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. jim atmad

    Roger Goodell has damaged the brand and his legacy by being bull-headed and wrong. The main thing the officials want is to keep the pension plan they have. The rest they can work out.

    Roger Goodell is throwing away the NFL's integrity over $3 million. The NFL is a $9 Billion industry, and the TV rights alone are $3 Billion.

    Why would you ruin your own product over 0.03% or even 0.1%?

    September 25, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • bobsomeguy

      These people didn't get insanely rich by throwing away nickels.

      September 25, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Superbowl Revenge

    Not like the Seahawks have never been on the other end of the blown call stick...*cough cough Superbowl 40 cough cough***

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

    How can a scoring play within the last 2 minutes of a half not be reviewable? I was under the impression that ALL scoring plays within the last 2 minutes of a half were automatically reviewed. Plus, if a play is reviewed, then everything about the play is reviewed. Therefore, the fact that possession was not maintained by Seattle (one hand came off the ball, while the Packers defender had both hands on the ball with it tucked to his chest) should have also been reviewed. The NFL is trying desperately to save themselves some embarrassment these pretend refs are causing.

    September 25, 2012 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
  4. JCMars

    I say shut down the season until the NFL solves its labor dispute. This would solve everything as people would find better things to do on Sunday afternoons than keep track of their fantasy football teams.

    September 25, 2012 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
  5. SpenderH

    To clarify the headline: The Seahawks receiver, Tate, did catch the ball, and the reception was called correctly both on the field and on the review, but prior to the catch he should have been called for Offensive Pass Interference which is not reviewable so the ruling on the field of a Touchdown stands.

    September 25, 2012 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • jb

      I'm a Seattle fan...and in no way shape or form did Tate EVER catch that ball.

      September 25, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marcus

      No, to clarify, the league is side stepping the possession issue and thanking the heavens that there was obvious pass interference that they can blame it on to save face. They didn't mention one way or another on the actual catch.

      September 25, 2012 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      Leave it to the NFL to miss the point entirely. The problem wasn't the missed offensive pass interference penalty. The problem was the botched interception call in the end zone. To call that a simultaneous catch is incompetent and only Packer haters and Seahawks fans are going to buy that interpretation. I get that the league is not going to change the official outcome but at least be honest that the replacement officials messed up and handed the Seahawks a win they didn't earn.

      September 25, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
  6. jim atmad

    I can find other things to do with my time and money. The NFL needs me a lot more than I need them.

    I'll give Goodell through the rest of this week. Then I'm canceling my NFL package and going back to my Sunday afternoon walks like I do in the summer.

    This is 100% on Roger Goodell. He is 'playing hardball' over the pension plan, and he's losing.

    September 25, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
  7. cog in the wheel

    Its impossible for me to believe that the NFL, with its billions, can't settle the dispute with the refs. The demand for a defined-benefit pension is the sticking point? Pure BS.

    September 25, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
  8. fisher51

    Worst mundane nite football ever I know bad calls happen but that is not excuse for blindness it seen like the game was fixed.and that is too bad for professional football.

    September 25, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Epacific

    I really thought that three hands caught the ball simultaneously: Tate's left hand and both of Jenning's hands. Is there a percentage to simultaneous possession? If so, GB got an interception by 66.66%. But I don't think the rule states that and, if so, this was a simultaneous possession being rightfully awarded to the Seahawks.

    If, however, this was a Packer's interception, then the legion of Green Bay fans as well as the NFL at large can take the advice Seattle received in 2006 when, even by referee Bill Leavy's admission, the blown officiating handed the outcome of Superbowl XL to the Steelers: you lost, stop whining, get over it.

    September 25, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • jacko

      I agree with you. The game has been decided grab your cheese and go home. No one is whinning about the blown calls that got GB the lead in the first place. Seattle put themselvs in a postion to win the game and they did. Overcome, adapt, never give up and they didn't. Over. Seattle wins.

      September 25, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Mike

    It's utterly sad to me that people care more about this, than who's going to lead the country for the next 4 years and what plans they have to take care of the elderly and help people get jobs again.

    September 25, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ceri

      Well it seems to me you have a choice between the regular Obama and the replacement Romney. Enough said.

      September 25, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
  11. bclone

    Let's go back and review Super Bowl XL. Wisconsin is apparently inhabited by a bunch of crybabies. Maybe number 91 Chris Clemons should sack the whole state!

    September 25, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Tim

    Now take that cheese off your head!

    September 25, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Rick

    So, politicans can't agree on the economy, education, unemployment, or healthcare, but they can agree on Israel and football..

    September 25, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  14. jyves95

    We should be all lucky. It could have been worse. NFL could have brought us some refs from China... cheaper labor.

    September 25, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Eric in Colorado

    This is classic lynch mob mentality. Sure, the replacement refs have demonstrated some lack of experience (particularly in marking off penalties and determining reviewable calls), but I don't think they are that much worse than the regulars. I seem to remember a much more egregious and impactful offensive pass interference no call in an NFC championship game between the Cowboys and Vikings – Drew Pearson clearly pushed off to catch Staubach's "hail mary" pass. Where was all the indignation then? Oh, right, they were America's team. Yes, I am still a bitter Vikings fan.

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