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)

    I am a woman and i could see the play and understand it. tell me these refs dont know the differance. They are refs they should know most of the rules. Even I could see it was no a touchdown.

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

    The NFL needs to pull there heads out. They claim that player safety is important to them, but then they get these replacement officials who can't keep control and it is getting crazy. It is a matter of time before a player gets seriously injured because the officials are letting them (the players) get away with illegal and brutal hits. I would not be surprised if the players union goes on strike least until the NFL and the officials come to an agreement. And lets be honest, $3.3m is not a whole lot of money when it comes to the NFL.

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

    As with all issues, it is more complicated than what is presented.
    1. Replacment refs – no one talks about how the ref's union told division 1 refs that if they crossed the picket line then they would never ref in the NFL full time – which is why we don't have have such a sharp drop in quality)
    2. Where does this extra money that the refs want come from? I'm sure that the players CBA has a ton of restrictions on TV money. It's not a simple take $3 million from here and put it there.
    3. Spotlight – every plan this year is hit on a spotlight. Have the replacements messed up, yea, but not nearly to the degree "news" leads you to believe. NFL refs have always made mistakes, it is just more highlighted now as since August every signle columnist/commentator I've read/heard has been preaching that it will happen. To "prove" themselves right they spotlight anything. Again, the green bay/seattle, New England/Baltimore and Denver/Atlanta gemes had serious problems, but the news make it seem like its the wild west in the NFL and players have no idea what is going on.

    Bottom line – the public chiming in on a labor issue they don't fully understand (me included, which is why I'm only pointing out issues, not what they should or shouldn't do) isn't productive and will not help solve the problem (see chicago teachers' strike as an example).

    September 25, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • w2lucky

      You're right. So if an agreement can't be reached then the solution is to get rid of those who are failing to negotiate/obtain an agreement and bring in someone else.

      September 25, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
  4. w2lucky

    Reputation and branding are the staples of a successful business. The NFL has destroyed its reputation and its brand name is mud. I think it's high time the guy responsible steps down. Roger Goodell has got to go.

    September 25, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Brett Crossley

    The ratings for NFL games are holding up, why should the owners care about a blown call or two? A little drama, a little soap opera element, that's good for ratings right? They are packaging an entertainment product to SELL to us. Their job is to charge as much as they can and pay as little as they can, and they seem to be doing a good job. This whole ref business should show everyone this once and for all. They care less about integrity of the game than WWE wrestling does.For me, I'm done for a while. College FB isn't a bastion of purity, but it's nothing like this,

    September 25, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bethtex

      I'd rather have this crazy type football than no football at all. We should be thanking the replacments for doing the best they can. In the big picture the "super professionals", players and coaches, should be able to work around the inexperiences and not put the refs in such a position. They are acting like big babies, just give me a good laugh. Good grief they still get their big paycheck.....................

      September 25, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
  6. jim atmad

    I read that at least $150 Million, and possibly as much as $1 Billion in NFL wagers changed sides on that blown call.

    That doesn't speak too highly for the integrity of the sport either, when the new guys are really an unknown commodity.

    September 25, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Jen1989

    Everyone should be done watching until regular refs are back. Their advertisers will lose alot of money by our not watching their expensive commercials. That will get their attention...quickly. I am done until they are back. It's a win-win for me.

    September 25, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
  8. gmenfan54

    Don't blame the temp refs. There doing the best they can with the limited training they have.

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

    Where are Romney, Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck etc. to call out these greedy, lazy, union thug refs? Aren't they just a drain on the NFL? Aren't they easily replaced by anyone with a warm body who will work for 1/2 as much? They are, after all, uneducated, lazy, union, thug slobs, ae they not? They should be greatful to have jobs and take anything they are offered, right?

    It seems that a trained and skilled unionized workforce may be a asset to a business and may be worth the money they ask for. Remember that this doesn't just apply to the NFL but anywhere there is a unionized workforce.

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

      Come where I work bart. You will hush your mouth about union quality. The only focus is how to do as little as possible and quit as early as I can. What little work is done is shoddy. Union blows

      September 25, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |

    Time for the fans to start chanting at the games for real refs.

    September 25, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Let the players play

    Better to let the players actually play then have refs call every tickey tack penalty.

    September 25, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Kate Uptons Rack

    Is bodacious.

    September 25, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
  13. marcus

    as a seattleite, i want to remind everyone what we were told by the entire population of the US after we got jobbed out of a SUPER BOWL by the "REAL" refs.... quit yer whining, and get over it..

    September 25, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Phil


      September 25, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Ceri

    I think the cheese is between his ears. He's a Bears fan.

    September 25, 2012 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
  15. kls817

    I noticed something unusual about the end of the game that nobody is talking about. Why in the world would Seattle attempt the extra point if they are already ahead and there is no time left on the clock? Only harm can come to Seattle with the kick – they could fumble and GB could run for a touchdown. If they were forced to attempt the extra point, why then did they actually kick it instead of just kneeling after the hike?

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

      They are required. Its a stupid rule. That's why when both Seattle and GB players walked off the field they were forced to come back on.

      September 25, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kate Uptons Rack

      Please see exhibit #1 – Tampa Bay vs. Victory Formation.

      September 25, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • KissMeKate

      The NFL rulebook requires the PAT be attempted after a touchdown. The game could not be over until they attempted the PAT. Classy of the Packers to gather their 11 guys back on the field. But an even further bit of argument that the temp refs don't know the rules considering the melee' that was allowed on the field prior to the game actually being over.

      September 25, 2012 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
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