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. Verne

    GB Packers intercepted the ball, they should've won. The refs made the wrong call. Maybe it's a conspiracy, the ref was paid? hmmm....

    September 25, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Joe B., Seahawks Fan

    What makes you think the result would have been different with the real referrees? We got jobbed repeatedly in a Super Bowl XL by a supposedly elite crew. Does anyone remember the illegal block called on QB Matt Hasselbeck when he was making a tackle? Or the phantom holding call which proceeded it? Watching the game last night felt just like old times.

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

    Take this to court, because the nfl does not care. Have this seattle debacle reversed. before Sunday

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

    It's just a game not that important. This country puts in much emphasize on sports & entertainment, that's why we are starting to fall behind many other countries.

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

    8 sacks.....the Seahawks defense is why the Packers lost this game. Look at Tate's left hand on the was behind the ball between the defender's chest and the ball all the way to the ground....looks like a simutaneous catch to me.

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

      Sad thing is your D was good but so was the Pack to have really only given up 7 points all night until, the biggest push in the back was missed and then all the photos' released today of Jennings having two hands and control of the ball! Love how Seattle fans try to defend this horrible call, if it was the other way, you guys would have a fit! By the way I am from FL so I ain't no GB Fan, But your team should have lost, time to man-up!

      September 25, 2012 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
  6. semper fi

    Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is making more sense than the NF is at this point.

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

    There were three egregious errors made by the referees in the final minutes of the game. First, unnecessary roughness when the Packers were called for tackling the Seahawks quarterback, even though the Packer defender had gone airborn just before the Seattle quarterback threw the ball. Second, Tate wrapped himself around the Packer defensive back, almost hugging him and the Packer defender was called for pass interference – a truly strange ruling. Finally, the travesty in the end zone, where BOTH

    September 25, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
  8. nadinesh

    Personally I think it was a bad idea for the NFL to announce that the call was wrong - oops, but the score counts anyway. What were they thinking? Now the Pack will miss the playoffs by one win and their fans (with reason!!) will be crying bloody murder about how they wuz robbed until the middle of the twenty-first century. NFL: Just.....shut.....up. It is what it is. Don't make it worse.

    September 25, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
  9. semper fi

    Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is making more sense than the NFL is at this point.

    September 25, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
  10. JP122112

    I think it's funny since my friend is such a big Cheesehead! I'm glad they lost! Go Bears!

    September 25, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
  11. DUBBYA

    Who cares? This is a game people. Just a game.

    September 25, 2012 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • mb

      A multi-billion dollar game, so a lot of people. You are dumb.

      September 25, 2012 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • JT

      It's a billion dollar business for the owners and others involved, what do you get? If nothing than you are an idiot for worrying so much about it.

      September 25, 2012 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • washingtonrob1

      I agree but for different reasons. I just dont care because i am a seattle fan and ii'm happy to take the win. Seattle has been screwed out of plenty of games on bad calls. esp sb xl. that was a joke. As for MB, its not really that cool to call somebody dumb for having an opinion that is different than yours. His opinion is ok and your opinion is ok. Lets not be childish.

      September 25, 2012 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • tuffboy

      Right...multi-billion dollar game. Talk about a waste of money.

      September 25, 2012 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • mb

      I didn't say I care. There are obviously a lot of people that do or we wouldn't be having this discussion. I just don't like the generic "Who Cares" and "Why is this News" statements is all.

      September 25, 2012 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • johndanger

      If the league had a pair, they would overturn the outcome and give the game to GB. There were THREE bad calls on that final drive that gave Seattle the game. Ugly. I just hope that this game doesn't effect either team's playoff situation, but I'm afraid it will. And I'm a Seattle fan.

      September 25, 2012 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
  12. washingtonrob1

    What about the bad p/i call on the seahawks that resulted in a greenbay TD. they got 1st down and 15 yards on a drive that was going nowhere for them. had that not happened the score would be 7-6 seattle and the last call of the game would not have mattered. what say you on that?

    September 25, 2012 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • mb

      If Seattle would have scored, there would be no way to determine the outcome because a change in a single play could present an infinite amount of outcomes. Every seen the movie The Butterfly Effect?

      September 25, 2012 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
  13. JT

    To all the Packer fans that are upset, get a life. If your team wins 10 Superbowls in a row none of you are better for it you are still working 40 hours a week trying to pay the mortage or rent. Spend your time doing something more productive than complain about the ref's

    September 25, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • FAIL

      Says the idiot complaining about people complaining.

      September 25, 2012 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • johndanger

      You are obviously not a fan, JT, which is fine. But why are you on this board?

      September 25, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Rick

    This crap with refs has cost many teams in the past for having their heads up their ass. The same kind of play and call at the end of the game cost the Colts the trip to the Super Bowel playing the steelers in the Chapion ship game. Now thats a huge lose and mistake there. So its not a first nor will it be the last. You live with it. I was a Colts fan in that one.It hurt bad knowing they actually won.

    September 25, 2012 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Nobama

    It is what it is & all the crying & commenting in the world will not overturn it. Stop wasting your time on something you can't fix & get on with your lives!

    September 25, 2012 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • BBK

      nobama..get a life...packer fans are passionate about their team and football...whats the problem? posting drivel on a site for people to vent on...not whine like you

      September 25, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
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