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. Vad

    If any team should understand bad officiating, it's the Seahawks. They lost an entire Superbowl because of it back in 2006. Those weren't even replacement refs. Yes, the Green Bay call was bad and yes, Tate did interfere. No, the game cannot be reversed. That sets a dangerous precedent and slippery slope where every game could potentially be overturned. If they overturn this game, then how far back should they go and overturn games in the past that have had bad calls? Green Bay deserves an apology, but the call needs to stand.

    September 25, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • surfdog

      Disagree, obvious bad call. Within 24 hours they should allow it to be reversed. Complete bungle by all involved. They had a chance to immediately right the wrong, and they blew that too.

      September 25, 2012 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Crawdaddy

      Packers will get a nice email/message from the NFL stating that they are sorry for the bad calls. The Steelers have been receiving those messages for many years with regular officials, so these replacement ref's may be the last straw. Look at all the tweets.

      September 25, 2012 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • joe

      They lost an entire Super Bowl because of bad officiating? This argument is so tired. So if Ben doesn't get in from the 1 they go for it on 4th and goal (Cowher said he was going for it) so who says he doesn't get in on 4th and an inch?
      Jackson pushed off in the end zone to catch his TD and the refs called it. Isn't that what everyone is complaining about here? That the refs didn't call Golden Tate for his push off?
      The only questionable call was the Locklear holding call that would've given the Seahawks a 1st and goal. Once again, who's to say they would have went on to score a touchdown? Too many if's and that doesn't make them win a 21-10 game.

      September 25, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Byrd

    It's all about the money. So sad that the owners and players live in such squallier in the meanwhile.

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

    This is not important. With all of the REAL issues going on in our world, debating whether this should have been a touchdown is a moot point.

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

      With all the important problems in our world, being able to escape to quality entertainment is important. It's vital. This ruins that and sets the bar low.

      September 25, 2012 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • streetheat1

      Perhaps. However you seem to feel it important enough to stop by and blog about it a bit. Thanks for stopping by though.

      September 25, 2012 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Suppackmen

      And yet you felt the need to opine.

      September 25, 2012 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anonymous

      Nobody thinks this is a major issue worldwide. It's not like Congress is going to start debating about this instead of the economy or social policy. That's why politicians and the media deal with politics and major issues, and we have sports writers to deal specifically with sports stuff so it doesn't interfere or come before anything else. But if this isn't important to you, then why are you here?

      September 25, 2012 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Lem

    Should have, could have, blah blah blah.

    The Packers were outplayed the entire game and quite frankly, they should have lost and they did lose.

    September 25, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      Apparently you didn't watch the second half. Outplayed the first half – maybe. The second half?? Not by a long shot. Seattle got a win they didn't earn.

      September 25, 2012 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anonymous

      I'm not a Packers fan in the slightest, but even if a team doesn't deserve to win, it's still a win if they somehow pull it off. It's not as rewarding as playing well and winning a close game, but a win is a win, and the Packers certainly (barely) won. But no team, no matter how horribly they played, deserves to lose like that. Or rather, to lose the game when they actually won because the refs messed up

      September 25, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
  5. TheUberMitch

    As bad as the NBA.

    September 25, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Packers Die Hard

    It's not about the packer fans whining , everyone here in Wisconsin knows our O line blows and Rodgers is scrambling too much. The issue is a flagrant two handed push off that should've blown any throw dead. The Tate debacle is just salt in a gaping wound.

    September 25, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
  7. BoogerFree

    It's only a football game, get over it.

    September 25, 2012 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Ed

    There was plenty of video to reverse the on-field call, except that it's not clear to me which on-field call was upheld. One ref said it was a TD, the other said it was an interception. If the league had any cojones they would have said that the video upheld the call on the field, and it was an interception.

    September 25, 2012 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Pat

    Drew Brees needs to keep quiet....His team won the 09 NFC championship game with more help from the refs than the Seahawks had last night.

    September 25, 2012 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
  10. sbp

    This pronouncement by the NFL is just savvy lawyering. They chose to focus on the UNreviewable pass interference non-call as an excuse to not overturning the result of the game. But unreviewable non-calls happen all the time; no one would be making a fuss if THAT was the reason for the Packers loss. It stinks, it's a highly subjective call, but it happens.

    What the NFL doesn't want to deal with is that even GIVEN there should have been a penalty, the blown call WAS reviewable (possession in the end-zone, yes, out of the end zone, no), and in this instance, was really NOT subjective if the booth officials had done their jobs correctly. This is more an instance of the refs not knowing the rules as far as what was reviewable and what wasn't, and what is a simultaneous catch and what isn't. For that reason, the game result should be reversed.

    September 25, 2012 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      No, it shouldn't. Determining who has possession of a pass is not reviewable. The call on the field was (correctly, imo) made for simultaneous catch. Tie goes to the offensive player and that is the end of the story.

      Second, do you REALLY want to open the can of worms that would come from the precedent of the NFL overturning the results of a game 24 hours after it's ended? No longer would the games be determined by the players on the field, but lawyers in meeting rooms. No thank you. I'll take shoddy officiating over that.

      September 25, 2012 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
  11. enrazo75

    First world problem. Bad refs. The regular refs make bad calls too. The only people who should care are the ones who have something invested in it and I'm not talking about fans or people who bet on the games either.

    September 25, 2012 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Justin

    Hey folks, heres the power and evil of unions at work. They want pensions. For what!?? They work one day a week for a few months and make a full salary!! Get out of here, you get paid what you're worth, for the job you do, not a single cent more. Labor Unions once served a purpose, oh say about 70 years ago. They are ONLY detrimental to free market principles.

    September 25, 2012 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Having worked in both non-union and union plants, I can guarantee you that unions still serve a purpose. I will turn this around for you however. Unrestricted free-market is damaging to consumers, employees, citizens, and the environment.

      September 25, 2012 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
  13. paw2100

    If the Packers are so upset about this is it safe to assume that the team president, and the other teams owner's will be insisting their employee, Roger Goodell solve the labor problem. Or will they allow him to continue doing what he wants?

    September 25, 2012 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  14. B4Cons

    What a shame that it happened to the Fudge Packers.

    September 25, 2012 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
  15. me

    Well duh the're upholding it, mistakes can't be made....

    September 25, 2012 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
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