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. El Flaco

    It's just a game. The important thing is to display good sportsmanship.

    September 25, 2012 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Brian P

    In the grand scheme of things, why did Jenning's want to catch the ball instead of batting it away? The Packard's didn't need the touchback points. If he had just batted the ball away it would have been an incomplete pass and the clock ran out.

    September 25, 2012 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • geelolickers

      good call

      September 25, 2012 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • FGH

      On Jennings not batting ball away – my take is – if he had just batted the ball down or away, it's entirely possible that one of the Seahawks could have caught it – I've seen it happen before. Why take that chance? He clearly saw his chance to grab the ball, therefore preventing a Seahawks' TD, and securing it meant WIN for the Packers! Well, should have done, anyway!

      September 25, 2012 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • kamin18

      i would love to answer that bu first id like you to learn how football is played and answer it yourself i have a feeling u have no clue how dumb that comment is..

      September 25, 2012 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • MissyW

      Great point!! There you have it. The Packers screwed themselves by not batting the ball away!

      September 25, 2012 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Matt

    I have seen this same play happen multiple times and it always goes to the receiver. They both caught it in the air and the defensive player used his body well when he turned with it, but the receiver still had it in his hands. It ALWAYS goes to the receiver in this situation.

    September 25, 2012 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Common Sense Please

      They didn't have simultaneous possession. Not even close. Clearly you didn't SEE the play or the replay.

      September 25, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      Are you blind? Jennings clearly had possession of the ball. This has to be the worst call I've ever seen. It's sad that the NFL will not at least admit that the wanna be refs screwed up the call. There was no simultaneous possession.

      September 25, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • BBK

      wrong matt....the receiver must control the ball..#1 and show that he also has control...neither of which he did..meaning it is not enough to have the ball in yur hands/grasp..ya also must pull to body and control..unless physically forced out of bounds....

      September 25, 2012 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • mb

      Did you watch the same game I did? The safety Jennings had the ball between both his hands and his chest while coming down with the ball. Tate had one hand on the ball. How is that simultaneous posession?

      September 25, 2012 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Dan

    I guess they didn't teach you in your school the difference between "off" and "of". Also, there'd be no comma between hater and but if you were trying to be all grammatically correct. Ignorant.

    September 25, 2012 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Donkey Kong

    Huh? Government controlled...the teams are owned byprivate organizations. The NFL is not gov't run. Get off the Tea Party Kool-aid already.

    September 25, 2012 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Bart

    This stuff happens when you replace skilled unionized workers with 1/2 price scabs.

    September 25, 2012 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris from Chicago

      No Bart,

      this stuff happens when skilled, unionized workers strike and there is nobody left to train the rookies.

      September 25, 2012 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      Yes. I'm sure that being unionized is what makes the real NFL refs better. (rolls eyes)

      September 25, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bart

      No, the union doesn't give them the skill. It gives them the power to band together and stand up to the NFL and say "this is what we are worth". Obviously, from the scab's performances so far the real refs are probably correct. The longer the NFL tries to pinch pennies rather than paying a deserved wage the more their reputation will be harmed.

      September 25, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
  7. jmissal

    People are ALWAYS griping about poor calls (in their opinion) by refs....the ONLY reason it has national attention is because they are "replacement refs".

    Get over it and focus on something in your life that actually means something.

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

      It doesn't help that you have the pro-union announcers (and media) fanning the flames at every possible moment. There have been TONS of blown calls with the "regular" officials, too. There is no guarantee any other official would have seen the push-ff either.

      September 25, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jenna

    This was no mistake. It was blatant...anyone could see the Packer had the ball.

    September 25, 2012 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Greg Chenoweth

    The call could have gone either way. No matter what call was made, the game would have still been decided by an official's ruling. It looked to me like they both had their hands on the ball at the same time. Also, concerning missed penalties, the Seattle quarterback was sacked well after the thrown was made and there was no roughing the passer call either. It wasn't the Super Bowl; it was one game of the season. This time the call went the Seahawks' way, the next time it could be different. Time to move on.

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

    GET OVER IT!!!

    if we only had dumb americans have this much passion about our government and politics, we'd be in a better place! but NOOOOOO leave it to americans to put more attention to this garbage than to things that ACTUALLY matter!

    September 25, 2012 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • george

      Are you just stupid, or are you just choosing to ignore the insanity that the rest of the world get wrapped up in with soccer?

      September 25, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      No doubt, george. I've never heard of anyone lobbing a FREAKING GRENADE onto an NFL field during play.

      September 25, 2012 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Linda K. Smith

    Spectator sports are for sheep.

    September 25, 2012 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • jon e

      Cool, and people who comment on "spectator sports" while not caring about "spectator sports" have significant issues in their lives. Life must really suck if you need to put "spectator sports" fans down.

      September 25, 2012 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
  12. streetheat1

    Goodell: "Psst hey you there!" "Yeah you." Put down that paper bag and climb out of the dumpster." "Want to make a quick fifty bucks?" "Good, put on this striped shirt and go in and officiate tonight's game." "If you don't blow any calls, there's another twenty five waiting for you after the game."

    September 25, 2012 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
  13. roye

    I stopped watching nfl soooo many ref errors its a punishment to endure watching.

    September 25, 2012 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
  14. k

    The booth officials who didn't make the correct call are getting a pass while the replacement officials get the blame.... fantastic.

    September 25, 2012 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
  15. bbitner

    Don't you get the feeling that the NFL execs are in a room somewhere, an index finger in each ear, going "La, La, La, La.....I can't hear you....I can't hear you....La, La, La, La."

    September 25, 2012 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
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