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. Jay

    Lets see the US is about to elect a new president or keep the old one. Iran is firing missles close to where US warships are conducting excercises. A US Ambassader was murdered in Lybia. Millions of children will go to bed hungry tonight in the US and around the world. Millions of people remain unemployed. Costs are going up on everything while nobody seems to be getting raises. Tax system & spending system in the US is broken. The euro financial crisis looms as a potential disaster. And EVERYONE is upset about a decision made in a Football game!!! Is it December 21st yet?

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

    Regular refs make mistakes too...The Seahawks were ROBBED in Superbowl XL.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Just Sayin'

    What have we learned... If you want to WIN a game in the NFL make sure you are AHEAD by 10 points at the end of the game, then blown calls will not get you down. Play harder, play smarter – play to win.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Bill

    Are you ready for some (football????) ?

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

    It is just football people. Don't get your panties all twisted over a game.

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

    how about you blame the person or persons who had the last call in this matter. the call was inaccurate on the field but it went to the upper box to get verify, so they miss up not the refs. don't blame the refs.

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

      The part they missed wasn't reviewable (infact there were two parts that if called correctly would have invalidated the catch).

      September 25, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Jackie

    It's just a game, and a bad one at that. NFL is for dummies.

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

      And yet... here you are... commenting like a troll.

      Go back to your soaps and knitting.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • CardsFan90

      Guess you're a baseball fan.....nuff said

      September 25, 2012 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
  8. carlos

    that Goodell aint really too bright!!

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

    A fan of neither team, but Green Bay should have scored more than 12 points and given up a ton of sacks, then they might have won. If your Seattle, great call, if your Green Bay, bad call. Yes, bad call, but lost in the discussion is that Green Bay is not that good!

    September 25, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
  10. CouldNotBatTheBallProvesRefRight

    These people talking about batting the ball make a point, and it proves the refs got it right. This guy is a pro in the NFL. Which tells me, he knows what to do and IF HE COULD bat the ball, he would, but he couldn't bat the ball because THE SEAHAWK GUY HAD SUCH A GOOD GRIP ON THE BALL, which tells me THE SEAHAWK RECEIVER CAUGHT AND HAD CONTROL OF THE BALL! Had such a good grip the Pro defensive player couldn't even do what he wanted to: BAT THE BALL. = CATCH for the Seahawk and that means TOUCHDOWN.

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

      You nailed it, buddy. Logic Wins this argument. If the defense can't bat the ball, it means the receiver has a catch!

      September 25, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Way Out There

      Yeah, the Seahawk had an awesome grip on the ball, as he had one arm in there and his back was to the back of the GB player who was hugging it to his chest the entire time. Great call, indeed!

      September 25, 2012 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • what

      1. Should have called pass interference on Tate
      2. Jenneings had two arms around the ball, and the ball was to his chest.
      3. You loose.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Larry

      I'm neither a Packer nor a Seahawk fan.

      Don't be such a homer. It is CLEARLY obvious that Jennings was WAY above Tate and caught the ball. What he SHOULD have done then was bat it away. Tate could not have stopped him at all. End of game. Packers win. If anything Jennings COST the Packers the game by foolishly trying to make an interception where one was not needed. You can bet there will be a lot of teams practicing this going forward.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • keyser soze

      Absolutely correct. TD period. The rest is sore losers looking for a reason to explain an awful GB performance.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
  11. coloradom

    I won't be watching another NFL game until the dispute is settled. In my opinion, Goodell needs to be fired, but that's for his employers to decide. In all honesty, what I would really like to see is the players, coaches, owners, and referees leave the NFL and start their own organization.

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


    September 25, 2012 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
  13. sailorfan

    The Seattle/GB ending was indeed hideous, but somewhere in this it needs to be recognized that the root of the problem is not the replacement referees. The cause lies in the middle of the battlefield between the league and the regular refs.

    The replacements are undoubtedly respected in the small-college leagues where they regularly officiate. They have been thrown into a situation where a complex rule book, player speed, pressure and audience size match nothing in their experience. If they hadn't taken on the job, we would have no games at all.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • peakprofit

      This is an excellent point. I do believe that these officials would be much better just a single year from now. Most would be every bit as good / incompetent as the officials they would be replacing. But here are the things that peopel forget:

      1) They would be full time officials, paid far more than the current officials, but with training and development responsibilities ( not to mention a pushup here and there) and a 50 hour workweek.
      2) They would be subject to review, and either reassignment to one of 3 development teams ( Again, which increases the amount that the NFL pays officials) or potentially being fired altogether.

      These are things that the pro-union folks cover up. The NFL is not trying to save $3 million. If they had their way, they would be paying 21 more officials, plus paying all 170 or so much more, as full time employees.

      As for the $3.3 million we hear about, that is the difference between what they would contribute in a 402k plan, verses a mandates, inflation adjusted, annually increasing cash payment into the pensions. We can argue forever is an employee who works 2 days per week ( and earns an average of $149,000 per year) needs a pension. But the vast majority of pensions, these days, rise and fall with the market. The NFL wants it to work the same way.

      I bet that each and every one of these replacement officials would be happy as clams to earn in the neigborhood of $150K per year, for a full time job, with an employer who contributes, mightily, to their 401K. I bet they would work really hard, and be every bit as good as any previous official, by the start of the 2013 season.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
  14. CardsFan90

    Refs blow...I mean blew...this call and everyone involved was too scared to right their wrong for fear of the fans getting out of control. Can you imagine what woud have happened last night in Seattle if they came back and said "we f'd up and the Packers win!" At the end of the day the commissioner is to blame and he is the most incompetent hypocrite in the NFL or maybe all of are these idiots keeping the game safe? Then he has the nerve to fine everyone for complaining, where does that money go Roger??? the REAL a man!!! Roger Goodell should resign and stop ruining the greatest sport in the world!!!

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

    Cheese-heads will roll!

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