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. Dan

    That is not Derrick Rose's twitter handle... who writes and reviews this stuff anyways?

    September 25, 2012 at 1:32 am | Report abuse |
  2. Phil

    Well so much for nfl football this year. It's all a big joke and nothing this year will really mean anything. I'm not watching anymore. Rodger Goodell not only ripped off the packers but also us as fans. He doesn't care about anything besides the money in his pocket. Greedy pig. He should be ashamed for ruining a great sport. Can there be a coo in the NFL? I'm sure Kim Jung il or Castro would be a better option as leader in this communist regime called the NFL.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:32 am | Report abuse |
  3. Steve

    Other Steve – It's also an interception in US football...

    September 25, 2012 at 1:32 am | Report abuse |
  4. It's a Disgrace

    Where were all of you smug jerks when the refs screwed the Seahawks in the 2006 Super Bowl? Seems like it's only an "outrage" when it's Green Bay, Pittsburgh or Dallas.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:33 am | Report abuse |
    • ladyomanor

      As I see it the NFL owes Seattle several more wins after (admittedly) stealing their Superbowl!

      September 25, 2012 at 1:58 am | Report abuse |
  5. bspurloc

    the NFL has lost all credibility

    September 25, 2012 at 1:33 am | Report abuse |
  6. Brian

    To the Seahawks fans that list the calls that went against them in the past as justification for the way this game ended, I say – you are not a football fan, you are just a Seahawks fan.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:33 am | Report abuse |
  7. ronnie

    The world is ending; the packers lost. Give me a break they ran off the field like babies, others shove the refs, still others get in their faces, and fans send death threats to these replacement refs and I'm suppose to feel bad for the packer? These refs are getting destroyed by the media, the fans, and the players/coaches. Getting called retarded by players who can barely spell the word. Look they're just doing the job to their ability. They're not purposely trying to ruin the game. Why so much negativity toward these refs like they're out to get you? Give them a break. Don't scream at these guys, direct your anger to Goddell and the NFL.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Jake

      Actually they do ruin games because of their fantasy draft picks. Its been proven. They draft a player, if that players team plays they help that team.

      September 25, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
  8. re: government cheese

    This is actually management refusing to let the workers work under the previous contract... not really a strike.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Math101

      Yeah, and Paul Ryan and Scott Walker could fix this mess in a second. Right?

      September 25, 2012 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
  9. ytman

    I LOVE Football and this irks me so much... but is anyone else really annoyed that LeBron said he, "loves football -to- much..."

    September 25, 2012 at 1:35 am | Report abuse |
  10. DSW

    All those who whine about unions keep in mind its the owners who decided to cut the retirement of the refs and made them go on strike. But of course as soon as union was brought up some of you went all OMG UNIONS R EVL!!!11!! all over the place.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:35 am | Report abuse |
  11. getbobt

    A 100 billion dollar industry ruined by multi-million dollar owners quibbling over 3 million dollars... the NFL has sunk to a new low. T_T

    September 25, 2012 at 1:36 am | Report abuse |
  12. Allen

    Government Cheese: Not to ruin your 'well thought out' argument, but the referee's union is not on strike, the NFL front office has locked them out.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Gangnam Style Chat app

      yeh cuz fans got tired of watching those same 3 head referees on tv all the time with the big beer bellies or chumming with rodgers, brady and roethlisberger, how come so many close games this year??? beacause of the refs? LOL

      September 25, 2012 at 1:41 am | Report abuse |
  13. ed

    we gotta get the fully trained, experienced UNION refs back on the field.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:37 am | Report abuse |
    • rightcall

      These guys are getting better and better every week. Give them a few more weeks and the replacement crews will be just as good if not better than the originals!

      September 25, 2012 at 1:44 am | Report abuse |
  14. rightcall

    Refs made the right call on this one. They have been bad in the past but this one was spot on. They both had possession so it goes to the offense.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Shuksan

      Look at the photo. Jennings is holding the football, Tate is holding Jennings. Clearly an interception. And it would have been moot if the refs hadn't called the bizarre roughing the passer when GB intercepted the ball earlier in the game.

      September 25, 2012 at 1:40 am | Report abuse |
    • teleo9

      When it's a toss-up it ALWAYS goes to the passing team. ALWAYS. It's in the rules and YES it screws teams over ALL THE TIME. But it's the rules.

      September 25, 2012 at 1:44 am | Report abuse |
    • rightcall

      The original refs are so damn GREEDY. I am willing to put up with questionable officiating for the all the original refs, let them go ref a damn high school game for peanuts or better yet...get a REAL JOB with a REAL PAYCHECK like the rest of us. Only thing worse than grown men being paid to play the same game 10 year olds do is grown men officiating them for insane pay checks.

      September 25, 2012 at 1:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Tommy

      Shuksan, You are right as well as 99% of everyone else that saw this. teleo9 and right call had gotten out of their rooms. The mental heath attendants were able to subdue them medicate and put them back into their rooms.

      September 25, 2012 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Jake

      @Rightcall So the refs are greedy because they care about their lifes after the NFL and they have a hard and stressful job. Also the NFL Has billions of dollars 3 million is nothing for them so whos truly the greedy one here?

      September 25, 2012 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Gangnam Style Chat app

    Best NFL games in the past 3 weeks in years- makes you wonder how the same packers team with regular "refs" had such a strong season last year....things that make you go hmmmmmm

    blame the players for pulling the sneaky penalties that are being called, and many claiming the ball pulled to jennings chest, when? when they on the ground after the catch? replay didnt show jennings in control, as the headphones referees for replays are the usual NFL support replacements there.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Jake

      Jennings had full control. He had the ball to his chest feet on the ground, and both hands on the football, while tate was holding Jennings and put one hand on the football after Jennings landed. Get some glasses man if you truly cant see that.

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