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. Dave

    So unions are okay in the NFL but not in real life? Makes sense. Who cares it's a GD game.

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

    This has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with pass interference. IT was an INTERCEPTION you stupid morons! NFL is a joke

    September 25, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
  3. BlackDynamite


    I don't care about penalties missed or join possession. I can see how you missed it initially, but that's what the new review rules were supposed to cover. Game changing plays (turnovers or scoring plays) that will be double checked EVERY TIME for accuracy.

    So not only did they miss the penalty, and get the play wrong, but they didn't review the scoring play automatically, or reviewed it and missed it again.....

    September 25, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
  4. 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 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
  5. feduphere

    As a Seahawk follower, I agree with the assesment of the blown calls and I don't savor that win. But it would have been nice to see half of this outrage when the refs stole our one and only Superbowl game.????? And I'm sure Pittsburg didn't feel ashamed of how they won that MUCH more important game one bit.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • ken

      Just a thought. The NFL is a business. They can pretty much do what they wish and it's up to the customer to decide if they wish to buy from them or not. It really is that simple. Don't like? Don't watch. Turn the tv off and spend time with the kids or read a book. Better yet, support Chick Fil A. Eat more chicken is what I say.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • bigot

      "I agree with the assesment of the blown calls and I don't savor that win"

      You will when you sneak into the playoffs by a game

      September 25, 2012 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      Maybe that's because nobody outside of the state of Washington (or perhaps the Seattle Metro area) likes the Seahawks, whereas the Packers have a long history in the NFL and lots of fans around the country.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • noteabags

      It's the first thing I think of whenever I hear a ref made a bad call. Super Bowl 40 was a gift to the Steelers from the refs. I heard Ben Rapistberger tell someone in an interview "I don't think I scored that touchdown, but Cowher told me to keep my mouth shut".

      September 25, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • timmottly

      They screwed up the last call – no doubt about it. They also screwed up the pass interference call that allowed Green Bay to continue their drive for the go ahead TD earlier in the quarter. The last call obviously gets the most attention, but let's not forget the other crappy calls that helped the Packers earlier in the game – funny how that happens.
      Seattle has been on the other end of this type of call several times – with the regular officials. Remember the Vinny Testaverde TD a few years ago on a 4th down – where his helmet was the only thing that crossed the goal line? That play resulted in instant replay the following season. The Seahawks got an apology from the league – and they still lost the game.
      I don't even like talking about the Superbowl game against Pittsburgh – the referee of that game later admitted that they botched that game for Seattle.....
      I feel bad for the Packers and their fans – but frankly, it is the nature of the game that blown calls affect the outcome of these games – replacement officials or not. Get over it and move on to next week. If you don't like it – you are watching the wrong sport – because it will ALWAYS happen.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
  6. PJ


    September 25, 2012 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
  7. jimmy

    Love those refs! Keep up the good work. Seahawks 4 life!

    September 25, 2012 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Mark T?

    It appears to me that the replacements are betting on the games.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
  9. dg7936

    Not important. Let the refs learn on the job. Can't be any worse than the clowns that called the Pitt-Seattle Super Bowl.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
  10. NickyT

    Of course Peter Carroll would make a stupid comment about cheating to get the win. It's what he knows from all the rules he violated at USC!

    September 25, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Demulto

    What Green Bay should have done was knock down the ball.. Basic defense for a hell marry type pass. If you can intercept, you definately could bat it down. They tried to pad their stats instead of winning the game.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • TC

      "Hell Marry"..................hahhahah adorable.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
  12. fritz

    It all sounds frivolous to me. But then I stopped watching televised sports long ago considering it a total waste of time. Just too busy to sit there and watch paid jocks do their thing. I'd rather pull weeds in my garden.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Eric

      You read my mind, fritz.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • SeattleSinner

      Then why are you reading about it online?

      September 25, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Gary S.

    It's simple people, boycott all NFL games until the regular refs are re-hired.
    As long as you continue to watch and pay for tickets it wont change.
    a Boycott is the only way to settle this fiasco.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Rich

    I WANT MY FANTASY FOOTBALL MONEY BACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    September 25, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
  15. strgzer585

    Yes the last play was a poor call. Yes the Packers should have played better so the game could not be decided by one call. That being said, other than the comic relief of the refs doing their best 3 stooges impersonation, the flow of the game is being destroyed. When the refs have to huddle for 5 minutes after each penalty (and still not get many of them right) the game loses its entertainment value and makes me complain less and less about my wife turning it the Voice.

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