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. iammeyouareyou

    Grow up people !! Professional sports are ridiculous. Grown men playing childs games. Grown men watching TV for hours and then watching the TV shows about it and then gabbing like 11 year-old girls endlessly about the games for days and years to come. Memorizing stats from decades ago to argue about that too. Years of peoples lives are lost on arguing about idioitc sports games. Untold work hours of productivity are lost each year to sports talk, radio listening and TV watching. Grow up and act like adults. Go play sports on the weekends with your kids. They are kids games. Then shut up and go to work. This country is full of child-like grown men. Frightening.

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

      I think perhaps that you might need a nap or a lay?

      September 25, 2012 at 7:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • joebob

      so to show youre better, you complain about grown men complaining about grown men who play children's games?

      do you have any hobbies?

      has your right hand not been good to you, or are you just all out of lube?

      considering there is a great amount of money pumped around in this INDUSTRY, i would think it's perfectly normal for people to be upset, and rightfully so. greed from the owners has put the game in this predicament. if they could stand to share a bit more, they may get the kind of talent to make the right call.

      have fun in mom's basement

      September 25, 2012 at 7:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paul

      Talk about acting like a child. Quit your complaining, live and let live.

      September 25, 2012 at 7:34 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Shuksan

    Laughable that the mistake they admit to is the one that can be overturned.

    September 25, 2012 at 7:20 pm | Report abuse |
  3. brian

    Enough, cancel the rest of the season, maybe next year everyone can agree

    September 25, 2012 at 7:21 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Maty

    People pay big money for game tickets and cable TV packages, and invest time and passion for the fandom of this sport. Rectify this quickly, Goodell and company!

    September 25, 2012 at 7:24 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Football FAN

    It is true that the officiating in this game was horrible. But come on, look at the whole game not just the final play. When the Packer's were driving for their touchdown on 3rd and long a horrible pass interference call was made on Kam Chancellor. There was clearly no pass interference. It was a very clean, nice defensive play. But the flag was thrown which kept the drive alive. Had the incorrect call not been made the Packer's would have punted the ball and the Seahawks would have had the lead and possession of the ball late in the game. With the great defense that Seattle was playing it would not be unreasonable to assume that the Packer's would not have scored again. Plus, the Seahawks could have scored making it a two possession game.

    I'm not a Seahawks fan, I'm a football fan. And hearing all the whining about Green Bay getting hosed on the game because of the last play of the game is nauseating. Seattle played a better game and deserved to win despite the terrible call at the end of the game. Packer fans should get over it and hope that their team plays better agains the Saints this week.

    And a note to all future Seattle opponents, watch out. Those guys look legit.

    September 25, 2012 at 7:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Also a Football Fan

      THANK YOU Football Fan for putting some perspective on this situation. I absolutely agree that the worst call of the night was the PI on Cam Chancellor. At the time I told my wife "that's the ball game". On the other hand, the roughing the passer call on GB was also a little iffy. Anyway, thanks for pointing out that this game wasn't really all about the last play. The Seahawks defense has been unbelievable for the last two games.

      September 25, 2012 at 9:08 pm | Report abuse |
  6. frederick browne

    I thank they make it a tie and know one wins or looses

    September 25, 2012 at 7:29 pm | Report abuse |
  7. MrHighMighty

    Replacement refs are a blessing in disguise. The regular refs blow calls and affect game outcomes too. With replacement refs, there are more blown calls, but that just makes it more likely that all the bad calls will even out during the game and during the season. Simple mathematics, the greater the number, the greater the chances of splitting up the number close to evenly.

    September 25, 2012 at 7:33 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Vince Foley

    As long as we're talking penalties, what about the PI that extended the Packers drive to give them their 12th point? That was clearly not an interference on 3rd and long. All Seattle "would have" needed to win was a field goal, not a touchdown. Bad refs affect the "entire" game, not just the last play. The Seahawks "beat up" the Packers all night long.

    September 25, 2012 at 7:34 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Lovethereplacementrefs

    Of the 20 worst officiated games in the last 10 years, not one has happened this years.

    The sniveling from these children doesn't make the refs look bad. It makes the snivelers look bad.

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

      ever think the aid of instant replay/review has aided in the quality of refereeing and that youre not really comparing apples to apples.

      they had every vantage point to look at and still made the wrong call. i have no allegiance to either team, but i find it pathetic how the owners are not willing to part with some of their money that would sit around anyway to pay the real refs what they deserve.

      but please, enlighten me as to what the "20 worst calls in the last 10 years" actually are.

      September 25, 2012 at 7:44 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Bart

    Whether it's autoworkers, teachers, bus drivers or NFL refs when you replace experienced unionized workers with 1/2 price scabs you get job performances like this.

    The NFL is making BILLIONS and wants to eliminate the referee's pensions. It is pathetic and just one example of the same activity going on all over America. Incredibly rich and profitable companies trying to squeeze more from their employees. The real refs are obviously worth what they are asking, even anti-union politicians are agreeing. I hope they hold out until the NFL gives them every penny they deserve.

    September 25, 2012 at 7:38 pm | Report abuse |
  11. dalethaltongue

    With these officials...

    The Chicago Bulls will win the SuperBowl...

    September 25, 2012 at 7:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Po the Panda(From Kung Fu Panda)

      silly,the Chicago Bulls are a Proffesional Basketbal team

      NOT foorball

      September 25, 2012 at 7:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • dalethaltongue

      You don't get sarcasm do you?
      I've heard of people like you...
      I thought you were a myth...

      September 25, 2012 at 7:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sasquatch

      Pretty sure that was the point, Po

      September 25, 2012 at 7:58 pm | Report abuse |
  12. 2001 suzuki intruder 1400

    They should shut the whole thing down, football sux now adays anyway. Nothing but a bunch of cry baby over paid players and reffs.

    September 25, 2012 at 7:40 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Paul K

    Not a blown call Green bay picked the ball but never controlled it suck it up fools

    September 25, 2012 at 7:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe N




      September 25, 2012 at 7:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Buster

      yeah, really....Tate came off the ground with the ball in his hands.

      September 25, 2012 at 7:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • packer piledriver

      gutsy stance paul, you must be a real good decision maker.

      September 25, 2012 at 7:59 pm | Report abuse |
  14. GetReal


    September 25, 2012 at 7:45 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Jim

    With that statement from the NFL, it is saying it does not care about the integrity of the game. It is saying it does not care about the fans. It is putting .0011 percent of the money they got from the networks ahead game. Incompetent number 26 blew another call earlier with Tate malling the GB player. He was standing at the goal line looking right at Tate when he pushed the GB player. That ref is either incompetent or was paid off as he was in no position to call that a touchdown.

    September 25, 2012 at 7:46 pm | Report abuse |
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