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. ItsJustAGame

    Ok, just a perspective here. The player know the rules, but they break the rules and expect the refs to "catch" them to keep the game under "control". Helmet hits, clipping, close line, hit after the ball has been passed, pass interference; the players and coaches expect the refs to catch this to keep the game "safe and under control"? Are they kidding? The players will not follow the rules unless the refs call penalties!?!?!?!? Get rid of the refs all together and let the players kill each other after they sign a contract of force majeure because they can not control themselves. Then let them destroy the game and get it out of our lives. It no more represents the United States then badminton. This crap is no longer worth watching or encouraging our youth to get involved in. It makes a small number of people wealthy and the rest of us pay outrageous prices for tickets a cold hot dog and a warm beer. Watching paint dry is more interesting.

    September 25, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Brian

    Really? With all the more important issues facing our country, our communities and our families, who cares about who referees the games? Believe me, I enjoy the game of football just like every other red-blooded American male. Yell at the TV and get upset when calls are blown. But, so what if the "real" refs are on strike and the "fake" refs are calling the games. Does the President of the United States REALLY need to comment on this? Does Wisconsin's Gov. Walker REALLY need to call for the striking refs to return? C'mon. Let's solve some real problems.

    September 25, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Feetsball

    Will be interesting to see how this affects Green Bays
    playoff standing.

    This should have been overturned.
    Sorry Seattle fans, but even you have to admit
    this is wrong.

    NFL END THIS NOW !!!!!!!!!

    September 25, 2012 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Staci

    Golden Tate is my hero!

    September 25, 2012 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
  5. John Thomas

    Even the response by the NFL COMPLETELY misses the point. The issue is not that the penalty that wasn't called, it is that the wrong call was made on possession of the catch. The statement by the NFL is insulting to our collective intelligence. (The missed pass interference, the erroneous pass interference called against GB and the erroneous roughing the QB call against GB all in the same drive certainly compound the issue though.) Nobody wants a review of the penalty call. But a review of the possession clearly shows that Tate came late to the party, and Jennings had possession. Review that! Its right in front of you!!

    September 25, 2012 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • DrTom

      the rules have to be followed and they don't allow for a change in the call. Otherwise, this would be adding insult to injury. And what about all the other bad or missed calls in the game.

      September 25, 2012 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • John Thompson

      I agree that the last call was unbelievably bad and the context of the play is important. There were THREE other terrible calls leading up to this, all late in the 4th quarter:

      1. Bad roughing the passer flag (cheap at best) that nullified a GB interception.
      2. Wrong defensive pass interference call when it was, if anything, on the offensive player,
      3. A blatant cheap shot on Greg Jennings that was not called and glossed over by the TV coverage after one mention by Gruden that it was terrible,

      It is this context that the last play was set up in, offensive PI and INT and all.

      September 25, 2012 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • John Thompson

      Normally, I would agree with DrTom. However, it is my understanding (from reading an article about the NFL's response), that simultaneous possession is not reviewable in the field of play, but IS reviewable in the end zone. If true, this IS insult to injury, on steroids.

      September 25, 2012 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jack1969

      As far as I understand possession is not reviewable, the call has to be made on the field.
      Yes the refs blew it, but review would not be able to overturn it once the call is made.
      Everyone is acting as if regular officials never blew a call or a game winning play.
      Yes, the replacement officials are not as qualified as the regulars but they are not as bad, or incompetent, as everyone is making them out to be.

      September 25, 2012 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • John Thomas

      Clearly, not allowing a review to change a blown possession call is a problem that needs to be fixed.

      September 25, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
  6. rickwh

    Last night when I watched the game I was rooting for Seattle. At the end of the game even I felt that Green Bay got robbed. When one ref showed a touchback and the other showing a touchdown I wasn't surprised because refs don't always agree on a call. What did surprise me was the ruling AFTER the review. I couldn't believe that they awarded Seattle the touchdown in spite of the fact that there was obvious evidence that interference happened and that Seattle didn't catch the ball. O.K., so now everyone blames the replacement refs. The way I see it, there are three choices to be made, 1. Give the locked out refs the 3.3 mil that they're asking for and lets get back to normal football, 2. Don't worry so much about bad calls and let the season progress as scheduled, or 3. Get rid of the replacements and have no football at all. Pick your poison. I myself vote for number 1.

    September 25, 2012 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
  7. David

    Goodell has elevated WWF above the NFL in the arena of credibility.

    Congratulations, Goodell. You've single-handedly ruined professional football.

    September 25, 2012 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
  8. steveo

    I saw this in real time and it wasnt that difficult a call. the GB guy had BOTH arms around it and clutched it to his chest near his solar plexis exactly as stated in the article . the SEA guy had done nothing more than put his arms around the GB's arms and try and grab it away from him. the ball was nowhere near his body. it was obvious. how a ref can stare at a ball 2 feet from his face and make the wrong call is whats disgraceful.
    the nfl just wants to cover their bUtt$ by saying the O interference was missed and not reviewable. malarky. and look at the guy who called it. he must be 90 years old. so we're suppossed to believe 90 y/o men can run the field with 24 y/o gazells and get themselves into the proper location to make the call? or interpret the rules correctly?
    the worst part is somebodys career is going to get ended (like the cheap shot Jennings took in 3Q -and no call- by these guys being out of their depth.
    but for that to happen, the nfl will have to reduce goddell from the ownership tool that he is to someone impartial that has the best long-term interests of the game and the careers of the guys playing a truly violent sport at heart. good luck with that.......

    September 25, 2012 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jackie

    GB won this game the ref should dismissed or fine.

    September 25, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
  10. shan

    Crowd-officiating would be cool. Except it would e impossible due to fan bias.

    September 25, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Andy Dufrane

    I think Goodell should resolve the lockout immediately and then RESIGN immediately. Changes need to be made so there is no dictator commissioner of football. Goodell has dome some good for the NFL but I feel the rules implemented to protect the QBs like little girls, and now this whole replacement official thing, had drastically reduced any integrity the NFL once had. Please Roger, please resign.

    September 25, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Johnny C

    Here is the interesting point ... "the two sides in the labor dispute are about $3.3 million apart."

    Math test – How much is this really costing the team(s)

    $3.3 Million / 32 teams = $103,125 per team

    I am not sure what concessions have already been made ... but isn't it ironic that the cost per team being argued about is the equivalent of a single middle incomed individual?

    This obviously cannot be about money ... it is about the brass balls that the NFL wants to govern with.

    September 25, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
  13. jim Feller

    Way to go Seahawks 8 sacks on Rogers Green Bay got what they needed a wake up call they aren't that great this reminds me of when Seattle went to the super bowl, it couldn't happen there was something wrong wake up bumb ass's Seattle is due for another super bowl they played great the refs made just as many bad calls on the hawks like the poor sportsman ship call on the cheese curds but tried to put it on seattle till it was corrected

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

    #1–Green Bay is playing like Crap
    #2–If you are going to let a team stay in the game till the last play, you deserve to loose.

    Don't blame the refs. They are pretty much the same on both sides. Green Bay gave it away by letting it be close.

    As for the pass interference, Never would have been called by the regular refs. I have never see a pass interference called on the final play of the game!

    September 25, 2012 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
  15. TriX3n

    The replacement refs have completely ruined football. I'm an avid football fan and I enjoy watching the game even if I don't have any particular interest in either of the teams playing, but this year it just isn't fun to watch. Even college games are more entertaining this year than the NFL is. Really, really sad.

    September 25, 2012 at 3:50 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