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. Ed

    when the ref made the touchdown call, they both had their hands on the ball. i actually thought it was the right call, and i was routing for the packers... i took more exception to the phantom pass interference calls throughout the game...

    September 25, 2012 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
  2. dennis

    Jokes over, bring back the real game.

    September 25, 2012 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse |
  3. DavidW0909

    I don't really blame the real refs, the NFL wants them to be full-time but not pay them much but many of these guys are very successful and don't want to give up their jobs. The NFL needs to pony up, they can't cry poor on me. The MLB and NBA refs get paid very well and so should these refs. The Division 2 Refs just aren't capable of keeping up with the pace and rules of the NFL. This lock-out needs to end really quick or someone needs to start the process of firing Goodell period.

    September 25, 2012 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse |
  4. daveinla

    Two U.S. Marines died in Afghanistan this week. Does a football game really matter? The NFL? Over paid crybaby ego trips. I don't mind college ball, but pro's have made me sick now for years. I stopped supporting these people years ago.

    September 25, 2012 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Drew

      Then why take the time to read an article and post a comment. If you hate the game, don't read about it, don't post about it. Go away.

      September 25, 2012 at 6:40 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Hadenuffyet

    Professional sports players are overpaid to "play games". But I guess that goes for all "entertainment" personnel.

    September 25, 2012 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Drew

      And you reading an article about them, even if you don't watch the games, is one of the many reasons sports players get paid so much. Don't interact with pro sports if you don't like how much they get paid. You're just supporting them. I love the game, no matter how much the players get paid. The refs on the other hand.... They get paid enough, and need to stop crying about salary.

      September 25, 2012 at 6:43 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Bengyboy

    Obviously the ref's blew it, but having full time referee's never guarantees the right call....I recall the regular ref's blowing a coin toss (which caused the Steelers to lose); the New England/Raiders 'tuck rule' and there are probably many other, probaly not as profound calls that have haunted both regular/replacement refs. Life goes on.

    September 25, 2012 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Drew

      The Calvin Johnson catch that wasn't. I agree with you. I wish these replacement refs knew some of the rules better, but that play could have easily been officiated the same way with the regular refs.

      September 25, 2012 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
  7. PhilG

    I started watching the games again just to see just how bad the calls were.

    For me,though,the guys playing the game are paying the highest price.

    With in adequate survellance of trhe few players who will always go too far,numerous players are getting season ending injuries.

    This situation has already gone past the point of return for some of them.

    The game last night won't be the end of the NFL.

    But we the fans need to stop paying to go to the games,stop buying the merchandise to make the NFL owners get off their greedy axxes and get those seasoned professional referees back in the games.




    September 25, 2012 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Drew

      OMG you inspired me so much to stop watching the most popular sport in America. Please man. No one will boycott the game of football. Even people that say they will, will still be reading the articles on Monday morning.

      September 25, 2012 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
  8. BobZemko

    In the whole scheme of our daily lives, who cares?

    September 25, 2012 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • steve C

      thank you...

      a rare voice of reason...

      about time

      September 25, 2012 at 6:36 pm | Report abuse |
  9. midogs2

    Even Chicago Bear fans think this was a travesty.................................................

    September 25, 2012 at 6:34 pm | Report abuse |
  10. mike

    I don't know how the official got the call wrong during the review.
    He evidently was not well informed on the rules. He saw "shared possession" and awarded the play to the seahawks. I was just a guy in the crowd at a sports bar and I saw Jennings had two hands on the ball during the replay. Two refs ran to the spot and both waved off the touchdown meaning in their determination Jennings had the ball.

    This is certainly the most damaging and damning call I have ever been so unfortunate to witness. It really sours my enthusiasm for watching.

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

    How could the NFL say, there was no evidence to over turn the call, Tate never had possession. The NFL corp is an embarrassment to the game.

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

      Yes he did. Read the rules and watch the replay. The catch is legit. The push-off was the missed call. But, since that is never called for a hail mary, stop crying. There were bad calls all night, but you are only concerned with that one? ... Have some cheese with that whine.

      September 25, 2012 at 6:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • 2ndAmendmentBrianBrian

      What should really anger people is the presisent, who already holdsthe record for #2 in the amount of vacation taken in 4 years, has got his fat butt plopped in front of TV when we have men and women putting lives on the line. I don't know about anyone else, but I love football, but if I were in charge of American lives, I'd have a hard time sleeping, let along tweeting about the NFL right now. What about the USA? We have to make him a one timer!

      September 25, 2012 at 7:25 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Robert

    Oh well. This is the cost of being cheap and not paying your refs.

    September 25, 2012 at 6:40 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Pete/Ark

    Armchair quarterbacks playing at being referees-kinda the Romney/Ryan of the NFL...all opinion and no experience

    September 25, 2012 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Owen

      Thank goodness you found a way to bring politics into a nfl call

      September 25, 2012 at 6:53 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Caz

    Perhaps the fans should let the league and the owners know that we will NOT tolerate it. By staging a lockout of our own. Do not attend ANY games until the real refs return to action.

    September 25, 2012 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • LJ

      Real good idea but I doubt it will ever happen.

      September 25, 2012 at 6:51 pm | Report abuse |
  15. erik

    There were so many bad calls in the Monday Night Game that either team could have won with better officiating. It still doesn't make up for the blown Superbowl in 2006.

    September 25, 2012 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
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