removed from it. Maybe you can explain why you actually want bad teachers (and if you're honest, you'll admit there are some) to stick around? As for Chicago – 3rd highest paid teachers in the country. It was actually GOOD news being reported that the graduation rate in Chicago ROSE to 60%. How pathetic is that! It's of course the parents that need to drive the change in their kids, but part of that is holding schools responsible (parents have that responsibility too) to do their part..

      September 25, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Epacific

    In Superbowl XL, Seattle's Darrell Jackson caught a pass in the end zone for a Seahawk touchdown, only to have it nullified by a bad call. This was but one blown call against Seattle in 2006 which cost them the championship game to the Steelers. In fact, a February 7 online ESPN poll that year found that, with 103,167 votes cast, 61.7% of those votes were cast for the choice of "officiating mistakes affected the outcome of Super Bowl XL." And these weren't even replacement refs!

    On August 6, 2010, while visiting the Seahawks' preseason training camp, one of the refs who blew the calls in that game (Bill Leavy) brought up Super Bowl XL without being asked, and admitted to having blown calls: " It was a tough thing for me. I kicked two calls in the fourth quarter and I impacted the game, and as an official you never want to do that. It left me with a lot of sleepless nights, and I think about it constantly. I'll go to my grave wishing that I'd been better ... I know that I did my best at that time, but it wasn't good enough ... When we make mistakes, you got to step up and own them. It's something that all officials have to deal with, but unfortunately when you have to deal with it in the Super Bowl it's difficult." So it's not just the replacement refs.

    The rest of the league, however, told Seattle to suck it up and get over it: blown call or not, they lost. So, to the Packers and the rest of the NFL, I say blown call or not, Green Bay lost. So, stop your holier-than-though-we've-been-robbed-whining-tweeting and just get over it.

    September 25, 2012 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Rex

      I agree with everything you said.

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

      That was a shame as an NFC fan. The bigger problem is that these refs are changing everything about the game with their non-stop bad calls. If every game was called like that Super Bowl many NFL fans would give up and find something better to do. The real refs are still far better then these clowns who can't even keep the game going on tempo.

      September 25, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Redskins Fan

      The problem with your logic is that people aren't so much mad about that one call. Its simply the last straw. Being a Redskins game this year, and watching a few just blatantly bad calls in those games, combined with the fiasco on Sunday night that more or less gave the Ravens the game (Not the FG, that was clearly good). I'm tired of these idiots calling penalties that never happened, or calling them on the wrong player (That was clearly Offensive Pass Interference when that Seattle reciever was pulling and climbing the Packer's CB like he was Mount McKinley by the way). I'm not saying being a referee is easy: I have played football and officiated youth and high school games... I know it can be difficult. But these were not difficult calls. They were simple, asinine calls that anyone with a working set of eyes and a basic understanding of rules should have gotten right. Officiating mistakes should not blatantly give someone a game. They did at 11:50 EST last night.

      September 25, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Life is TOO Short

      @ Epacific – Look who's whining now.......please, change the channel.

      September 25, 2012 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      Could not have been said better. Thank you!

      September 25, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
  6. NeoGraphix

    It's all Obama's fault. Just kidding. Seriously, it is.

    September 25, 2012 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • spud434rj5

      Alright! Someone besides George Bush getting blamed for something. Didn't think I'd ever see that in my lifetime.

      September 25, 2012 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Tim

    It would be great if Americans cared as much about this country as they do about football. There are a hundred million more important things in this world than who won what game and how. Good grief people, get with it.

    September 25, 2012 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • patrick harris

      exactly- this country is full of numb nuts

      September 25, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Woodrow

      And you're reading and commenting here because...?

      September 25, 2012 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
  8. justice

    @Joe meathead The receiver pushed one guy, grabbed onto another's arm before even touching the ball. Falling onto another doesn't equate to a catch. As per NFL rules, interception.

    September 25, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jay

      In "replacement referee land" you can catch the ball by catching the guy who caught the ball. Therefore this was a touchdown...

      September 25, 2012 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
  9. george h

    bunch of idiots in this country you care more about a monopolisitc sports corporation ( NFL ) then your rights, laws, your childrens education. You rather yell complain whine moan and cry over a game on TV that YOU DONT CONTROL contray to you calling it "YOUR TEAM" or saying "WE WON THE SUPERBOWL" no you DIDNT a team of overpaid athletes did! USA is the land of overgrown adult toddlers, keep sucking down those beers, pizza and wings and throwing temper tantrums over a televised sports game!

    September 25, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • LarryB

      You're right, george. We care about it more than we should, and certainly more than you do. Most of us also care more about proper grammar and punctuation than you do.
      So if you aren't interested in football or diction, what do you do to fritter away your time, besides adding clutter to blogs?

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

      Of course, duhhhhhhh

      September 25, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Rex

    Where was this outrage when Seattle got jobbed in Superbowl XL by the regular refs? Or Vinnie Testaverde's helmet crossing the line being called a touchdown by the regular refs. All I can say is based on that history, looked like joint possession to me....

    September 25, 2012 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • shilohmedia

      One hand floating around in the middle of a defender with the ball double clutched to his chest is not joint possession.

      September 25, 2012 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Anders Perillo

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!! All because of the greedy unions. What'd anyone expect?

    September 25, 2012 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Roger

      Yes – these minimum wage guys are worth every penny that they make! I'm also OK with paying garbage collector's above minimum wage since I don't want garbage strewn all over the streets. Take your minimum wage mentality elsewhere please!

      September 25, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Heywood Jablohmi

      Oh sure, because I'm sure there's no greed motivating the millionaire owners in the lockout of the officials and destroying this game. They are ruining football because of their love of America, right?

      How about you turn off the radio and get a life?

      September 25, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
  12. nadinesh

    Bad call - good call much of the judgment about it here has to do with who your team is. The point, though, is that this silly, penny-pinching, damaging by the NFL to break the union of their officials has hijacked the game, and that's a sign of poor management on the NFL's part. Nomatter what a zebra calls now, there's a big wide opening to dispute it. On the face of it, there do seem to be a whole lotta crucial calls which decide games lately. I think it's clear that the NFL has blown it big time. All this over the tiny bit of money it will cost them to pay their refs what they're worth??? Another example of how greed can ruin this game. Look past Goodell - to the puppetmaster owners pulling his strings.

    September 25, 2012 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
  13. An obvious Winner

    Oh no, are 'bad calls' ruining the time honored, respectful, clean, pristine sport of football? My heavens!!

    September 25, 2012 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
  14. justice

    Hate to get political, but this catch and the firestorm it has created reflects the current state of the nation. GREED.

    September 25, 2012 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Roger G.

    The blind fans will still go to the games and waste their money on a game that has no bearing on their lives what so ever. I smile when the fans get less than what they pay for and fill the pockets of players and owners but still go week after week to the stadiums. Waaaaaaaaaa! You paid for it, now watch it and stop complaining.

    September 25, 2012 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Redskins Fan

      Man, what kind of self-aggrandizing troll are you? Just because you don't like a sport, or maybe even sports period, stop being the kind of better-than-you schmuck of which this world already has too many. After all, as much as you may enjoy spending your spare revenue on going to see some sub-par baritone butcher "Don Giovanni" or to see an art exhibit filled with Monet and a dozen artists that did little more than copy his art style, we enjoy watching this sport and care deeply about the tactics and strategy behind it.

      September 25, 2012 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
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