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. Roberta Lasinski

    My opinion is that the Packers won that game. I love football but since the NFL can not make an agreement . We the fans should not go to a game or watch tv one monday night. and see how the NFL would would feel about that. We did to lower gas prices and smoke out day. Its about time the fans start fighting for our teams

    September 25, 2012 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
  2. 7nationals

    OK Will the Boys in Vegas take up a Collection and provide these poor Billionaires who own the teams and are responsible for this mess with a Few Bucks to pay the Officials their pension. I gotta admit, the Officials are just as much to blame as the Owners. Nobody on the Planet who works 16 – 20 days a year deserves to get paid a pension out of the deal. They tell RR workers to go back to work while the contract is in negotiation, Why not the Refs ?

    September 25, 2012 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
  3. more2bits

    The NFL is now officially the 'National Farce League'.

    September 25, 2012 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
  4. bobby

    How can anybody agree with that call? they need to take the win off the seattle seahawks! they lost and face it AND MAN UP! Just MAN UP!!!!!!!!

    September 25, 2012 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • kurast

      While I agree the officiating is terrible, and I (a fairweather Seahawks fan because my god are they a terrible home team to root for) think that, if the League could reverse the call, they should. I just have to disagree. It's widely accepted by most everyone but Steelers fans that they called a touchdown that wasn't that sealed the Steelers-Seahawks Super Bowl. Reverse that call, let the Steelers "man up", and I too shall "man up."

      September 25, 2012 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
  5. M. Hohn

    It is nuts to think they should change the game outcome. I mean regular refs HAVE made mistake which have cost a team a game and it will happen again when they come back. Or we going to change the outcome EVERY time it happens. And YES IT HAS AND will happen again with the regular refs. Do you really want to start changing results after the fact?

    September 25, 2012 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
  6. football fan

    Enough is enough. The bottomline is the NFL is not providing the product that the fans, advertisers and networks have paid for. Everyone should demand a refund and stay home on Sunday, play football with friends, family and neighbors. I bet the lockout will be over by Monday.

    September 25, 2012 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Duane Allen

    This is curiously funny. In the BIGGER picture of things and what's truly important in life, its a telling commentary on current day America that there is such a hubbub and so much angst over a blown officiating call... especially in a game between the Packers and the Seahawks! It happens every day in every sport from little league to the majors... fact is nobody died; is that really worthy of so much controversy? We have citizens dying in poverty, elderly who get bilked, unwanted children living in abusive homes and no one seems to care so much about those outrages as the outrage expressed over a missed call.

    September 25, 2012 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
  8. EJ

    Had Golden Taylor been called for pass interference as he should have the game would have been over without controversey. Instead he is called the big player maker, of course at no fault of his. I assume such a play at the end of a game is not reviewable by the box so that the box does not end upp determining the outcome of a game but in this case it may have worked out best....great defensive game – terrible way it ended.

    September 25, 2012 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Ed G.

    How many times did Gruden say that offensive interference is virtually never called on a last play Hail Mary? Enough times that we should be able to say that real NFL refs would have let that one pass as well, that's how many. After that, every replay I saw shows Tate hitting the ground first and then landing flat on his back with Jennings landing on top of him and rolling to his left (Jennings feet hit the ground last). At that split second, it seams to me that Tate had two hands on the ball. The pass is not complete until the receiver touches the ground, And Tate hit first. The play is over at that very moment. It doesn't matter who grabbed it first, which WAS Jennings, but Jennings was still in the air when the catch was actually finished.

    September 25, 2012 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
  10. caesarbc

    I stand for replacement fans.

    September 25, 2012 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
  11. suhweet

    No doubt it was a questionable call. OK, bad call. Seen that before, even with the old refs. So, boohoohoo.
    Everyone got paid and nobody died, sheeeeesh!!! Look around people there are more important things going on than professional sports.

    September 25, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
  12. JohnW

    So now let's talk about the blown calls that kept the Packer touchdown drive alive. Maybe they shouldn't have won after all.

    September 25, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
  13. davecu

    Where does a New Jersey Senator find the stones to step into a labor despite?
    None of your concern, senator.
    It's between labor and management, stand down and do your REAL job.

    BTW, last time I'M going to stay up late to watch a fiasco.

    September 25, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • TimBa

      Yeah. Almost as silly as an elected official travelling to Europe to pitch Chicago as an Olympics venue.

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

    I'm done watching this sport!

    September 25, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Aubrie

    Basically stealing from the players... Not the win..... MONEY.... Winning a game puts them in the running for the playoffs and the superbowl... They don't place due to this, they are out MAJOR dough... It's not just the integrity of the game that's at stake here....

    September 25, 2012 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
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