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. GettingReal

    Patriots should have won too. But as a local commentator said, if people keep wanting to watch just for the bad calls, there is no incentive to get rid of the temp refs.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
  2. peakprofit

    The NFL did NOT issue any sort of statement on the catch itself. The statement was that Tate committed pass interference, which he absolutely did. My question for all the whiners: Have you ever seen a Hail Mary play without pass interference? I honestly cannot recall a single instance where 6 guys went up for the ball, and either the offense or defense did not commit a violation. Why are all those non-calls by the old officials fine, and this one a sign of the apocalypse?

    As for the 'catch'? I will grant the notion that it seemed that Jennings got a hand on it first. More to the point, he definitely got his second hand on the ball, before Tate did. From there, one has to read the rules about possession. By the time Jennings got even a single foot on the ground ( 2 are needed for possession) Tate had essentially the same two hands on the ball. That is pretty clear and incontrovertible. Furthermore, league rules clearly say that when two players have equal possession of the ball that the ball stays with the offense. Even more than Hail Mary's, this situation goes on each and every game – though more frequently in the running game. How many times do we see defenders trying to strip the ball out of the hands of a ball carrier? And when they do, do we cry that the officials are unfair? How about all the scrums that happen after fumbles, even though it is completely and entirely clear that Player A has the ball under his chest, in full control and is on the ground ( essentially down and ready for contact)? This happens in each and every NFL game. And in a good number, I am amazed that someoen other than the person who started with clear possession ends up with the ball. Again, do we cry and scream that the old officials need to be replaced?

    Well, I suppose that we do yell and scream. But that is the point. There are just as many of these decisions made by the old officials as there are the replacement officials. But we never screamed about America as we know it coming to an end. Are the old officials – today – better than the replacements? Sure. But Bledsoe was better than Brady at one point. Montana was better than Young at one point. Kurt Warner was bagging groceries at one point. All got better, and proved to be some of the best of their time ( Two are in the discussion, at least, for GOAT) I suspect that the replacement officials will get much better, with a year under their belt. But that would not change what happened last night: Whether ref lovers or Cheeseheads like it, the call on the catch / possession was right ( and not reviewable). And the Interference call happens precisely the same in each and every game.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • NoCall_GoodCall

      Or, in the words of John Madden: "That was a great No Call...Let 'em play! Boom!"

      September 25, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
  3. svann

    "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."

    Doesnt he have anything better to do? That is a serious abuse of government power.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Replacement Ref: Recount of the play.

    And the Packers cross the line for the white flag on lap 300.... The Racket is thrown into the endzone... where it is grounded out for a single. But LOOK at this! Jeter has stolen 3rd! Oh, and now its a scrum in the endzone! Dana White is jumping in now, what an absolute mess this is.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
  5. ProfessorMom

    I'm confused; was this the last play of the game? If not, can't be the decisive play if GB got the ball back and had a chance to score. Even with regular refs bad calls happen, interference missed all the time, and I echo sentiments that refs are bad for both teams. Sounds like cry baby Packer fans to me.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • A

      It was the final play.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • zodiac1

      I am not a crybaby or a Packer fan but the call was horrrible. You should watch it a few times before making a silly comment.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • yoyo

      it was indeed the very last play of the time expired!

      September 25, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • MuscleMom

      Yes, it was the last play of the game. By the time the catch was made (by GB), there was no time left on the clock. Try educating yourself before putting in your two cents...

      September 25, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • J

      Yes, it was the last play of the game, so the outcome of this decision determined the outcome of the game. The officials chose wrong, and so the wrong team won. It's not just whiny Packer fans complaining; the NFL itself has admitted that the Packers should have won.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • bill

      You know very little about football.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • MaskMan

      Yes, it was the last play. No recourse. Even though the League admits it was a blown call and that the Packers should have won, they won't budge.

      September 25, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
  6. das raven

    Not defending the atrocious call but Jennings should have just batted the ball down. No need to catch it because int at that point would be meaningless

    September 25, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
  7. kmtr3


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

      The referees are not striking. Are you suggesting that the players should break national labor relations rules for yuks?

      September 25, 2012 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Russ

    There has to be a resolution process for situations where the refs blow a game with a bad call. A panel should be created composed of 7 independent and retired refs who can make a ruling. Call it the NFL Supreme Court. There would be a high standard for decisions to be taken to it.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Bear Nation

    I cannot stand the Packers and root against them always. However, that was a terrible call. The NFL knows it, the Packers know it, and America knows it! Seahawk know it was a terrible call too!

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

    The only ones supporting replacement refs are those that hate unions so bad they cant see straight.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Russ

    If this call results in Green Bay not making the playoffs, there will be hell to pay.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • doug

      What are you going to do, russ ? Comment on a cnn blog ?

      September 25, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
  12. calvin morris

    Come on guys. Hit em where it hurts. Just don't go to the games for two (2) weeks. As long as the owners make the money they don't give a damn. Of course if we wait the death calls to the refs may change the course. This is all about money, take away the money, you will bring them up out of their seats.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Shuffler

    I really did not care who won or lost the game Monday night. I also do not care for unions as I see them as protectors of the lazy. After watching this game last night I see where all the noise is coming from regarding the officiating. I could not imagine a high school officiating team even being as confused and poorly trained as the group was during MNF. The main bad call is only one of many made during the game. It made me sick watching the game and witnessing the unprofessional officials at work. I will not be watching anymore NFL games...... it is just not enjoyable with the poor game calling

    September 25, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Maria Z

      Amen Shuffler!,especially about unions protecting the lazy. I see it at my job all the time. The Packer's though were cheated out of a win and I'm not a Packer fan. What a sad way to lose.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
  14. NookieMonster

    As a season ticket holder, can I get my money back?

    September 25, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Antonio

    On the bright side, this will give ESPN to talk about besides Danica Patrick's 32nd place finish in whatever race she thinks she's qualified to participate in.

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

      *something to talk about

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