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. chef jeff l.

    I think Roger Goodell should be moved to tne top of the list for a testicular/spine transplant...maybe intestinal too then maybe he'd have the balls,spine and guts to make the hard calls and reverse the decision no matter what the owners who own him think or maybe his bookie.

    September 25, 2012 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
  2. reality check

    A missed offensive pass interference call is not reviewable. Game time.

    September 25, 2012 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
  3. peoplecomplainnomatterwhat

    I can't believe that someone got away with o-pass interference. That NEVER happened last year.

    September 25, 2012 at 6:03 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Claptrap

    What about the defensive pass interference call that was clearly on the offense?

    The entire game had bad calls, this was just the grand finale. What a joke.

    September 25, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Dan

    The NFL has lost all integrity.

    Over $100 million already lost because people are refusing to bet on the games.

    NFL owners receive $4.5 billion per year after the players cut is taken out and they are crying over $3.3 million to certified professional refs. Sorry, but Goodell and the owners make America sick. These are the same billionaire owners who raked taxpayers for over $5 billion in stadium referendums in the last decade.

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

    I am officially boycotting the NFL until this REF situation is fixed.

    September 25, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
  7. KeyserSoze

    "Packers Should have Won" – That is NOT what the NFL officials said. The dispute was about the TD call not the pass interference. You cannot go to court for a case and change it to another one during the trial. The TD was legal. Seahawks win.

    September 25, 2012 at 6:05 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Ron Edde

    Green Bay was robbed. Pass interference should have been called on Golden Tate, but the penalty was missed. The interception could have been called or becomes moot once one accepts the fact that the penalty would have ended the game. All of that said, I clearly recall Ed Hochuli, not a replacement ref, made an equally egregious error by incorrectly blowing a fumble dead that stole a game from San Diego and gave the win to Denver. This howling over the replacement refs is understandable, perhaps even predictable. However, the NFL should NOT cave to a union which is making ridiculous demands.

    September 25, 2012 at 6:06 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Andrew

    After further reviews, the runner did not touch second base, touchdown Celtics. -Refs

    September 25, 2012 at 6:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Copper


      September 25, 2012 at 6:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • mike hunt

      stolen from facebook, but still awesome!

      September 25, 2012 at 6:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • andy

      If this part of the article is true...

      "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. "

      There is no such thing as 'more control' in the rulebook.

      September 25, 2012 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Solar Energy Saves Lives

    This just proves union labor is far superior to non-union cheap labor.

    No wonder america has fallen by the wayside. As union membership declined, so has america 🙁

    September 25, 2012 at 6:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • TinKnight

      Uhm...yeah, no.

      See, the thing is, had the players' union not forced a lockout early on in the offseason to dramatically increase their power and potential income, the NFL wouldn't have had to cut margins for other employees (ie, the refs). And, had the refs' union realized that ALL NFL employees are having their pensions cut, and so it's only fair that they too be cut, then there wouldn't have been a lockout here.

      AND, this isn't about union employees being better than non-union employees, as these particular replacement refs are members of a DIFFERENT union, representing collegiate sports, for the most part.
      Also, this would be like taking a heart surgeon's role and giving it to first- and second-year med students...sure, they know the theory, but they have no idea how to handle the stress and consequences.
      They should have, if possible, brought in NCAA Div I refs, instead of NAIA refs and retired NCAA Div II refs.

      Fact is, this is pure and simply about greed on all parts, wanting to squeeze every last dollar either in favor of the businesses or the employees, and neglecting the customer altogether.

      September 25, 2012 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse |

      Unions are still around protecting the lazy.... that is in some places. I was in a union when I was young and all it did was create hardships for those of us who worked hard.. The company could not get rid of deadbeats and we were forced to take up their slack.

      September 25, 2012 at 6:35 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Flicker man

    Football fans like to have their emotions stirred. Interest is increased. Ratings improve and beer sales are up! Amateur hour takes over NFL. I prefer college football. Mediocrity not tolerated.

    September 25, 2012 at 6:17 pm | Report abuse |
  12. zmi zmi

    This %#@##*&** commissioner has to go. This is the same NFL that for years tried to cover up traumatic brain injuries!!

    September 25, 2012 at 6:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Drew

      Pretty sure it was the players and teams covering up brain injuries, not the commissioner. Roger Goodell is a great commissioner. If it wasn't for him, the NFLPU would take over, and things would go very wrong from there. Did you know in all other sports, a player is stuck with a team, and that team is stuck paying them, until the end of the contract, no matter what? In the NFL Commissioner Goodell has made it so if a player isn't performing, a team can get rid of him and pay him only a certain amount of his contract. That is a good thing... Just ask the Yankees, who have a lot of guys that aren't even playing, but still getting paid. Goodell has made the NFL a great sport to watch as fans. Maybe instead of blaming him, we should be blaming the refs, who already make millions, but are greedy and want more. That's where I place the blame.

      September 25, 2012 at 6:36 pm | Report abuse |
  13. coffeedude

    The call they missed was the miss call on pass interference that put the ball on the 20. They called DEFENSIVE interference two plays earlier on Green Bay when it was clear that it was Tate who was interfering. The hail mary pass was just the icing on a train wreck. AS FANS, WE NEED TO CAST OUR VOTE ON THE ISSUE BY TURNING THE TV OFF!!!!

    September 25, 2012 at 6:18 pm | Report abuse |
  14. JL

    Ok, I'm really starting to feel bad for the replacement refs. They've pretty much got the whole country angry with them. And it's not their fault, they're probably doing the best they can. Officiating is really hard, I know that I'm not cut out for it.

    September 25, 2012 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse |
  15. donklos

    The point of replay is "to get it right." Penalties are no different than any other call. Use it to get it right on penalties too. Tate's push was the real issue. Flag thrown. End of game. But noooooooo.

    September 25, 2012 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Drew

      Then replay would be used all the time, and the games would take 5 hours to be played. That's like instant replay for balls and strikes in baseball. It would be horrible for the game.

      September 25, 2012 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
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