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. DVD

    This is just a FOOTBALL game people. Save the outrage for something that really matters in this world. And why in the world to officials need a union?

    September 25, 2012 at 7:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Draeggo

      Just a football game? Get serious. Do you have any idea of the crime and mayhem that would go on if we didn't have football and other sports to keep people busy????

      September 25, 2012 at 7:17 pm | Report abuse |
  2. rad666

    Refs are like police. If people were honest, there would be no need for them.

    September 25, 2012 at 7:03 pm | Report abuse |
  3. scranton

    Packers won, Seahawks lost. Rectify this NFL.

    September 25, 2012 at 7:03 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Crop1981

    Its only and DAMN GAME!!! What's the big deal???

    September 25, 2012 at 7:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • anjum

      its a game, yes, but its also one of the biggest businesses in america, not to mention the pride, atention, and entertainment provided to millions of people.

      September 25, 2012 at 7:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Crop1981

      anjum, Its still just a DAMN GAME!! It doesn't produce anything to really be proud of or contribute to society in any meaningful way.

      September 25, 2012 at 9:14 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Po the Panda(From Kung Fu Panda)

    Who cares.Football is stupid.

    There are bigger things,like billinair crooks,and the military,then worrying about a stupid game that my little brother and his friends play

    September 25, 2012 at 7:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • anjum

      the football your little brother and his friends is just as similar to the NFL as the cap guns they shoot are to war.

      September 25, 2012 at 7:24 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Josh

    I'm done watching NFL football. Unless the league miraculously decides to give the game to Green Bay, which I absolutely don't anticipate happening, most notably because the author specifically mentions that fact in the article. But here goes another loyal fan (Packers fan, of course) riding off into the sunset. Guess I'll have to pick up skiing or something for this winter...

    September 25, 2012 at 7:08 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Martyr2

    People have to realize that if the Packers had actually played a good game it wouldn't even have come down to this. They got sacked 8 times and now lead the NFL in being sacked the most. Then of course you have Aaron Rodgers throwing passes to no where. I think people are just shocked that the Packers have fallen so far that they have gotten beat by Seattle. Well I tell you something, Seattle is not that bad of a team. We are not talking about the Cleveland browns or something. They did go to the Superbowl a few years ago. It is ok Packers, if your team is as good as you all say they are, they will still come out with an awesome record and go to the big game.

    September 25, 2012 at 7:10 pm | Report abuse |
  8. 2MassEffect

    The Packers lost the game for 2 reason only, and none of which are the refs. McCarthy's poor 1st half play calling, and Aaron Rodgers willingly taking 8 sacks in the 1st half. The Packers had 4 full quarters to win this game just like the Seahawks, and they blew it. The GREEDY UNION refs make these bogus calls all the time, yet they don't get half the crying we're seeing today, WHY? Must be a UNION thang......

    September 25, 2012 at 7:11 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Blaine

    Umm, it's a figure of speech. Has nothing to do with what game he was talking about. Try and find something useful to complain about. A few examples would be unemployment, the economy, the Middle East crisis. Now those are things to argue about not an announcers comment.

    September 25, 2012 at 7:16 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Rufus

    So it was a blown call. Even the "regular" refs have done that. It happens.

    September 25, 2012 at 7:16 pm | Report abuse |
  11. r rega is passed time to settle with the regular refs...we fans have had to endure a terrible 3 weeks of bad calls.

    September 25, 2012 at 7:16 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Woody

    Every Touchdown is reviewed and if a penalty that would invalidate said touchdown is discovered in said review the touchdown can be invalidated. For example, a run along the sideline may be called a touchdown, but, if on review, it is verifiable that the player stepped out of bounds the touchdown would be nullified and teh LOS whould be at the point the player stepped out of bounds.

    September 25, 2012 at 7:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Zorn

      Nice to see a blown call go the Sea Hawks way. As much as I want the regular refs back, it was some of those same refs who blew key calls that cost Seattle a Super Bowl!!!

      September 25, 2012 at 7:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • karson west

      Can you explain to me how the refs are responsible for the players safety? Missed calls have nothing to do with player safety. Just explain exactly how the missed call caused a safety issue with the involved players?

      September 25, 2012 at 7:43 pm | Report abuse |
  13. gmenfan54

    Don't blame the temp refs. They are doing the best they can with limited training they have.

    September 25, 2012 at 7:19 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Tim S.

    I don't know what's worse, the fact that the refs made such bad calls throughout the game or the fact that the commissioner doesn't care. Not overturning the decision of this game takes all credibility away from the sport.

    September 25, 2012 at 7:20 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Zack Jonson

    Pete Carroll cheated at USC and he still cheats. Anything that gets him a win is fine with him. It was not a simultaneous catch. We all know that. Tate only had one hand on the ball, Jennigs had both hands on it and pulled to his chest. Okay, so the refs blew it. Pete Carroll ought to own up to the bad call and say something like, "That's not the way we want to win." But no, he calls it a good call.

    September 25, 2012 at 7:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Craig

      How did anyone cheat...Coach Carroll wasn't even on the field? Don't blame the Seahawks coaches, players or fans...this was admittedly a bad call but the blame is on the NFL for allowing this situation to progress to the point where the officials are swaying the outcome of the ballgames.

      September 25, 2012 at 7:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Vince Foley

      Zack, watch the replays, "all" of them. One shows Tate's left hand "stopping" the ball in Jenning's chest so Jennings has a chance to put both hands on the ball. Tate's right hand does come in contact with the ball prior to both players making contact with the ground....possession (simultaneously) means, Seattle wins. However, the "missed" PI negates any further outcomes.

      September 25, 2012 at 7:39 pm | Report abuse |
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