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. bullsfan

    that's not even Derrick Rose's twitter account.

    September 25, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Ann Duran

    Why cannot the game be reviewed carefully and a panel make a final decision
    to revise the call made by replacement referees.

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

      Probably because there have been a lot of such calls in every game. Games would probably last a couple hours longer than they do if every strange call was reviewed.

      September 25, 2012 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Penguin

    Controversy is great for the ratings. I only watch pro sports to see how bad the referees are. If you want to see bad refing watch soccer, but the NFL is getting to be a closer second.
    As for the NJ legislator wanting to pass a law prohibiting repacements- get a life and try to get that pathetic State back together

    September 25, 2012 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
  4. snowdogg

    I am totally against review every scoring play for "free" – let the coach challenge and take their chances. Mistakes will be made but it isn't up to the re-play booth to correct/corroborate every controversial play... slows the game W – A – Y done.

    September 25, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Andrew

    I don't give a crap about sports, so I say keep these replacement refs. Sure makes the news a lot more interesting.

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

      Couldn't agree more.

      September 25, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Gary Hart

    If they are really only $3.3 mil apart, that's "only" $100,000 per team. At this point, bet the players might even be willing to pony up that amount (>$2000 per player)

    September 25, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
  7. greg

    Lebron James used the wrong, "to." He should have gone to college. His grammar will hold him back.

    September 25, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      No Way! An NBA player with poor spelling and grammar skills? Unbelievable.

      September 25, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pankaj

      That's right... An extra "o" in a "to" is going to get him an extra million!

      September 25, 2012 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
  8. jon

    Hurt the NFL and the owners where it counts.. Don’t watch any NFL games this week or go to the game and see how fast they resolve this stupid issue. Let’s see the Refs are asking for a 39K per ref paid into their retirement. Hummm, That’s pennies compared to how much the NFL and Owners will lose in advertising and Stadium sales. Heck they make enough to pay that from petty cash from one game. So, It’s not the money it’s an ego thing and the NFL and Owners EGO is ruining Football.

    September 25, 2012 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
  9. TomGI

    Jennings caught the ball and it was clear on video. The OPI call was missed too. I've decided to avoid watching NFL games until the "official officials" return.

    September 25, 2012 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • TomGI

      GB coaching staff can ask the defender to hit the ball as opposed to catching it.

      September 25, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Bill F

    This looks like a conspiracy organistrated by the REAL NFL referees to justify why the negotiations need to be settled in their favor now. What ever the reason, we need to get them back on the field as soon as possible. Some of the calls I witnessed over the pass 3 weeks have been uterly unbelievable. I know these replacement referees have a hard job and have been critized over and over, but they have proven that they are not competent/qualified for this level of football.

    September 25, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • TW


      September 25, 2012 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Tea_Party

    it is Romney's fault

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

    get the refs back, – sign up and share

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

    "...and the integrity of the game that has taken decades to build," the union wrote.

    This coming from the player's union. What a joke. Players who worry about the integrity of the game are a dying breed. A lot of these players would fit just a easily into the state penal systems as they would the NFL. Some already have or will be soon.

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

    I am a HUGE packer fan..and i think the call was absolutely wrong and the replacement refs are a JOKE and the strike is ridiculous and the greed of the NFL is out of control...HOWEVER the packers offense was HORRIBLE last night. they should have never been in a position to lose the game in the last seconds with a hail mary pass thrown by a rookie QB. And again I LOVE THE PACKERS!

    September 25, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • GBFAN

      True, but you have to remember the other calls the refs messed up on that drive. They called Shield for PI when it was clearly Rice that pushed off. Then they didn't call the Seattle PI on the Hail Mary. And then to call it a TD instead of an interception – terrible. I agree the GB offense sucked in the 1st half, but they got it together in the 2nd half. It was a great defensive game for both sides, and no way should it have come down to a botched Hail Mary call to determine the outcome.

      September 25, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jason

      Thank you! Green Bay should be more ashamed that they gave seattle two opportunities to win in the last 5 minutes. They got outplayed and yes the handful of bad calls was a disgrace.

      September 25, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Woodrow

    Last two drives by Seattle................1) Interception in FG range taken back b/c of a roughing passer that was just a tackle, 2) pass interference that, if anything, was on Seattle not GB (and throw in a facemask on it that wasn't called), and of course 3) the final play. #3 wouldn't have happened or mattered if 1 and 2 had also not happened. GB was repeatedly mugged by the refs at the end of the game last night.

    September 25, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • GBFAN

      Forgot about that whack roughing the passer call that took away the INT. Sigh.

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