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. Steve

    In Canadian football that's an interception.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:23 am | Report abuse |
    • jim atmad

      It is in American football, too.

      Just not tonight.

      September 25, 2012 at 1:26 am | Report abuse |
  2. Bill

    Wa, wa, wa. Seattle lost a superbowl game because of blown calls, and admitted so by the ref. No out cry there. Seattle was kept from the post season by a blown, ficticous td call in a Jets game. No outcry there. Seahawks are told they shouldn't have been in those loosing situations if only they had scored more points, stop blaming the refs. Greenbay was handed their - the first half, and did minimal 2nd half. Great game Seattle, go cry in your milk Packers.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:23 am | Report abuse |
    • jon

      I get you like to whine but it really doesn't change the fact that the calls were terrible the entire fourth quarter, and one horrific call after another basically screwed the Packers. It was clearly not roughing the passer, it clearly wasn't defensive pass interference, tate clearly shoved a guy with both his hands, and tate clearly never won the ball. It's simple as that.

      September 25, 2012 at 1:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Ken


      September 25, 2012 at 1:30 am | Report abuse |
  3. David V.

    Shutting down my NFL season until they get real refs. It's such a waste of time. There were many blown calls tonight that just ruined the integrity of the game. Props to Seattle for great defense and putting themselves in a position to win though. Whatever – call me when the true refs are back. I'm following baseball.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:24 am | Report abuse |
  4. Thomas Griffith

    What tha @#*% ......Sounds like the one official wanted a win for the home team regardless of what the correct call should have been

    September 25, 2012 at 1:26 am | Report abuse |
  5. Unreal

    Humiliation to the NFL!

    September 25, 2012 at 1:26 am | Report abuse |
  6. jim atmad

    When the outcome isn't decided by the athletes on the field, it's just pro wrestling with shoulder pads.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:27 am | Report abuse |
  7. government cheese

    Unions on strike again.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:28 am | Report abuse |
    • CP in FL

      The refs were locked out genus.

      September 25, 2012 at 10:12 am | Report abuse |
  8. jsizzle


    September 25, 2012 at 1:28 am | Report abuse |
  9. government cheese

    Why are the unions ruining football?

    September 25, 2012 at 1:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Allen W.

      Wow that may be the dumbest post out of thousands.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:04 am | Report abuse |
    • jim atmad

      The unions ARE football.

      September 25, 2012 at 5:30 am | Report abuse |
    • CP in FL

      I love when teabaggers open their mouth.

      September 25, 2012 at 10:13 am | Report abuse |
  10. NFL fan

    I bet Goodell and Romney are buddies...

    September 25, 2012 at 1:29 am | Report abuse |
  11. J Bob

    Only someone who wanted to win without regard to reality could imagine that pass was a touchdown

    September 25, 2012 at 1:29 am | Report abuse |
  12. Golden Tate

    Hey, the fans didn't think it was a bad call. Seattle fans need something to cheer for.. See them Mariners lately?

    September 25, 2012 at 1:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Jake

      They didnt think it was because they were seattle fans so most of them would never admit it.

      September 25, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Jim Talbott

    Hey NFL Owners!!! Boooooo!!!! You suck!! I'm not even a Packers fan! Get some real officials in the game or take that weak sauce home!! What a joke you have become for the American public

    September 25, 2012 at 1:29 am | Report abuse |
  14. Frank

    Catch or no catch, there was obvious offensive pass interference on the play!

    September 25, 2012 at 1:29 am | Report abuse |
  15. government cheese

    This has happened when unions strike against teachers.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Allen W.

      And that gives you the two dumbest comments here. Congratulations.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:05 am | Report abuse |
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