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. Foot Locker GM

    Can I have my salesmen back now?????

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

    I wouldn't expect Pete Carroll to complain, the guy is a known and admitted cheater who will do anything to win

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

    Errors,bad call.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Mark T?

    The replacements seem to be betting on the games. Greed can wreck a lot of things.

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

    It happens...move on.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Old Pirate

    There have been many obvious "no calls" in late stages of NFL football games through the years that this 60 plus year old has witnessed.

    What is different here is that you have two networks, NBC and ABC and the latter's affiliate plus the players that are making this more of an issue than ever because we are talking about a union on strike. The players union is going to support the striking officials union and both NBC and ABC have a long history of protecting established Unions in the US.

    Like any inexperienced group this group of refs is making mistakes, but most of their errors are correctable, what is not is the outpouring of people who are obvious in their support of another union.

    Every NFL fan in history has said..."you can call holding on any play you wish". And for the most part that is true and for the most part the "real" NFL referees do not call it just like the one last night did not call pass interference which is another one you can call or not call on most any play where a quarterback drops back to survey the field.

    It is both amusing and sad to see this turn into a political issue as one union tries its best to protect another.

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

      That is idiotic.... this is not a union issue.. it is an issue of competence

      September 25, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
  7. VinceLombardo

    From the NFL rulebook: "IF ya don't bat the ball away on 4th down...YA GONNA GET YA AZZ WHUPPED!"

    September 25, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
  8. warnercc

    It is just a game. It is only a game. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200. With all the comments about the officials, it makes it very difficult to teach a kid that a game official deserves respect. What happens when the little kids stomp their feet and throw a tantrum because a call didn't go their way during one of their games? I can hear it now, "But Daddy said it the other night during the Packers game!"

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

      Really? Yes it is a game but a game that is supposed to have rules and refs to ensure the rules are followed. The push in the back BEFORE the ball was caught was enough to 'flag' the play. And then a Packer (and I'm not a Packer fan) clearly had possession of the ball, and anyone who can't discern the one player having two arms around the ball and cradling it to their chest as either a reception or interception - as was the case - doesn't know football.

      There is also a difference between throwing a tantrum because things don't go your way and pointing out one or more obvious infractions of the rules. Sadly, you don't seem to realize that.

      To your advantage, I'd say you have all the qualifications to become a replacement ref in the NFL.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • neken7

      Actually I think it shows kids that respect needs to be earned. You can't just throw a bunch of refs in the game, who have no business being there in the first place, who are obviously making some very bad calls at the worst possible times(along with dealing with penalties according to college rules, not NFL), and the demand they have the full respect of everyone.

      I do feel bad for them, the NFL put them in an impossible decision, but the NFL isn't "only a game", it's also a multi-billion dollar industry that players spend almost their entire lives working towards, rely on for their livelihood, and face serious injury with every time they step on the field. These aren't a bunch of kids running around on their high-school field. If parents are unable to explain this to their children, it's not the fault of the NFL players who are rightfully upset about the lockout.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
  9. xuegui

    Product is tarnished. If the officials cannot maintain a fair playing field, do not have games. There were so many bad calls this weekend. If your type of entertainment is comedy of errors, then this was right up your alley.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
  10. gk196

    What about giving the replacement ref's a fair shot? Isn't that what liberals are all about?

    September 25, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob Lewis

      Yes, that's why we're liberally allowing a cretin like you to make a comment among rationale people.

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

    The players have a union, the refs have a union. The players should refuse to cross the refs' picket line. That would get the NFL to negotiate with the refs.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
  12. MJSouth

    Games are not decided on one play.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
  13. VinceLombardo

    NFL Wisdom from the greatest of all, "If ya quartahback is runnin' like a chicken gettin' hit all game...YA GONNA GET YA AZZ WHUPPED!"

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

    If the beer vendors would have gone on strike, this would have ended in a day.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
  15. doug

    How about all the players and all sportscasters crying about this, just boycott the next couple games ? Don't play, and no commentary on anything NFL. How about it ?......... all i hear is crickets !
    If the league gives in to the refs now, then the refs will know that all they have to do next time is to walk out and they will get anything they want. Screw the 'real refs'. Throw them out like Reagan did the air traffic controllers. The replacement refs will get better. May take a few years, but so what ? Every team is in the same boat.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87