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. Kevin

    Don't forget.... The NFL protected the " real refs" after the " tuck rule" call 10 yrs ago, when the Raiders were robbed of a victory in the PLAYOFFS. Why didn't y'all call for replacing those refs???? ( and I am not a Raider fan, either)

    September 25, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Berman

    I'm done with the NFL and I was just starting to get into pro football. At least they have real refs in college. Roll Tide Roll.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  3. yeah yeah

    HAHAHAHAHA the regular Refs are laughing all the way to the bank, I don't know why all you hosers are complaining, all the while I'm enjoying the NFL for once in a long TIME, Now it seems that the league is TRULY a level playing field.....MAN i haven't enjoyed watching NFL like this since the late 80's when i was a kid 🙂 I hope the LOCKOUT NEVERENDS

    September 25, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • rizzo

      I don't remember simple ball spots taking 20+ minutes and games taking like 4 hours in the 80's. Were we watching different NFL's? Are you sure you're not thinking of soccer?

      September 25, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  4. PackerFan

    Jennings blew the game by not just batting the ball away. Never would have been a touchdown call if our own player hadn't cost us the game and just done what he is supposed to do in that situation: BAT THE BALL DOWN! MORON!

    September 25, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Charlie

    No, refs calls are final, now stop bickering about the replacement referees.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
  6. person

    No, no, no. Please keep it like this. Nothing like watching a bunch of dumb, angry sports fans get angry over the money they lost in their bets.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
  7. RatingsAreUp-WAY-UP

    NFL ratings are up, way up over last year and are the highest in NFL history! I'm loving it...the games are more fun to watch and these refs ARE BETTER. Love it, NFL...keep 'em coming!

    September 25, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • EvaMagill3

      Have to agree...I used to hate football. Now I'm watching with my husband and his buddies and loving it!

      September 25, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Alan

    I absolutely agree Edward. Simultaneous possession at least. I fault the GB defender for not knocking the ball down instead of going for the int and screwing his team over. The refs GOT THIS CALL CORRECT.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Don

    The problem is, the more the people complain, the more likely it is that the real officials will raise their demands (I wouldn't be surprised to see "none of the replacement-officiated games will be allowed to count, the way that games with replacement players didn't count in 1987" added to the list), and the NFL will keep the current crews on the field. Hopefully this doesn't happen, and the lockout will end soon.

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

    I really believe the league should fine the Commissioner! For incompetence. And why is he fining people for speaking the truth? Settle the strike for crying out loud.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
  11. SuperKrivo

    I live in GB and a happily pay an extra half a percentage tax to fund the Packersand NFL. When I pay more for my Hapy Meal to fund refs making bad calls and not following the rules of the game I get frustrated. I take my loses like lumps – I get over it. Last night was not a lump; it was the Hinderberg explosion.


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

    I love these refs. They let them play, it's like watching football again instead of flag football.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Snacklefish

    Touching a ball, as Tate did, is not possession. At NO time did he have possession of the football. It's only a tie IF both are equally in contact with the ball. Even the NFL said the call was blown. So all the Seahawks diehards, enjoy the win*. I'd personally be ashamed to win* a game in such a way.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
  14. anthony's 'its integrity'!! ..and Lebron you love football TOO much..not 'to'...

    September 25, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
  15. TSchaef

    The NFL does not have the guts to right a wrong, because they need to stand behind their inept referees. Image is everything to them, but this may go down as the worst ending in a LONG time, so imaged be damned as long as we keep the $3M from the real refs and people keep buying tickets/merchandise.
    If the Packers lose a playoff tiebreaker to the Seahawks because of this, how do you explain that away, NFL?

    September 25, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
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