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. Kodak

    What is wierd about this story is that games have been "poorly" decided by PRO refs on occasion in sports history. WHAT makes this one event SOOOOOOO critical to life as we know it right now?? This isn't the first time its happened, folks! It was a very close call, after all. I'd bet a hundred bucks that a PRO ref would have had a tough time on that one.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
  2. nate

    what happens when the regular referees come back and everyone still isn't happy about the play calling?

    September 25, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Jake

    This article is biased. The review staff were not locked out and are independent of the replacement refs. Now it appears that Jennings had possession of the ball, but there is no rules in the rule book about who has more possession, which gives the possession to the receiving team. But Tate did cause a pass interference that wasn't initially called by the referees and can't be added in after reviewing of the play. The Seahawks won this game because of this bad call, and not the dual reception call.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Matt

    How are unions involved in a sport? This is a joke. I can't wait until we turn to the president to fix this crap too. Like it wasn't a waste of time for President Obama to have to deal with questions about NCAA basketball.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • President Teddy Roosevelt once intervened...

      President Theodore Roosevelt (a Republican) loved football, but he once threatened to abolish it if the players, coaches, and all concerned could not find a way to decrease the amount of brutality and injuries on the field. So, there is a precedent here. Just sayin'...

      September 25, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
  5. tor5

    It’s hard not to make a political analogy. The clown show among the replacement refs in the end zone reminds me of the “no-government utopia” envisioned by some on the extreme right. Union busting and poor enforcement of sensible regulations tend to promote chaos.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • mikeismike

      thank you for your NOT wanted political opinion from left field

      September 25, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • serveJBR

      vs. the utopia of the not-so-sharp far lefties? Maybe they should play a football game against each other. Thinkin' the Texas Tpartiers would punish the Mass.Geeks:(

      September 25, 2012 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • ludicrous12

      Don't belittle this important debate by bringing such nonsense like politics into this.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • TOR5 is RIGHT!!!

      TOR5 is RIGHT!!!

      Refs deserve MORE RESPECT and MORE PAY. Without EXPERIENCED refereeing there will be no legitimate games. Everyone's getting rich in the NFL. Why not share a little of the wealth with the guys who get NO respect from the players and NO love from the fans. Bring back the REAL refs!!!

      And, Tor5's analogy is perfectly apt. Without rules and enforcement of those rules, chaos rules. (Also, the extreme RIGHT is extremely WRONG on EVERYTHING.)

      September 25, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  6. ludicrous12

    Please, don't cry for the Packers. They got plenty of calls that went there way too. If the ref's would have called Tate for interference along with giving the interception, then Seattle fans could honestly be ticked for the late hit on Wilson on that same play. Bad calls for everybody.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
  7. vphoebe

    There is absolutely nothing funny about this situation, but I fear nothing will be resolved until some player's crippled and his career's over. The Sunday night game was a clear example of what's to come. There was a "skirmish" (cute, Al) after nearly every play in the 1st quarter. And not one, but two Ravens grabbed Tom Brady's helmet in one sack. Not one of these "events" was called. Be afraid.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Steroid Rage you mean...

      September 25, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • peakprofit

      As best as I can tell, the Day Daryl Stingly got paralyzed, there were not replacement officials in sight.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
  8. wftfffffff

    "The video also appeared to show Tate shoving a Packers defender in the back before going for the ball," uh it didnt appear to show it, it DID show it.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
  9. mikeismike

    December 7th, 1998. Anyone remember the game between the Jets and the Seahawks that day? Vinny Testaverde was giving a touchdown when he only made it to the one yard line. That's the reason we have replay today. Seattle got a gimme and Green Bay got screwed, but it's not like it hasn't happened before with the 'real' referees either.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
  10. iceload9

    People have always complained about the officiating. They complained about the regular refs as well.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
  11. muffin72

    my 2 year old threw her bottle at the TV over that call as even she realized it was offensive interference first and then a pick. pretty bad

    September 25, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • mikeismike

      you never see offensive interference called on the hail mary. don't start crying about it now.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • CD

      Your 2 year old would probably be a better official.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Billy

    In the end Seattle won!

    September 25, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Brian

    Every game ever played in the history of the NFL have plays where some player should have been penalized, but wasn't. Nothing new here.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • panz4ever

      Agreed, but is the number of blown calls by these numbnutz that is now completely out of hand and off the grid.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
  14. PackerFan

    The lesson learned here is, just as everyone learned in the first level of PeeWee football: NEVER try for the interception on 4th down. There is NOTHING gained for your team. ALWAYS just bat the ball down or out of bounds. As we see, being a selfish hotdog wanting that INT just gives your team a way to LOSE.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • serveJBR

      great point, always something to learn. Blame refs never makes anyone feel better and doesn't change the outcome of the particular game. Win big so it doesn't come to the refs, and don't pick one off on 4th down!

      September 25, 2012 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Sweet Dee

    NFL is being penny wise and pound foolish. There's a lot more at stake than $3.3 million for ref pay and retirement. The fans will revolt if this goes on.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • YouAreWrong

      You are wrong. Ratings are the highest ever. Most brilliant move the NFL has made ever. Heck, you got to admit, the games are better and more interesting! Love it!

      September 25, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
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