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. Brian

    The Replacement refs made the right call. good job.

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

    Packers fans – take that CHEESE of your HEAD. It will go well with your WHINE.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Jim

    When someone's not doing the job right, he should be replaced. That's true on Sunday afternoon, Monday night, or the first Tuesday in November.

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

      Geez, this is the fault of the Packers, not the refs. All the Packers had to do was KNOCK IT DOWN!!! Also, the Packers should never have been in that position.

      I am reminded of what Bobby Knight once said when asked if he would have done anything different if he had been the coach of the 1972 US Men's Olympic Basketball team which lost to the USSR on controversial calls after time had expired. His response? "I would have been ahead by more than one point at the end of the game."

      A great response on so many levels!

      September 25, 2012 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Bob Lewis

    I've heard the cliches about losing team "not getting to that point in the first place." But sometimes, you do get to that point, where the refs have to make a timely, critical and correct call. They blew it, pure and simple. Roger G. is behind this mess happening on his watch and he should step down as commissioner.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
  5. CC

    I'll start by saying I neither like nor watch football-but I'm sure it's no different than baseball. The fans know the rules & can often clearly see, in the replay, when a ref blows a call. Why can't even the replacement refs do as well? There's something wrong with the process of choosing the replacements. It almost sounds like the unionized refs were the ones who chose the replacements-of course the replacements wouldn't be any good in that case. Assuming it wasn't that, how were they chosen?

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

      The problem was that the play was not reviewable. It was a judgement call and those can't be reviewed because the NFL does not want to stop the play for 30 minutes while someone's judgement is in question. If it was reviewable, it would have been clearly overturned.

      September 25, 2012 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
  6. This is Weak

    I did not know Roger Goodell was Italian, and part of the mob, no wonder.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Cherries

    GO HAWKS!!!

    September 25, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
  8. numberonefan198

    How can a video 'APPEAR' to show anything, it either shows it, or not, no 'APPEAR'

    September 25, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Johnny

    The refs missed an obvious block in the back by the Seahawks O-line...then they missed the offensive pass interference....then they messed up the call at the end.

    One bad call, We can live with, 2 no-calls and 1 bad call in a single play? Thats ridiculous.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
  10. cowgirl1913

    I refuse to watch another game until this matter is settled!!!

    September 25, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
  11. EastCoast Mike

    I don't want to hear Goodell ever talk about protecting the shield or even mention the integrity of the game's all a lot of garbage.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Dan LeMieux

    After last night I'm done watching the NFL & I live in Green Bay. I sold my tickets. I'll find something else to do this Fall. I used to live for the Packer Games , but with the rentarefs , I'm done.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • The penguin

      thats very un-wisconsin of you....

      September 25, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
  13. mcskadittle

    If the packers offensive line hadn't taken the first half off then this call wouldn't be an issue

    September 25, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Anders Behring Breivik (King of the Island)

    Greetings from Oslo. The word here is that the ref who signaled TD is comped for life at any Vegas hotel/casino. Pack minus 2.5 was every suckers Monday night bailout bet. Oooppppss.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
  15. NotaCnnFan

    Well this is what a UNION does best!! The striking refs had a great deal but the UNION wanted more as usual. I like the replacements, I think they are doing a great job. Of course mistakes are made, thats why instant replay was invented because of the OLD REFS–remember! And recently we have every touchdown is reviewed. The OLD REFS was the reason for that creation–remember that!! The UNIONS are at fault so if you are going to blame somebody at least blame the culprites.

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