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. USA – this is more important than football

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

    "And take that muthapLuckin' cheese off ya head! If ya look like a inbreed cow bangah...YA GONNA GET YA AZZ WHUPPED!"

    September 25, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • PackerPumper

      True dat! Now I see why Vince Lombardo was the greatest coach of all time.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
  3. whocares

    As a long time boxing fan, all I can say is WELCOME TO THE CLUB.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jeff Kelly

    These referees are an exact duplicate of the Obama administration. They look like refs but lack real experience so the consequences are obvious. Two peas in a pod.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
  5. THX1953

    I told you that Unions Suck.

    Believe me now?

    September 25, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lawless4U

      Nope. Corporations suck. The NFL is a corporation.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alpha

      This is why our country is going down the tubes....Unions. Teacher, any type of construction, airline, and lastly referee unions have ruined this country. Why to go Dems!!

      September 25, 2012 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Davessworks

    What about all the other blown calls including the defensive pass interference call against Seattle that lead to a GB TD? Bottom line is that the whole game was badly called, not just the last 10 seconds. We need qualified officials back asap.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Henry

    I knew something so bad would happen that the Romney campaign mistakes would not be the head story in the news.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Ellen

    If only everyone got up this much steam about something of actual significance! Football is stupid!

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

      Then why are you wasting your time posting here?

      September 25, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jim Bailey

    Let the ref's form a picket line. Then the players can make a stand and not cross their picket line. No players, No Game,No money the NFL will settle. It always about the money.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lawless4U


      September 25, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wayne

      I agree. They should have supported them in the beginning of the season – but better late than never.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
  10. JerrySandusky

    I disagree with the need to bat the balls down. Every young man I ever coached, I always taught 'em to NEVER BAT THE BALLS.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
  11. jimranes

    Time to get the first string NFL Pro refs back on the job!

    September 25, 2012 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Wayne

    NFL knows the dual-possession determination is BS. They are just hanging their mea culpa on the not called interference because it is non-reviewable and it partially saves face – this is if anyone believed it...

    September 25, 2012 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Tom Joad

    Another reason to stop watching this circus called football.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Former Fan

    I am convinced. Phoney refs make phoney football. I am finished with NFL until real refs come back. The college game is better anyway.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • John L Smith

      Amen! I am done too. Did not see the NFL too throwing its season away this year like the Razorbacks have done.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
  15. msmilder

    Yeah, because the Packers are the only team that's ever lost due to a bad call. You have a problem with the refs...then don't leave it up to them. Get some offense and put some points on the board. Maybe the defense took a few series off and gave up too many points. Maybe you should practice more, and complain less. Boo-hoo...some millionaires lost a game. Big F-ing deal. Grow a pair, put on your big boy pants, and work harder next week.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
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