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. JOHN D


    September 25, 2012 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
  2. VMG

    Don't blame the guys on the field, it was a tough call and split second decision. Blame the guy in the booth who had plenty of time to review the tape.

    September 25, 2012 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
  3. givemepizza

    Haha, Pete Carroll is hilarious!

    September 25, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Joe Meat

    SO How 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!

    That's why we have replay, to get the call RIGHT. They got the call right...dude had possession in the end zone = touchdown. After that, nothing matters. The play is over when the TOUCHDOWN is scored.

    September 25, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Woodrow

      Joe's a REF!!! Get him!

      September 25, 2012 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Johnny

      They couldn't review the play. Thats what sucks about the whole thing.

      September 25, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • PoorWhinyPackersFans

      My favorite team is now the replacement refs, they beat the Packers. I hope they are still around for the Vikings v Green Bay game. The Vikings may be able to beat the Pack with the Refs on our side.

      September 25, 2012 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • jayharland

      Did you watch the game or are you just a Seahawks fan excited you got away with murder? Yeah the O-Line gave up 8 sacks, but that doesn't mean the Pack didn't regroup and fight for what they got in the second half. The game was solid on both sides by the D, that is why this is such bull.

      Dude had possession in the end zone = touchdown? That isn't even the official ruling. They said it was simultaneous though it wasn't. Pull your head out of your ass before you comment.

      September 25, 2012 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lagos

      ESPN poll, 87% of the country agrees that this was an INT, including almost 2/3 of people from Washington. No, clearly it's just the Green Bay fans and players whining.

      September 25, 2012 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe Six Pack

      New NFL rule: You can now catch the ball by catching the guy who catches the ball.

      September 25, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe Meat

      They did review the play. And got it right: Touchdown. Just because the call doesn't go your team's way doesn't make it a bad call. Dude caught the ball. Once he catches it, someone else trying to take it away doesn't matter. The offensive player caught the ball and hit the ground first. Touchdown. The defender still in the air and trying to take the ball away doesn't matter. Receiver has the ball, his body hits the ground. Touchdown. After that that defender can take the ball home and give it to his mama. Doesn't change the fact that a touchdown has already happened.

      September 25, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lagos

      As countless people have stated and is as plain as day, Jennings got both arms around the ball, Tate had one arm on the top of the ball. After they hit the ground, Tate wrestles the ball away. Go take a look at ESPN's poll, most people in WASHINGTON disagree with you.

      September 25, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sara

      What game were you watching or are you just someone who hates the Packers? The refs have been terrible in all games but when a game ends on a play like that. a play where you can clearly see that Jennings has control of the ball, that Tate pushed off to make himself open. When it looked like Tate was just hugging Jennings.... Maybe you need your eyes checked....

      September 25, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      Seattle has never been robbed – remember Super Bowl in 2006.

      September 25, 2012 at 6:55 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Did they blow it???

    Simply stated – yes.

    September 25, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
  6. just sayin'

    How about we figure out a way for Stephen A Smith to type with proper punctuation? Has the NFL really thrown away "it's integrity"? I mean did he throw out his college degree?

    September 25, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • jpayne

      maybe he was tweeting via mobile device and autocorrect kicked who knows. I've seen this far too often though in legitimate columns, with grammar and spelling mishaps and such.

      September 25, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Are You Kidding?

    You know these refs they are using are from D-2 NCAA football....not D-1. But I have discovered watching them that they shouldn't be D-2 even.....The NFL went after the Saints for bounty gate...and no one else.....well these refs are worse than that. They want more money give it to them....before someone gets hurt because the way they call plays that is gonna happen.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Johnny

      They aren't all D-2, some are D-3 and high school refs.

      September 25, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • PoorWhinyPackersFans

      I am sure that the replacements suck because Ed Hochuli knows where their families live.

      September 25, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
  8. 12 MAN DO OR DIE

    "When the players hit the ground in the end zone, the officials determined that both Tate and Jennings had possession of the ball. Under the rule for simultaneous catch, the ball belongs to Tate, the offensive player. The result of the play was a touchdown."

    So even if the regular refs were on the field last night the win would have still gone to Seattle.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • NFL Fan

      But, the regular NFL refs would have caught the offensive pass interference. and the game would have been over

      September 25, 2012 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
  9. jon

    The integrity of the NFL has just been sabotaged. These second hand referees calls are literally giving the losing team the win in many of these games. It is an outrage and has completely ruined the game of football in the NFL. These games should not even be played until the professional referees come back.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
  10. streetheat1

    Nuts to blogging here or emailing the NFL. It won't change a thing. I am emailing the sponsors. That's where the money is at, and that the NFL will listen to. I am not using your product or patronizing your business until the NFL brings back the regular refs!

    September 25, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Rob

    The NFL MUST reversed this decision and give the Packers a "W" and the Hawks a "L".
    It was offensive pass interference AND an interception. Pick one and make a professional decision....Rob

    September 25, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • scott

      rob, they made a decision, but your 2 wasn't the one they made...

      September 25, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
  12. bugbreath

    The NFL keeps shooting itself in the foot. You can only do that so many times and then it kills you. Greed. Greed. And more Greed.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
  13. daveinla

    CNN has a story about two US Marines dying in Afghanistan. Does NFL really matter?

    September 25, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Jim

    The NFL CAN'T bring back the refs. What the general public doesn't realize is that this is all about politics and union busting...seriously. The owners are a bunch of good ol' boys and they have taken their stance and they will go with it. It's an election year and they will defend their position to the death! If you think I'm kidding,just wait and watch

    September 25, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Joe Meat

    Replament refs or replacement Packers? When is Green Bay going to get a replacement offensive line is the real question Packers fans should be asking themselves. That O-line, or lack thereof, cost you 2 games so far, including this one. And it won't be the last. Those guys are awful! Better use your energy to whine at your coach..he needs an O-Line, and fast!

    September 25, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
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