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. GBFAN

    Sooooo much wrong with the refs last night. First, on that last series, they flagged GB for defensive pass interference when it was CLEARLY Sidney Rice that pushed off. That put them far enough down the field to even try a Hail Mary. Then, they missed the offensive pass interference on the Hail Mary. And finally, they called a TD when it was clearly an interception. The only way the NFL can restore their brand is to overturn that call and give GB the win.

    September 25, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Woodrow

    I agree that the replacement refs are TERRIBLE, but the players union should stay out of it when discussing the impact to the fans. They were ready to scrap last year for the dollar too.

    September 25, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
  3. John

    Lol its football. Who cares, not like its a real sport anyways.

    September 25, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Kel

    From what I understand, if the ball is caught simultaneously, it goes to the offensive player. So that part isn't too controversial. But Tate clearly pushed off and it should've been offensive pass interference. It was blatant and should've been called. I don't even think the push-off was necessary. But that's beside the point. He shoved the guy out of the way. But the refs (somehow) missed it. They can only debate the correct call, they can't retroactively make different calls, so that's why the call of touchdown stands. Still, refs do make-up calls, and that was obviously a crucial play. They should have recognized their mistake and overturned the call, making it an interception. I don't usually like this way of doing things, but justice would have been served. There was enough video evidence to call it an interception. No one (except ardent Seattle fans) would have disagreed. And the interim refs wouldn't be getting criticized as much as they are now. P.S. I'm from Seattle. Not a big fan of the NFL, but that was the most bizarre thing I've ever seen in a football game. But I disagree with Smith (surprise, surprise). No one should be able to change the outcome of the game after the fact – I mean a day afterward when everybody's left the field and the game is officially over. Let's not open that Pandora's box.

    September 25, 2012 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kel

      Okay, after rewatching the video, it's close, but I think they should have ruled Tate as not having possession of the ball, therefore – interception. But it's really close. Their ruling (not the call) is technically correct because the ruling on the field from the conflicting calls must imply a simultaneous catch. They can't remake the call. So there, I wouldn't complain. I would complain about them blatantly missing the call in the first place. Seriously, even a kid would be able to see the pass interference and also that the defensive player had possession of the ball. Blame the ref who called a touchdown.

      September 25, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Coy

      The only thing I can think of as to why they didn't award the interception is that when the defender had "control" of the ball, he was still in the air, by the time his feet made contact with. The ground, both he and the receiver had control. From what I understand of the rule for "posession" the player has to have control and make a football move, to make a move you have to be on the ground, so maybe that is why they ruled it a simultaneous catch. GRANTED the defender had control prior to the receiver, BUT, they both had control whe they came to the ground. I do agree that there should have been a PI call there on Tate. I am by no means a seattle or a GB fan, but I do try to see both sides of the argument.

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

      It was not a simultaneous catch because Jennings had control first. this has already been established.

      September 25, 2012 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      Who had posession doesn't matter. The obvious offensive pass interference BEFORE the ball arrived should have been flagged, and the game should have been over. NO EXCUSE for missing that call. No debating whether a defensive player was pushed to the ground. It's there for the world to see. Those refs have ALL been in game situations before, whether it be in high school of college. They blew that one, big time.

      September 25, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Demulto

      What ever happend to just knocking the ball down. There were several defenders around the ball, just knock it down and the game is over, and Green Bay wins. Why even try and intercept, what difference would it have made other than to pad the stats of the defense. They can blame the refs if they want, but if they really wanted to win the game, they would have done what defense normally do during a hell marry situation, Knock Down the Ball.

      September 25, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Cabo Beltran

    @Joe Meat, even if you were right (which you are not), the only reason the receiver might had had possession of the ball is because of pass interference when he clearly pushed GB defensive back Shields to the ground, which was not called. Regardless you need glasses if you think Seahawk receiver had possession, since you clearly see the db have both hands on the ball pull it to his chest while his feet were on the ground, that is clearly an interception!!!!

    September 25, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Coy

    I know its Bush's fault!

    At least that is probably what Obama & the dems would say.

    They blame evrything else on Bush, why not this??.

    September 25, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kel

      And today, it's blame everything on Obama. Blame the president. It's what many US citizens do. Personally, I believe the Congress has done the most damage... Political science 101: the legislative branch is the most powerful of the three. Besides, this is football, not politics.

      September 25, 2012 at 7:01 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Geckowise

    Horrible...horrible decision! Green Bays M.D. Jennings CLEARLY intercepted that pass, NO question about it; if you think otherwise there is certainly something wrong with the circuitry between your eyes and your brain.....either that or you're a Seattle homer and have no problem with loosing a game on the field but being gifted a win by the leagues hack officials.

    By the way, on a related note, a number of these hack nfl officials were FIRED BY THE LINGERIE LEAGUE FOR INNCOMPETANCE....YES, THAT'S A FACT!!!

    September 25, 2012 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Hawkman

    If Golden Tate had to take a lie detector test as to confirm he caught the ball, he would be electricuted!!!!

    September 25, 2012 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Gateman

    Don't put the lock-out all on the NFL. If the refs cared, they could take the deal that the NFL has offered them and end the strike today, but THEY won't. It takes two sides to have a disagreement. The refs don't care about the game, they care about getting paid!

    September 25, 2012 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
  10. salvo


    September 25, 2012 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Admitted Seahawk Fan

    While I agree with absolutely everyone that the officiating sucks and we need the real refs back, the fact is that this one call did not decide the game. Four quarters of football were many times was Rogers sacked? How many times did the Seattle defense shut down the Packers offense? An entire game doesn't rest on one play, people. The Packers should never have let Seattle in that position in the frst place, and had many opportunities to not let that happen. To say this game, or ANY game, rests solely on one play is ignorant.

    September 25, 2012 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Conner

      This exactly... I love how nobody asked Aaron Rodgers in the postgame interview about taking all those sacks. He just stood there all pouty. Their offense was terrible that night. The Seahawks offense was too but that is beside the point.

      September 25, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Clash123

    Even though I was rooting for Seahawks, that was cleary an interception at the end.

    September 25, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Salam

    I demand a Congressional hearing on the effects it is having on insterstate commerce and the gambling community. This situation puts a great number of players at risk health wise.

    September 25, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
  14. ProperVillain

    Bread and circuses....

    September 25, 2012 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
  15. justafan

    Has anybody that's complaining really looked at the replay? I can't speak for the pushoff but posession is only confirmed after both feet or body touch the ground. Tate had simultaneous possesion by the time Jennings second foot touched the ground. As for no flag on the pushoff, I am sure there are a lot of "no call" plays in the past (does anybody remember Michael Irvin?) where the receiver pushes off for a TD catch to win the game.

    September 25, 2012 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
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