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. SMiD72

    the sad part is not 2 to 3 plays before then endzone circus there was an obvious pass interference call that was not made. maybe instead of using division 3 refs they should have used division 1 refs. at least division 1 refs are more familiar with a fast paced game.

    September 25, 2012 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rich2012

      Refs miss potential penalties all the time in college and NFL but there is a big question whether the defender who got pushed was far back enough to effect the outcome of the play anyways. The refs missed the push in the back by the Seattle receiver but it's understandable considering all the players crowding the end zone could have blocked their view. Once the refs missed seeing that call they could not review it per NFL rules. They could only review the touchdown catch and possession by both players. Tie correctly went to the offensive receiver. Blaming the refs for calls that the long time NFL refs missed and made incorrectly seems to be more of an excuse to complain. Seattle had been winning the entire game up until the fourth quarter...and there were several calls that Green Bay benefited from by these refs...such as Rodgers first down stretch review by the refs. Green Bay should have controlled the ball on offense near the end of the game and it never would have come down to a Seattle touchdown pass with seconds to go. Calls and missed calls have always been part of the game.

      September 25, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
  2. be quiet

    not really

    September 25, 2012 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Rich

    The play on the field avoid rioting.

    September 25, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
  4. west coaster

    The refs blew the MNF game long before that last play, there were so many horrible calls that kept drives alive for both teams, Phantom calls all around. Just wierd stuff. Reminded me of Superbowl XL.

    September 25, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
  5. George Andersen

    The NFL should be ashamed of themselves with the Ref's calling. Just like the Ref's in the Viking 49 game. They gave the 49's 2 more times then the 3 time outs that where already given. Where is the NFL players union on these issues. Why don't they consider on walking off the job before a player gets really hurt from a No call penalty!!!! The NFL owners truly suck at taking action and teach these ref's on how to call games.

    September 25, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jim

    I think these Refs are making the game even more exciting. We need Refs to Ref the Refs we have now. The soulution to fix this problem is to remove all Refs from the Game and play the game of football like we did when we were playing in the back yards and the football fields as kids. I think we would have a better chance of understanding what the game is really about. I feel sorry for the people who bet on these games. VERY BIG RISK.

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

    Super Bowl XL anyone? Those were union referees. Packer fans crying about the third game of the season. What a bunch of whiners. And Gov. Walker and Paul Ryan can bite me.

    September 25, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Nick-o

    worst officiating EVER!

    September 25, 2012 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • bclone

      Super Bowl XL

      September 25, 2012 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
  9. ipsleuth

    Even as a Seattle fan, I think that is was a bad call. However, I think that too much is being made of one bad call. Regular refs make bad calls occasionally as well. What is more troublling about the replacement refs is the sheer volume of bad calls. There were too many this weekend to name individually, including a bogus pass interference call on Seatlle that allowed Green Bay's only touchdown drive to continue on a 3rd down play. In the SF-Minnesota game the replacements did not even know the rules, letting Harbaugh talk them into two challenges when he had no time outs left. It is a sign of our times that billionaire owners say they can' afford an investment of a few million to keep the game honest and safer. So long as we all continue to watch, they don't seem to really care.

    September 25, 2012 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brom

      The 4th quarter alone was full of bad calls. That pass interference penalty on Sam Shields should have gone against Sidney Rice instead, and the roughing-the-passer penalty that negated a Packers interception should never have been called.

      September 25, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
  10. 2001 suzuki intruder 1400

    The Packers won't make the Superbowl anyway so the call really doesn't matter.

    September 25, 2012 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Ken Chisholm

    Lest we forget...the FANS really have more control over the destiny of this situation than they realize. A few games where nobody buys tickets, beer, brats, parking etc and some rich owners will hopefully take notice...An all-out boycott should get someone's attention.....

    September 25, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  12. t3chn0ph0b3


    September 25, 2012 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
  13. cleT

    Ref FAIL.
    CLEARLY caught by packers. dont even know how they could possibly think anything else

    September 25, 2012 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
  14. 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 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  15. fritz

    holy cow!!!.....i can't believe everyone is getting so worked up over something so meaningless as a football game. the players will still get paid and well at that. stuff happens. at least we don't live in Libya or north Korea. things like this are probably why the rest of the world hates us.

    September 25, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ken Chisholm

      ya got a point there!

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