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. allenwoll

    Stunted "adult"s playing little-boy sandbox games.

    Grow up already ! ! !

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

    Oh whatever. The FULL-TIME refs robbed the Seahawks in the Super Bowl against Pittsburgh. But, there were plenty of other calls and non-calls, plays and missed plays throughout the game that lead up to the final play. If you leave a win or loss up to the officials instead of making more plays, you deserve to lose. It wouldn't matter if the officials were full-time officials or replacements. I watched the Seahawks put the quarterback on the ground 8 times in the first half. You won't find this Seahawks fan giving you cheese heads any sympathy.

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

      spoken like a true fan of ur team... u know the Packers got hossed.. just admit and say u dont care....

      September 25, 2012 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • fsjunkie

      There was a disputed call in a game where 59-plus minutes had already been played. Murphy's Law is always in effect.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
  3. VinceLombardo

    Really. Dude was the best of all time. Like this: "If ya wake up the next day and ya still blamin' the refs and whinin''s a sure sign YA GOT YA AZZ WHUPPED!"

    September 25, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
  4. thefly1311

    I had no rooting interest one way or the other in this game, but turned it on in the 4th qtr. and saw the horrendously bad call at the end. Know this: The nfl really doesn't care what we, the fans, think about the ref's if we still continue to tune in and watch the game's.
    If you want to end this quickly, the 32 team owner's need to be hit, hard, in their pocket books. Thats the only language they understand. I believe the way to do that is to contact the large sponsors of the nfl telecast's and let them know you will not be purchasing their goods and services until this mockery of officiating is solved by bringing back the old, experienced officials. Its easy to find who they are, just watch a game or google it.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
  5. JenAndY

    It's not that these replacement refs are bad people (assuming, for the most part) but the game is simply too fast for them. I think overall this season they have done OK for their experience level. But just OK. And I respect them for going out every week and trying, knowing they are being criticized around the world. Now, whith that said, this was by far the worst call this season. And I have seen people post "the packers had plenty of calls go their way" which isn't entirely true. Sure, they had calls FOR them, but not that BAD of calls for them. What about the Defensive pass interference call in the late 3rd or early 4th Q, when the Seattle receiver (don't remember who) jumped on the back of the GB defender and they called it on the defense. I would have accepted a no call, seeing as the ball was grossly overthrown, but it was in no way a Def PI.

    The NFL is really insulting the Players and the Fans right now. Do they not realize not only is the game becoming unsafe, but unfair as well? The players are playing on the weaknesses of the refs and it is frustrating to watch, and I could only imagine how bad it is on the field to deal with. I think Mike McCarthy, Aaron Rogers and Russell Wilson all gave very classy post-game interviews given the situations. Pete Carroll and Golden Tate were embarassing.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • chris Irbeck

      People need to quit blaming these officials for everything that does not go a teams way. They have blown calls but so do regular officials. Coaches and players need to stop blaming and play the game. These officials are not great but they are not as bad as advertised.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
  6. mlblogscbgoldsmith

    Fans its on YOU. The NFL thinks of players and Refs as disposable and each time you turn on a game you say "FEED ME". If you chose one game (like Thursday's) and emailed the League that you were boycotting, they'd pay the Refs and stop thinking of us as Sheep.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
  7. what

    The Footlocker called, they want their employees back!

    September 25, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
  8. keyser soze

    The call was correct. It also passed review. The interference was not under review. Good job Seahawks, great defense, great game.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • whineyface

      Do you really believe that? If you do, then you should stop watching football. The game needs less idiot fans.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Packer Share Holder

    That play will cause Vince Lombardi to TURN OVER IN HIS GRAVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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

      Actually, that shiitty O-line giving up 8 sacks in 30 minutes is what has Vince rolling!

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

    "Green Bay, I loves ya baby....but YA GOT YA AZZ WHUPPED!"

    September 25, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
  11. what

    After last night, the NFL refs will get WHATEVER they want!

    September 25, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
  12. NFLD thought

    Replacement refs or regular refs, they all make mistakes and bad callls one time or another

    September 25, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
  13. .

    It's 2012, can't they review the tape and get someone who knows the rules to base it on that? What happend to reviewing scoring plays? Shouldn't they actually review the thing?

    September 25, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Not a Pack Fan

    Pete Carroll has zero integrity. On the other hand, Coach McCarthy is nothing but class. I will root for the Packers from here on.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
  15. keyser soze

    booh hoo. Seattle won it on 4 quarters. GB did not put the game away. I saw a excellent seattle defense and a very smart and young QB.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:31 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