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. Name*Gi Bill

    Looks like Roger Goodell is gonna go down with the ship !!!! If the man was smart and truly cared about the integrity of the game, he would Suspend the rest of the NFL football season until the Ref. Strike / Lockout is over !!!!!

    September 25, 2012 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Bubba

    The NFL owners don't care and won't care until their $ income is hurt – quit buying their logo wear and tuning in to their games. Next Sunday go golfing or watch the Ryder Cup (and Ryder Cup re-runs at night).

    September 25, 2012 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Bears Fan of Revenge!

    Well Well Green Bay and Fans,
    As a Bears Fan seeing this crap since Brett Favre Joined the team, and the Packers became the go-to darlings of the NFL for the last 18 years+:
    Welcome to the world of having the Ref's decide your outcome, NOT your team's play on the field.
    No Team and and it's cry baby fans deserve it more...

    what goes around, comes around booooyaaaaaa!!!!!!

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

      So, instead of looking objectively at the situation, the only thing you see is that it helps your psychotic self indulgence. What a wonderfully valid point.....moron

      September 25, 2012 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
  4. mjgranger

    Packers guard T.J. Lang almost had the solution when he said the league could fine him and then give the money to hire the regular officials. How about the Players Association giving up a percentage of their pay for a referee's kitty? Eh? From the fan's perspective this is good drama, the NFL has never had higher ratings (which is also good for owners, the biggest monetary interest party in all of this). If the players are so concerned with their own safety, then they should either pony up some dollars or stop committing dangerous fouls on each other. Kind of like a bank robber blaming the the beat cop for letting him commit the crime. "We can't control ourselves, so settle with the regular officials and let them take your shirts, Owners!" If the players had a percentage of their salaries invested in the outcome of the officials contract negotiations, would they play nicer in the sand box? Would they side with the owners? Would the referees get a better deal?

    September 25, 2012 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
  5. mike

    I only wish there was this much outrage over our embassies being attacked, our people killed, and our flag taken down and burned. I don't know the issues between the NFL and the 'regular' referee's. I assume most of the poeple commenting also do not know. But, they are ready to give them anything to return. Not me.

    September 25, 2012 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
  6. cogs38

    I don't think anyone can claim victory in this game that was one of the hardest fought defensive battles i have seen in awhile they just ran out of time I would have loved to see another quarter in this game Sacked to death in the first half
    and Rodgers still came back Seattle never gave up 60 minutes of kick but football I am just going to forget the end and savor the rest

    September 25, 2012 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
  7. veder

    Roger Goddell was so worried about the bounty gate because of player safety. Where is he now with these replacement refs? Did he all of a sudden forget about player safety. In my opinion, he shoud be the first to get booted from the NFL. I say let's replace him ASAP!!!!

    September 25, 2012 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
  8. mike

    this is not worthy of being on the front page of a news site

    September 25, 2012 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Nomad

    This statement by the league is totally irresponsible. Unless of course they watched film of the entire game and made this decicion based on "ALL" missed calls. The real problem with these refd isn't missed calls. Regular refs miss calls. The real problem is that these refs are letting the game get away from their control. They are really intimidated by these players. That should be the true cause for alarm.

    September 25, 2012 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Ron

    I'm not seeing why the NFL doesn't overturn the game? I *hate* the Packers and wanted them to lose.... but I wanted them to lose because they actually lost... not have the game taken from them...

    NFL execs treating the fans like idiots....

    September 25, 2012 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Paul J

    Regardless of who you supported last night, clearly Jennings had possession of the ball, Tate only had one hand touching the ball, so lets look at every other touch down that a defensive player and offensive player have hands on the ball... In retrospect, all an offensive player needs to do is make sure he has a hand touching the ball regardless if he is holding it or not to score a touchdown following an end zone interception... Would this be a correct assumption ?

    September 25, 2012 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • johndanger

      Offensive pass interference on Tate before the ball arrived. End of game. Period.

      September 25, 2012 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Mike

    GET OVER IT ! If the tables were turned Packers Fans as well as the media wouldn't give this call a second look. Point being ....Super Bowl XL....Seattle clearly won that game, Bad calls throughout the WHOLE game robbed Seattle of a Super Bowl win....this is a FACT., BUT, it was the Steelers and Seattle was a long shot to win. So, nobody except for the people of Seattle and Seahawks Fans gave a rats ass including the media. I am not a Seattle fan, but, Bad calls happen often.....But, when it comes to uproar about a "bad call" it depends on the popularity of a team and how biased the media as well as the team that got the dirty end of the stick. Go get some tissue, wipe your teary eyes and move on....Seattle Won That Game...whiners

    September 25, 2012 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • mb

      For me, it's not about who won the game. It's about the NFL's decision take a dump on their own sheild and have the arrogance to ignore the stench.

      September 25, 2012 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • KB

      I'm a LIFELONG Seahawk, and I am embarassed and ashamed by that play – I would rather we got the loss for that rather than get credited for such a bad win on blown calls!! BLATANT offensive pass interference, and no the Seattle receiver did NOT have possession at any point – Jennings got control of the passs, both arms on it, Tate got one hand wedged in between Jennings and the ball – that doesn't count as first control or simultaneous possession. I'm not going to crucify the replacement refs – they are trying hard to call these games but just don't have the training or experience to officiate at this level. Shame on the NFL for dragging this on – work out a compromise and GET THIS SEASON ON TRACK!

      September 25, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
  13. NorCalMojo

    Quit whining. You sound like a bunch of soccer fans. Bad calls are part of any sport.

    September 25, 2012 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Ida Shotem

    Those Refs are BULL Shigitty, Fine Me!!! I hope the don't Ref the Thursday Nite game.....

    September 25, 2012 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
  15. mb

    have lost all respect for the NFL. What a bunch of arrogant punks to think we will accept their decision to support the refs call that there was not enough evidence to overturn the TD. There are multiple camera angles showing Jennings clearly had possession of the ball. They have made a mockery of themselves and fans. Reinstating the old refs will not fix this. The NFL has just defecated on their own shield.

    September 25, 2012 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
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