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. Alan

    Outrageous that the NFL will not take a stronger stand on fixing this!
    Outrageous that the replacement referees DETERMINED the outcome of this game TWICE on the same drive!

    Seattle Seahawks should be embarrassed to call this a win.
    The Packers should have turned their backs at the line for the extra point kick.

    The NFL has become irrelevant to me. I will not watch another game until the referee negotiation is finished and the REAL referees come back to the game.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  2. What???

    The economy is heading for a cliff our government has spent us into a 16trillion dollar hole and the head line on a national news agency is about a football game played by million dollar players and officiated over by 100K a year replacements?!........ The most sad part is that the American people are that interested? WOW!!! We are really in deep do do!!!......

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

      The French revolution was started because of stuff like this "Let them eat cake" or in our case let them watch football?

      September 25, 2012 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Lagos

    No there shouldn't have been an offensive PI call there, they never call that on hail mary passes. That's not the point. NFL took the easy way out and focused on a penalty rather than the debacle as a whole, or the play in question.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Boo

    There was a man who spoke to ESPN this morning and he said he had his wife (who knows NOTHING about football) look at the last play of the game without sound and he asked her who caught the ball. She said "the guy in the white and yellow....."
    'Nuff said.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
  5. sean samis

    The NFL's statement hangs on the idea that it was a simultaneous catch. The statement includes the relevant rules, which has this:

    It is not a simultaneous catch if a player gains control first and an opponent subsequently gains joint control. If the ball is muffed after simultaneous touching by two such players, all the players of the passing team become eligible to catch the loose ball.

    The replay clearly shows GB's Jennings caught the ball first, then the Seahawks' Tate. So the rules say it was an interception, not a reception/TD. The rules invalidate the league's conclusion.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • PackerFan

      The real question is: Why in the world is OUR PLAYER trying to catch the ball when, if he does what he's supposed to do and just BATS IT DOWN, there is no call, no replay and PACKERS WIN?!?

      Jennings should be fired. What an IDIOT.

      September 25, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • obamaliar

      What is ref 26's name??????

      September 25, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Rascal Rabble

    whine and cheese.........whatter greater combination...

    September 25, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
  7. chris

    If this happened with regular refs it would have received 25% of the attention and most people would have been saying just bat down the ball. But because people are just waiting for something controversial to happen with these replacement refs the whole situation gets blown out of proportion. It sure is easy to get people worked up nowadays.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Notafan

    A fitting typo in the first sentence of this story:

    " The National Football League greed Tuesday that Green Bay Packers should have won.."

    Greed is why the Packers lost.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
  9. rufus

    When the vote tabulating company rigs the presidential election I bet people will complain less about that than over the officials for an effen game! Give us our bread (food stamps) and circuses (football)!

    September 25, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Deke Martin

    Only for the GB Packers would the NFL issue a statement saying, "They should have won." The long love affair between the NFL and Packers is just disgusting. Joe Buck obviously has a 'thing' for the Packers. Get it over it GB. You lost. Think of how many games you should have lost BUT DIDN'T because the OTHER team got screwed by the refs. Karma...

    September 25, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Booze Allen

    I'm aghast! I won't spend my time/money on a game where the officials take over and decide outcomes with ridiculous calls. The league has lost all integrity.

    PS – I wrote the same thing about the scam NBA 7 years ago and haven't watched that charade since. WWF set the precedent, NBA followed, next the NFL.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jabba Joodie

    Who cares?
    It's just football?

    September 25, 2012 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
  13. God

    Golden Tate clearly has control of the ball AND the GB player. Where in the rules does it say you can't catch a defensive player AND the ball? Although the replacement refs do suck .... GB fans now have plenty of w(h)ine to go with their cheese. Washington State is wine country ... Wisconsin is whine country. roflmao

    September 25, 2012 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Max

    My friends and I were roaring at the television when we saw the end of the game last night. Man it must suck to be a Packer, work that hard, and have all that effort be taken away from you by an incompetent referee. NFL, please get the regular refs back in the game. Your sport is suffering needlessly.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • PackerFan

      Unfortunately it wasn't an incompetent referee, it was our own incompetent player. All Jennings is supposed to do in that situation is bat the ball down or bat the ball out of the end zone. He didn't. He got greedy and, for some reason, wanted to pad his stats with an INT. Jennings stupidity cost us the game, pure and simple. Only losers blame the refs when our player didn't do the ONLY thing he's supposed to do on 4th down, especially at the end of the game: BAT THE BALL DOWN, OR BAT THE BALL OUT OF BOUNDS.

      September 25, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ben

      Reply to Max, "work that hard"? What NFL team expects to win a game scoring 12 points? They needed to put up more points on the board if they wanted to win.

      September 25, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Kodak

    It must be a sloooooow news day to make this a headline that anyone cares about. It is as if this is critical to our National security. Get a life!

    September 25, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
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