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. Kat

    I thought Sunday night's game was bad, but Monday night's absolutely takes the cake. Right now, I plan on NOT watching any NFL games til the regular refs are back.

    September 25, 2012 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Captoutraged

    OK...Let's get to the cause of all of this....We got amateur refs officiating a professional activity. It's like having a first year Med student doing major surgery on you. But don't blame them, they were put there by a LABOR DISPUTE! The CORE of the problem is the GREEDY NFL not wanting to give up any money to pay for PROFESSIONALS. I know it sounds like the 99% crying, but you get what you pay for, figure that out and we will have football played the way it is supposed be. I am glad this happened, it shows how the 1% don't want to give up anything so ANYONE ELSE CAN MAKE A LIVING. Paid a dollar for your work, buy what you need from the company store for a buck and a half. GET IT?

    September 25, 2012 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Ban Unions

    1.) real refs would never call pass interference on jump ball
    2.) when the reviewed the play the only thing they can overturn would have been if the ball hit the ground. Possession, or who came down with the ball, is not a reviewable play.
    3.) worst call ever.

    Good for the league in not backing down to the union refs. The owners essentially pay the salaries of the officials, you think the owners got to where they are by following the herd? The owners despise unions, a bunch of people exploiting what at one point in time was a good thing. Let the replacement refs continue to make a mess of the situation, football fans are not going anywhere. The officials will eventually cave because they need the benefits package and salary they based their lives around. The owners could care less...

    September 25, 2012 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • k

      First, it was never called on the field since you had two judges give different calls. The pass interference wasn't jump ball pass interference but clearly intentional prior to the ball getting there. It is obvious the GB player came down with and landed in the end zone. The play was over when his butt hit the ground... before the seahawks player had anything like possession.

      September 25, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • John Thomas

      There is NO REASON why possession should not be reviewable.
      Writing off a penalty call as something that real refs would never call is BS! On one hand you are arguing that the rules are what they are. On the next, you are arguing that a valid rule should be ignored. On the union front, while I generally agree, you are clearly wrong in this case. There is clearly a need for professional level officiating. (Who knew?) Professionals should be paid as such.

      September 25, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • DrTom

      The fans and the TV networks are not getting what they paid for. At this point, the owners feel they have nothing to lose. A season ticket holder should sue for a refund. They paid to see professional teams play with professional ref's and they are not getting that. OR a TV network could back out of a contract, for the same reason, but that will never happen, at unless TV viewership decreases significantly, which is unlikely. (Also, note that this is a lockout, not a strike.)

      September 25, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • UnionProud

      Ban the unions ? Stay lazy on your job and your benefits and wages..... don't come over to the union side and bash it just because your too lazy to fight for better wages and benefits !

      September 25, 2012 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ban Unions

      I was just saying that how often at the end of the game do you see a pass interference call on a jump ball with no time on the clock. (I agree with the bogus call, just stating the facts!)

      As for the lock out vs strike, the only difference is that the refs want compensation for the time they are missing because of the "disagreement" so it makes them twice as stupid. I am not wrong in this case, ask any well to do business owner their thoughts on unions...

      No "refunds" for bad officiating, allbeit its not professional at all, its just unrealistic. Did Detriot Lions season ticket holders want their money back when they went 0-16?

      September 25, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ban Unions

      Yes, ban the unions. Your telling me picketting on a job site (contracting for instance) is "doing something about it". So parading around with a giant RAT is your work when you don't have work? I think I will stick with hard work and self motovation to advance. You can ride the bandwagon...enjoy

      September 25, 2012 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
  4. puppypumper

    The league has thrown away it's integrity. – That happened a long time ago. It's football... deal with it.

    September 25, 2012 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Norm

    "Player safety"?????
    Who got hurt?
    Bunch of cry baby millionaires.

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

      Who got hurt? That Oakland Raider receiver who got carted off.

      September 25, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  6. IanMonam

    It is only a game.

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

      Shut your mouth.

      September 25, 2012 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Nancy

    Time for the players to strike. The refs are ruining the games - they aren't really fair contests any more. So why play?

    September 25, 2012 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Soo confused.

    This should serve as a reminder. Mitt talks about how uniononized teachers make too much and they can easily be replaced.. you get what you pay for.

    September 25, 2012 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
  9. ED

    I think this is the final draw on NFL People should just go on strike and not show up for the games Due to the crap that is played now days and over pay to players and cost factor it would be in people interest to just not show up for any games i belive this would make they wonder and change.

    September 25, 2012 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Frank

    In the Seattle/Cowboys game, Sean Lee got lit up by a Seattle player who clearly launched himself and used his helmet. Refs called a ticky-tack foul on a Dallas player that gave a small shove to the Seattle player. Player safety is at issue here – players know they can get away with some plays and are taking full advantage of them.

    The NFL needs to resolve this issue QUICK before this happens in a playoff game or Super Bowl.

    September 25, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Really????

      It did happen in a Superbowl....Remember when the Seahawks were in the Superbowl????Hmmmmm....and those refs were the "real" ones! But did anyone care then???? Goodness people, get over it! It is not like Greenbay didn't benefit from bad calls earlier in the game. It just so happens that the Seahawks benefited at the very end of the game. Bad luck for Greenbay, good luck for the Seahawks. That's how the cookie crumbled. Seahawks will most likely get screwed by the refs in a future game. So, chill out. Get the "real" refs back on the field....I'm sure bad calls will still be made.

      September 25, 2012 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Russell

    Admit you are wrong and still don't fix it? I don't know if anyone knew this or not, but, the NFL is part of the U.S. Congress! Now it makes perfect sense! If Green Bay comes within ! game of the playoffs, they should be let in, and after that, it is may the best team win! Unless of course if the NFL still has their heads up their butts and are walking around on their elbows! And that's the way it is! Good night Roger!

    September 25, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Fred

    So ridiculous that people are upset about this. The way the ref saw it was the Seattle player touched the ball first and assumed he had both hands on the ball. Big deal! There are blown calls in every game! Always will be unless we make it completely scientific with replays and maybe infa-red or something. That would be dumb! I like the way the ref saw it and I'm a Patriots fan. If the game comes down to one play then the team that lost did A LOT more wrong that they're not willing to either admit to or talk about at any point. Rodgers got sacked like 8 times in the first half! Why not talk about that? People are being babies about the replacement refs. The sooner we stop noticing blown calls more and scrutinizing guys who are 1. just doing their jobs, 2. have eyes and see more than you or I to begin with, and 3. are even getting those supposedly "blown" calls RIGHT at least half those times... the sooner we can get back to the game. Forget the League Refs! They get it wrong just as much, face it, move on, relax, and enjoy! I loved this last weekend of football and I'm sorry for you if you didn't. Thanks for reading.

    September 25, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Really????

      Thank you! Agree completely.

      September 25, 2012 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
  13. David

    I don't know exactly what bringing back the regular refs would do? Seems to me like last year they did a pretty bad job too. Maybe not as bad but still not much better.

    September 25, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Joe

    Looking at the replay you can't over turn the call on the field. Likewise if it was ruled an INT you wouldn't be able to overrule that most likely either.

    September 25, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
  15. GetOffYourHighHorse

    Seattle's been waiting for a call to go their way since the '05 superbowl. I say it's about time.

    September 25, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
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