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. mc36

    The NFL doesn't care about the opinions of the fans, all they care about is that you still pay to watch the games and wear their merchandise. Until the fans stop paying for these things, the NFL has no incentive to get the regular refs back on the field as quickly as possible. The coaches, players, owners and fans can whine all they want, until their pocketbooks aren't depleted, they just won't care. Stop attending games, stop buying merchandise, stop paying for cable NFL sports packages.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Vonda

    OMG..this is just terrible! I think we should shut down the government, schools, state and local offices, call off work and go without food until this terrible injustice is corrected. you people hear yourselves ? It's a ball game! Why do people get so wound up about such a trivial thing! (and don't tell him that this game employees thousands, generates income, provides this or that.......there are many more important things in this world.).

    Also, please respond with profanity and insults (as that's fully what I expect). Don't forget to ask 'why are you posting here if you don't care". I REALLY love that !

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

      You sound like an Obama supporter

      September 25, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
  3. rick

    The NFL and the commisioner are COMPLETELY full of it. There were UNTRAINED idiots they have running the field.

    I hope the players decide to BOYCOTT next week. I bet the NFL will wrap up those discussions pretty quickly with the locked out refs. Or better yet, have the stadius 3/4 full... or 1/2 full.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • I-want-your-seats

      Games are better. Ratings are through the roof. Please, don't go to the game...I WANT YOUR SEATS AND I'LL GET 'EM CHEAP! AwwwwwwlRIGHT!

      September 25, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  4. SimpleSolution

    Bat the ball – Packers win.
    Don't bat the ball or can't bat the ball – Seahawks win.

    The better team won the game.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Mike

    If your a NFL fan, are you ready watch your team play next week with the same refs.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave Jones

      Everyone is freaking out about the Seattle,Packers game. Where was the outrage when Seattle lost the 2006 Superbowl due to bad calls that the Regular Refs made and admitted. Not just the temporary Refs that make mistakes but its part of the game

      September 25, 2012 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Antonio

    Dear Packers Fans, Yes, we all know you got screwed on that last call. But we all saw how your precious QB got sacked 8 times in the first half. And we also saw how your offense couldn't hardly move the ball the whole game. So in the future if you want to win a game try protecting your QB, giving up 9 or 10 sacks will not win you many games. And yes, once again, we all know you got screwed, but all of our teams have gotten the shaft at one point or another, and just because you all have nothing else to do but watch the Packers or watch cheese form doesn't make your team more special than the rest of ours. Take your crappy defeat and move on like every other team has had to do in the past.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • steve

      seems to me by looking at the stats that puny seabag offense got less yards than the pack. and the seabags were at home. so who has the better D?

      September 25, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Imminent

      ...and watching your (excuse me, our) precious Seachickens is any different than the cheeses? Drink less you silly hill billy.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • HH

      Yes our QB got sacked 8 times in the first half. but were you even watching the second half if you did then you would know that green bay DOMINATED the seahawks defense they took the best of the seahawks and treated them like kids. As far as the final play, the Packers was robbed not only from the offensive pass interferance but also the interception, I could understand calling one but not the other but neither of them............these refs need to clearly look harder on what happened on the field.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Ryan

    NFL Rule Book: Rule 17, Section 2, Article 1

    "The Commissioner has the sole authority to investigate and take appropriate disciplinary and/or corrective measures if any club action, non-participant interference, or calamity occurs in an NFL game which he deems so extraordinarily unfair or outside the accepted tactics encountered in professional football that such action has a major effect on the result of the game."

    Roger Goodell has the authority to award the Packers this win and he better do it if he actually cares about the integrity of the game.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • TC Williams

      That doesn't mean he can overturn a victory that has alraedy been awarded to a team.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Pete

    I'm wondering why there are still people commenting here that the ref's made the right call. How is it that you are not even reading the FIRST paragraph of the story:
    "The National Football League agreed Tuesday that Green Bay Packers should have won their Monday Night Football game, but said a blown penalty call by replacement referees that should have invalidated the Seattle Seahawks victory wasn't reviewable"

    September 25, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Eric

      people in Seattle feel the officiating in the superbowl against the Steelers was that bad or worse. Where was all the outrage then? it did not exist. We will take one going our waywithout any apologies....thank you very much.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
  9. dweisbeck

    That monday night game should be put in the Green Bay win column. If the NFL wants to keep any credibility, and loyal fans, those obivious miscalls should be reveresed. What fair is fair. It makes one wonder how much these replacement officials are being paid to determine the winner. I have been watching NFL football for over 40 years and have never seen anything as bad as that game officiating.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  10. nonyabidnes2

    I am done with Football ( for now). I refuse to spend my money going to games that have lackluster officating. Someone let me know when the real refs return. In the meanwhile I will bank the money I spend at football games..

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

      Do you go to a lot of games?
      Are you a season ticket holder?
      What will you do with your Sundays, and Mondays, and Thursdays instead.
      David Williams Community Manager
      CNN Digital

      September 25, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
  11. EK

    I'm more disturbed by Lebron's poor spelling/grammar.

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

      What's misspelled? gotta?

      September 25, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
  12. jweller13

    I just want to clarify a point. This is a lockout not a stike. A lockout is different from a strike - the referees did not choose to stop working, they were forced to do so by management as a bargaining tactic..."

    September 25, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
  13. brian

    Funny that everyone is slamming the officials, but the video review didn't show any reason to overturn the call. The only "blown" call was the pass interference, which is a call that is blown as often as not. How many offensive and defensive line holding calls do the regular officials miss? And now the NJ politician gets in the mix. what a joke he is. Doesn't he have better things to do than worry about the outcome of a football game on the other side of the country?

    September 25, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Joski

    Are you kidding? Seeing Tate shove the Greenbad DB down, and then rip the ball away from Jennings was great football... some of the best ive seen in years!

    Tell me that wasn't the most exciting play of the season for any team! its good TV

    I am NOT a Seattle Fan, but lets be real... Jennings should have knocked that ball down, never tired to catch it.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pete

      Right, because that worked out so well for Lions. Idiot!!!

      September 25, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
  15. VinceLombardo

    "If you puzzies give up 9 sacs...YA GONNA GET YA AZZ WHUPPED!"

    September 25, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
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