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

    Personally I think the NFL made the right decision. How can anyone think otherwise, I mean really??

    September 25, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Notarichboy

    If as many people got upset at our elected officials when they screw up as they do the referees in a football game our government would be ran differently!

    September 25, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • James PDX

      People are just as upset about how our government continuously screws up and, just like with these awful football refs, are satisfied to do nothing more than complain from the comfort of their couches using their i-phones.

      September 25, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Bob

    why maybe the Jets will get into the playoffs if the Replacements stay.....

    September 25, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
  4. markiejoe

    Oh, so now all you redneck southern boys are in support of the striking union guys? Interesting.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • John W.


      September 25, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chuck

      Wow all southerner's are rednects. You can keep coments like that to yourself. But of course we all know everyone from up north are AS***holes. And after living in CT, I can tell you there are rednecks everywhere. Apparently by your comments you might be one too, but in the closet.

      September 25, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Dave

    Joe Meat is right, alot of these so-called controversial calls have been upheld by reply. The problem is the ugly route taken to get the call made. Penalties are missed all the time, with this level of scrutiny for the replacements it's not much wonder the refs are holding out for more money!!

    September 25, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
  6. joecool

    Anyone notice that 13 of the 16 games this week went just fine? How about the great officiating in the Detroit-Ten. game? Helmet-to-helmet called, illegal touch in the back of the end zone (great call!). The wrong spot of enforcement on the reviewed play was the replay fault, not the on-field officials. Can we look at teh other 13 games that went ok?

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

      joecool, all the other 13 games were not called correctly either. Like no penalty when there was a helmet to helmet blow to Tony Romo. But there were terrible calls and missed calls in games with the striking refs as well, so what's the big deal?

      September 25, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
  7. StupidAzzWhineyPackerFan

    Oh dang....

    The Packers suck this year....


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


    September 25, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
  9. whocaresanyway

    Who really cares anyway? It is just a GAME. Grow up people. Waste of time.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
  10. whodis

    I'm glad I gave up caring out football years ago. Now I can just sit back and laugh about refs ruining games and fans watching 4 hour games with 10 minutes of actual gameplay.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • John W.

      You don't care, yet here you are. What an exciting life you must lead.

      September 25, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
  11. DoneUntilFurtherNotice

    OK...I've got other things I should be doing instead of watching countless hours of football each weekend and Monday night. Albeit, it's one of my favorite things to do. This weekend's games + last night's game has just pushed me over the edge. I am done with football until the regular officiating crew is back.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Bill

    Yeah, I think I'm done with the NFL this season. The whole point of locking out someone is to demonstrate that they can be replaced by people who are as equally competent at the job. I have not seen anything in the last three weeks that would convince me that this is the case.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
  13. StupidAzzWhineyPackerFan

    I'm fat. I'm a loser with no job, no girlfriend, and I wear a piece of orange foam rubber on my head.


    And I paid $40 for that orange foam rubber on my head.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • jonnywang


      September 25, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
  14. willy

    The real officials are just waiting in the wings and laughing as this debacle continues to spiral out of control. All the while, the odds that they ultimately get what they want increases. So Mr. Goodell... just give them what they want, NOW! This season as well as the integrity of the entire league is at stake here.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • bigot

      "All the while, the odds that they ultimately get what they want increases. "

      Please explain how their odds increase when the NFL is still making billions of dollars and couldn't care less what players or fans think?

      September 25, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Referee

    Think we all can agree that we make bad calls every now and then. Heck, we're human. But the frequency of these bad calls is getting out of hand. Phantom PI call in Denver almost gave the game to Denver; Extra challenges in another game; Field goals not viewed correctly, and now this.

    Don't blame the refs, blame the owners and "Darth Goodell"!! Pay the refs!! Pay the refs!!

    September 25, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
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