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. ChicagoBob

    If you care enough about this to analyze it, you're paying attention to the wrong things. Stop caring about football, start caring about the country you live IN and the planet you live ON

    September 25, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
  2. rlcommenter

    In Baseball the Umps have waaaay too much power and sometimes think they are more important than the players.. Do you want that in Football? no way... The refs should get back to work or lose their jobs... It won't take long for the new refs to get a handle on things.. The game is about the Players and Coaches and Fans... Not the Refs...

    September 25, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Union Breaker

    The ref's blew a call for pass interferance that allowed GB to score a touchdown in the 4th qtr. Is anyone complaining about that? GB should have lost the game anyway. The calls sucked. (Both of them) But that is sports!! The other 13 games went well. Let's focus on the reason the regular ref's are not on the field. (GREED) They are holding everyone hostage and hope you all kick and screem real loud. My thoughts are give the new ref's some time to gain the experience and the heck with the union. Go find another job that is going to pay you what you make now!!!

    September 25, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
  4. ronjayaz

    A one-game boycott by the fans in each city beginning alphabetically will quickly end the problem. the game sucks w/o the real refs!

    September 25, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |

      I disagree. The game is better with replacement refs.Based on ratings and attendance, both of which are way up, most people agree. You stay home. I will enjoy sitting in your seat!

      September 25, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Ben

    Aren't the refs bad for both teams on the field? To me it's just like playing on a poor field. One side can't complain that it was more unfair for them since they were both on the field at the same time.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Richard

    The players should refuse to play until the real refs return. No more of this garbage officiating that gets call after call wrong. I know there are bad calls but never this many each week. End this now.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
  7. xfiler93

    The Packers were robbed last night. What a debacle. The NFL needs to open up the purse strings and be LESS stingy about the BILLIONS it gets each year from the networks and pay the Refs the paultry amount they want.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • PackerFan

      Packers were robbed by our own DB. All Jennings is supposed to do is bat the ball down or out of bounds. Our own player cost us the game.

      September 25, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |

    @Joe Meat, what do you mean the Seahawk receiver had possession? He had ONE arm around the defender. The defender had the ball with both hands and had the ball pressed to his chest. Interception. It was then on the ground that the Seahawk receiver tried to manhandled it away. You must be one of those blind replacement refs.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Ac Summers

    The NFL needs to realize that the refs deserve to be paid. The games are concrete football. These psuedo refs are hilarious. They are calls fouls when there are no fouls and not calling fouls when there are fouls. The players and coaches are taking advantage of the situation. I love it. I dont know whether i want the refs back cause the games are funny as heck. The fans, players and coaches are having temper tantrums. LMAO

    September 25, 2012 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Cheekee Monquee

    After further review, the runner did not touch second base......Touchdown Celtics!

    September 25, 2012 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Dave

    I'm loving it. At least the calls aren't all one sided. They're finally making calls... The old refs just let the pentalties go on. Kind of like the NBA now – how many steps can you take without dribbling? three now in the NBA it seems... However, I don't like some of NFL's rules... for example, fair catch call... it's football if you have the balls to catch it go for it... Rugby is rougher than football anyday. And, those guys don't wear pads...

    September 25, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Bill

    To Green Bay:
    I am a Seattle fan who lives outside of Seattle....did I want Seattle to bet...but not like this. We lost, and on behalf of Seattle, I appologize to Green won.

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

      Thanks, Bill. That's manly of you. But our player cost us the game by being a selfish hotdog and not batting the ball down. So, thank you for your offer, but no, thanks to our own player's selfish stupidity, Seattle won the game fair and square. I hope Jennings has his pay cut or something as punishment. That idiot blew it. Our loss is your gain: Seattle – you won the game.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • don415

      to Bill: i am a Cowboys fan and live outside Dallas,if GreenBay doesn't want the win ,can WE have it?

      September 25, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
  13. WhackyWaco

    It is just a game so what's the big deal?

    September 25, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Geckowise

    Hats off to Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy; he handled and took the jobbing the officials gave his team with an extreme amount of class.

    The total opposite of that is the classless manner in which Pete Carroll handled it in "winning". Carroll showed again that he integrity and humility are completely foreign concepts to him; after the call both he and Tate showed the nation what total Foxtrotting Alphahotels they are.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      Pete Carroll has total integrity.

      September 25, 2012 at 7:20 pm | Report abuse |
  15. James

    Who cares – crap game anyway

    September 25, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
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