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. Lovecraft

    "It's just a stupid game and everyone should not care and should be serious all the time. If it isn't helping starving children or curing ebolaAIDS nothing should ever get any attention. I hate sports and think that anyone who enjoys them is an idiot and my opinion is the most important ever"

    Whooo... There, I think I summed up about half the comments on this article. I need to sit back down... feeling dizzy from such serious critical thinking.

    On the story itself – This is why there are professional referees. Replace professionals with non-professionals and you get an inferior product or service.

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

      Yeah, people should know that the only things that aren't stupid are the things that YOU think people should get upset about. I can't believe people don't know that.

      September 25, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • BBK

      what do ya do when we cure aids and there are no more starving children??????i hate people who hate sports anyway

      September 25, 2012 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Eric

    Idiot politicians should not be allowed to introduce legislation.

    September 25, 2012 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
  3. yhtbkm

    Looks like some refs got paid off. Worst call in history

    September 25, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Rob Gore

    You didn't catch that touchdown pass, someone else got it for you!

    September 25, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
  5. buck

    This is all ridiculous. Game is over. Move on

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

      Oh yeah? Well tell that to all the people who bet money on the Packers. They've got a legitimate beef right now whether you find it insignificant or not. The world doesn't revolve around you, it all has to do with money. People's money is at stake whether it's in the form of wagers, season ticket purchases, heck even merchandise. Who wants to shell out all that money to watch a game with serious integrity issues?

      September 25, 2012 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
  6. annisa vanderhooverhavencandersanderpandien

    I'm glad the packers lost. Go Bears!!!!

    September 25, 2012 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Jerry Jones

    How 'bout them Cowboys!!!!!!

    September 25, 2012 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
  8. dot8

    I'd rather have our politicians call these games, at least they are a little bit more honest.

    September 25, 2012 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Dante

    The NFL has to seriously fix this problem. The refs have caused many games to be chaned by errant calls. The New England Patriots have had thier last two games completly changed by bad officiating. 1. the hold on Gronk on the winning TD at the end of the game causing the pats to have to eventually try to kick an FG when the game should've been over. Then the ravens game, bad penalties on the defensive backs and linebackers. Also non calls on the receiver who pushed off to get clearance to catch the go ahead TD pass. No to mention not going upstairs when the two refs under the goal posts were calling the FG at the end of the game differently. Then running off the field and not addressing a coach causiing him to reach out for you to try to get your attention, resulting in league fines. These Refs are bad! Then we won't talk about the kill shots applied by the Ravens D on Dion Branch 3 plays in a row head shot after head shot. Goodell should be fined for lack of performance.

    September 25, 2012 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
  10. no name

    does no one remember when the seahawks got screwed out of the superbowl??? bad calls happen all the time, even with regular officials

    September 25, 2012 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • buck

      That ref admitted it 5 yrs later.

      September 25, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Geff

    I could be the first to suggest that fans boycott the games until the regulars are back.

    September 25, 2012 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Patrick

    LeBron is such a freaking moron.

    The idiot doesn't even know the difference between to and too.

    I guess that's what a 5th grade education will get you. (Wait, what is that you say? Schools teach the difference between to and too in 2nd grade? What a stupid idiot. He should stay of Twitter lest he continues embarrassing himself.

    Dear Lebron Hater,

    Apparently you don't know the difference between "of" and "off" nor when to use a parenthesis. So, how about you shut your hole? The call sucked. The NFL is a joke.

    By the way, for the posts about GB being dominated the entire game here are some numbers to debunk your claim.

    Total first downs (GB 22 – Sea 14).
    Total Yards (GB 268 – Sea 238)
    Time of Possession (GB 33:39 – Sea 26:21)

    How exactly does that equal a Seattle domination? Yes, 8 first half sacks is a lot to overcome. However, in the context of the game it was just a back and forth defensive type of contest. Seattle is getting a lot of credit for the defensive effort, but GB played better on both Sides of the ball, as the score, yardarge and TOP indicated prior to that hack job of a call.

    September 25, 2012 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
  13. John Henson

    The NFL's release this morning was ridiculous. It admitted there was an error, but it disallowed correction of the error.

    Clearly, the NFL hopes all this will blow over and its lock-out of the refs will continue. The only thing that can be done is to get the fans involved. But, will fans use their power to force the league to the table?

    September 25, 2012 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • BlueDolphin53

      Sorry, but the NFL did the right thing. You cannot overturn a game result after the fact based on a bad call. Just cannot do any sport. You just have to live with the result.

      September 25, 2012 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • mb

      I agree, the game should stay in the books as a loss for Green Bay. What I don't agree with is the NFL supporting the refs call stating their was no indisputible evidence to overturn the touchdown call. We have been dipsuting it all day. Does the NFL think its fans are morons?

      September 25, 2012 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
  14. BlueDolphin53

    The refs blew the pass interference call, but the interception/catch could have gone either way.

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

      Not a chance. That was an interception all the way. Jennings brought the ball to his chest.

      September 25, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • mb

      I agree, the game should stay in the books as a loss for Green Bay. What I don't agree with is the NFL supporting the refs call stating their was no indisputible evidence to overturn the touchdown call. We have been dipsuting it all day. Does the NFL think its fans are morons?

      September 25, 2012 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
  15. football fan

    1st off I have to agree with the comment made by Vad at September 25, 2012 at 4:19 pm " They lost an entire Superbowl because of it back in 2006. Those weren't even replacement refs." If anything was to be reversed it should be Superbowl XL. I agree that the game could have ended with the offensive pass interference by Tate. Regarding the catch....this is the NFL, you have to catch the bowl land on both feet while retaining possession. Thats what M.D. Jennings would have had to done for it to have been a clear INT. He did catch the ball first, as in having the ball in his hands but he was a yard in the air, not yet a catch when player is in midair. While M.D. Jennings was in the air it was not yet a catch, from what it looked like is Golden Tate started wrestling for possession while M.D. Jennings was still in the air, hence why the simltenous rule was called. Now I'm not saying that the ruling is 100% accurate, it did not look as if Jennings had both feet down when Tate also went for the ball; which means that there was no catch yet. So the debate should begin from when the the two players were fighting for the ball, if any part of Jennings was out of bounds during the struggle, did Jennings indeed land both feet inbounds whilst retaining full possession of the ball etc. This is just the opinion of a fan that was watching cause it was football. This is not a Seahawks fan, or person that had any stakes in the game. Even if your team isn't playing, if there is a good NFL game on I'll watch. I also utterly agree that we need better refs asap! The only thing that I am saying did happen are 1. Golden Tate committed offensive pass interference on Sam Shields, but these calls get missed a lot or refs, both pro and replacements, seem to bend the rules when its a end of game hailmary, but yes that was pass interference on Tate. 2. Get some better refs please.

    September 25, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
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