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. Todd M

    Dear NFL, I refuse to watch anymore NFL games without the normal refs.
    Dear Refs, Can you NOT see how your union is embarrassing you? It's time to come back to work!

    September 25, 2012 at 1:40 am | Report abuse |
    • rightcall

      Totally agree! Don't know what all the details are about but I'm willing to guess that every NFL ref makes way more $$ than most of us here chatting on the topic. Now demanding more cash like whiny babies. Screw them.

      September 25, 2012 at 1:51 am | Report abuse |
  2. popcorn

    I though football season is over.... We saw the GIANTS beat the PATRIOTS.
    How come they bring back so quickly? It should be BASKETBALL OR HOCKEY OR BASEBALL SEAON rather than Football.


    September 25, 2012 at 1:41 am | Report abuse |
  3. SportsFan

    Of course, kindergarten students can officiate the game better than these refs.

    Though last touchdown came Seahawks way courtesy not one but two blown calls, GB's two scores had clear 3-and-outs out of the field goal range.

    Media makes a big deal only about the celebrated teams. There were terrible calls on both sides of the ball – so these refs have to go – but it is not that GB was plain robbed.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:41 am | Report abuse |
  4. zaeroc1009

    BS. End the madness.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:41 am | Report abuse |
  5. GoodellSUX

    Roger Goodell is the Mitt Romney of the NFL. A selfish, greedy pig.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:41 am | Report abuse |
  6. Steve M

    Packers won that game. The replacement refs are horrible and the game deciding call was the cherry on top of the sundae. I love how NFL owners can cry about officials wanting too much money or pensions. The NFL is nothing without fans and billionaires (NFL owners) are worried about how much their cut is. THE PACKERS WERE ROBBED by bad officiating. I think they were scared to cause a riot by changing the call after review of the replay.

    I'm a Detroit Lions fan so I would like to see packers lose but not like that. BOYCOTT THE NFL UNTIL THEY GET ED HOCKLEY and the professional refs back...

    September 25, 2012 at 1:42 am | Report abuse |
  7. Gangnam Style Chat app

    Didnt see Lebron calling out the refs when Phoneix got robbed a few years ago– then it came out that summer THOSE refs were in a gambling syndicate...REMEMBER THAT LEBRON?????????????????????????????

    September 25, 2012 at 1:42 am | Report abuse |
  8. getbobt

    omg... is was so NOT the right call... there were so many over the top bad calls in this one single game... if this does not do something to shake up the lock out, nothing will... I will not watch wrestling because the winners are decided by others and not the actual athletes... the NFL has lost its platinum image and dropped past gold and silver in a blink... it has become a tin plated bush league.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:42 am | Report abuse |
  9. NYCGUY123

    It was is simultaneous possession. Both players had the ball. Correct call.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Kayan

      You're just as ignorant as these refs if you really believe that. Hey...maybe you could become a replacement ref since you obviously qualify

      September 25, 2012 at 1:58 am | Report abuse |
  10. g

    The replacement refs are just guys looking to work. It is not their fault that the NFL is having negotiation problems with their regular refs. At least we have men who are willing to stand in and do their best to keep the league going.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:43 am | Report abuse |
  11. silentcount

    Goodell will put that Seahawk catch for a touchdown in with his evidence against the Saints. In case Green Bay thinks they got screwed, it could be alot worse.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:43 am | Report abuse |
  12. Jimmy

    At least we have the NHL season to look forward to….

    September 25, 2012 at 1:44 am | Report abuse |
  13. GtownDan

    Totally unacceptable officiating and a horrific call that a high school referee could have called correctly. The Packers, and entire NFL players association along with the team owners must demand the NFL resolve this labor dispute with the officials.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:44 am | Report abuse |
    • SportsFan

      Team owners?? Team owners are running the show. They are the ones saying who cares about the refs, people will still watch. Fans have to boycott and show them that NFL won't sustain a monopoly.

      September 25, 2012 at 1:50 am | Report abuse |
    • Allen W.

      SportsFan has a good point. We just need to stop watching to tell the greedy owners we disapprove. All the Romney types understand is money.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:09 am | Report abuse |
  14. FB Page Bring Back NFL Refs

    I AM BOYCOTTING THE NFL UNTIL THE REFS COME BACK !!! This is a joke.. Like my Facebook page- Bring Back the NFL Refs- DISGUSTED with it all

    September 25, 2012 at 1:45 am | Report abuse |
  15. Russell


    September 25, 2012 at 1:45 am | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87