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. dannyd

    Does anyone here realized that they are not invalidating the catch vs interception, tey are saying it was interference by the Seattle guy shoving the packer down. Talking about blinders on and not facing up to your insanity. This league starting with last years mockery is getting to be pathetic and I can find better things to do with my time.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Doc

    Not a fan of either team per se, but even when that rolled live at full speed I thought there would be no way they'd miss that call (like they missed when calling the roughing the passer and the defensive pass interference penalties just moments before), but even after reviewing a slow-motion replay, they STILL missed that call. That's unbelievable. How that guy could be staring at it the whole time, miss the egregious offensive two-handed shove, and then call that a TD catch boggles the mind. He has no business officiating ANY game if he's missing that much of it.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
  3. M

    I liked the call, the Packers s@@k...GO TEXANS!!!

    September 25, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Bob

    Oh cry, cry, cry, cry about the last play. If the Packers wouldn't have gotten the b.s. PI that shouldn't have happened they never scored the TD which gave them the lead in the first place. So its time to stop crying. The bad calls went both ways.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
  5. jim atmad

    NFL Statement: "Replay Official Howard Slavin stopped the game for an instant replay review. The aspects of the play that were reviewable included if the ball hit the ground and who had possession of the ball. In the end zone, a ruling of a simultaneous catch is reviewable. That is not the case in the field of play, only in the end zone.
    Referee Wayne Elliott 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."

    Wrong, NFL. Jennings had possession with both hands above Tate before Tate even had one hand on it. Jennings came down with the ball clutched to his chest with both hands, and all Tate could do was snake an arm in while he was laying under Jennings. That was a clear interception. By playing this as a simple missed pass interference call, they're covering up the bigger error and insulting the fans.

    September 25, 2012 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • My 2 cents

      I dont believe it takes pro level refs to see who caught the ball.To use the excuse that they are replacement refs is bull.these calls are soooooo bad they must be intentional.High school refs could have got that call right.

      September 25, 2012 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Greg

      As I understand it now, according to the "new" NFL Ref rules, to simplify the officiating, if a player has one arm wrapped around another player with the ball, the first player is given credit for a reception of another player. A new statistic in the NFL this year. Tate leads the NFL in Opposing Player Receptions with 1. I gotta get him on my fantasy team.

      September 25, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  6. JoseVHK

    This has N-O-T-H-I-N-G to do with the fact that I am a Seahawk fan, or the fact that I H-A-T-E the Packers ... but it was a CLEAR TD!

    September 25, 2012 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • John Smith

      As a former official, BS!

      September 25, 2012 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
  7. atljack

    Gordon Gecko was wrong. Greed is NOT good. It winds up bad in the end.
    $3 million difference between the NFL and the Officials? Absurd.
    The owners are all billionaires. Many of the teams are worth billions.
    The top players have $100,000,000 contracts.
    But they can't pay the officials who really are skilled workers?

    September 25, 2012 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • bobsomeguy

      Yep, billionaires arguing over nickles.

      September 25, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
  8. John Smith

    If no one else can make this problem go away, I guess it will be up to organized crime - after all their bookies are taking a hit (no pun intended)!

    September 25, 2012 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
  9. ProperVillain

    We are ripped off and exploited by Washington everyday but THIS is what causes a national flurry on Twitter. The Romans knew what they were doing when they distracted the populace with the spectacles at the arenas. Nothing has changed in over 2,000 years. Keep watching your games and TV America, keep up the anger over distracting non-issues. All is well...keep sleeping....

    September 25, 2012 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • bobsomeguy

      Some of use are able to be outraged by multiple things at the same time.

      September 25, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Bryan

    The NFL doesn't care about the calls being made, becasue it is still raking in millions of dollars. All the NFL cares about is that the games are played (money).... whther it is officiated byReal refs or replacement refs is inconsequential in their eyes. The NFL's stance that they won't change the outcome is obsurd and speaks volumes about the idiots in charge of the league. Fairness and logic don't seem to be a skillset that is necessary for NFL bigwigs.

    September 25, 2012 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
  11. DZA

    It's "tie goes to the runner," not 'tag'. Putz.

    September 25, 2012 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
  12. blahblah

    It's sad, yet it's funny. It's not tragic, since no one died and no property was destroyed.

    September 25, 2012 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
  13. David

    Big freekin deal, its not the superbowl. The real crime in sports is how much these dummies make!!

    September 25, 2012 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Seatac

      AMEN, brother!!!! Amen! I agree wholeheartedly with you.

      September 25, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Meeech from Seattle

    The Seahawks kicked butt, get over it GB. 🙂

    September 25, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
  15. James

    that call was terrible and i am a Cowboy's fan but he Packers won that game and the world knows it.

    September 25, 2012 at 3:07 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