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. Seahawks Fan

    Bad call to end the game. As a Seahawks fan I can say the should not have won the game. Not even close to a catch IMHO.

    September 25, 2012 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
  2. open400

    Simple solution:Roll the officials collecitve bargaining inmot theplayers collective bargaining. That way we they take the field they take it as one true NFL package.

    September 25, 2012 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
  3. yuri pelham

    Of course the NFL must bear the consequence which is .... boycott the season. It won't happen for addicted sheep just say bah and drink beer.

    September 25, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Mr. Perspective

    So the Packers should have won not because they intercepted the pass, but because there was offensive pass interference on the play! Oddly enough offensive pass interference is the most under-called or non-called penalty in the NFL – replacement officials or not. So get over it! The regular officials will be back soon and it won't take them long to remind us they are every bit as incompetent as their replacements.

    September 25, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Rod in Texas

    Don't people realize its JUST A GAME?

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

      Just a game! You are from Texas!

      September 25, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
  6. mojobutta

    It's just a game, who cares? Next time the Packers will get the decision.

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

      Really. Just look at the Ravens.

      September 25, 2012 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Max

    I couldn’t believe how that game ended! I missed the controversial call, but I saw the play after I recorded it on my Hopper this morning and was shocked that the refs called that a touchdown for the Seahawks. The huge hard drive space on my DVR helps me catch up with games when I can’t stay up late enough because I work the morning shift at DISH. It’s good that NFL acknowledged they made a bad call, but that doesn’t do much for the Packer’s win column!

    September 25, 2012 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • AP

      Wow, Max, way to work in those plugs!

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

      lmao at the plugs

      September 25, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
  8. CheeseHead_MD

    Even the league can't get it's story straight. The "offensive pass interference" wasn't called. The replay booth is ONLY reviewing the touchdown called on the field.

    September 25, 2012 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Ken

    I think fans could send a message to the higher ups a different way. Boycotting games would not be good; keep in mind there are countless others that provide the services (concessions, security, and other miscellaneous functions) which could find themselves out of work for a week, or even longer, depending on that impact. Protesting? Might work (and there were some outside Lambeau Field this morning - I should have driven over but the Police were there on reports of a noise ordinance from all that honking (lol) - but I think that would be pointless). about this? As many of the fans that have tickets to next week's football games...bring your own Yellow Flag! And at the beginning of the game, just before kickoff...Toss them onto the field. I think the refs are in a bad spot, and yes they will make mistakes (sometimes as glaring as this final play, the kind that do make you shake your head), but the real intent of the message is that the fans are getting sick of this. Pro sports in general is driven by greed, and it's time to stop this. Otherwise, i'm heading back to High School sports; there you will find the real action on the field. (Think about that...)

    September 25, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • bigot

      " but the real intent of the message is that the fans are getting sick of this"

      and the NFL couldn't care less until they start losing money.

      September 25, 2012 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ken

      Yea, that's "Greed" for you. Yea, fans are sick of it, but the dollar speaks louder.

      September 25, 2012 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
  10. JerrySandusky

    People saying "always bat the ball..." not so. Every young man I coached and got my hands on, I explicitly instructed them to NEVER BAT THE BALLS. Batting his balls may make you feel good, but it HURTS YOUR COACH.

    September 25, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
  11. walkingfan

    I really don't understand why this call cannot be reversed. WHY? Or any other obvious wrong call for that matter. WHY? Maybe the explanation lies in that the NFL takes itself way too serious – iIt's a football GAME, not national policy effecting millions of people.

    September 25, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Q

      In order to overturn the call on the field you need indisputable proof that Tate did NOT get both hands on the ball when they came down. Jennings definitely had it but you need to prove that Tate did not. I'm not a fan of either team but it looked to me like the officials got it right.
      In any case, that pass wasn't really the issue. It was the non call before that. It's like the Pats fans arguing about the field goal. It was the 20 other bad/non calls that allowed scoring drives on both sides to continue when they should have been stopped.

      September 25, 2012 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  12. 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 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
  13. J.O.

    I personally will not be attending or watching any further NFL Games until action is taken and wish others would follow suit until the issue is resolved. It's not even worth watching, especially when the league doesn't stand up for calls such as this one. What a shame!

    September 25, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
  14. bclone

    Super Bowl XL anyone? Those were union referees. Packer fans crying about the third game of the season. Babies.

    September 25, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Hangtownie

    And all this over probably less money than most teams back up QB pay for 1 year. GB got jacked, however if Jennings played the way he was taught he would of knocked the ball into the stands and won the game. He wanted to add to his stat sheet and it cost them the game. Hey it's only game 3, not the playoffs. Can anyone remember the "tuck rule" game?

    September 25, 2012 at 4:07 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