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. Observer974

    Well, Oregon should have won the college National Championship two years ago on a play that everyone heard blown dead, but the officials allowed to the downed running to get uo and continue anyways. These tings happen....

    September 25, 2012 at 7:47 pm | Report abuse |
  2. A

    I'm from WI and am ready to tear my hair out. It's a game. Things happen in games that aren't always fair. Sometimes people have bad days and sometimes they have good days. Nobody complains when the wrong call is in their favor. I'm sure the Packers have been on the beneficial end of a few bad calls.

    September 25, 2012 at 7:48 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Ryan

    It's just a game everyone...I love football, but in the grand scheme of things....who friggen cares?!

    September 25, 2012 at 7:51 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Williestyle

    TERRIBLE HEADLINE, the NFL did not say "The Packers Should Have Won" they said the Touchdown DID count and Tate's PI should have been called. And it should have. But Seattle got bad, game-changing calls as well. If Kam Chancellor hadn't had that BS PI called on him, the Packers would have had to punt on 4th down – when in reality they got an undeserved 1st down and eventually scored. Bad calls on BOTH sides, the one that gets the headlines just happened to happen with only 7 seconds left in the game.

    September 25, 2012 at 7:52 pm | Report abuse |
  5. H

    Awful call

    September 25, 2012 at 7:54 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Whatabout?

    Everyone seems to be forgetting about the awful PI call and at least 4 missed holding calls that led to the Packers' two last scoring drives. Where's the outrage over letting the Pack score because of blown calls? Oh right, they're the Packers, they were supposed to win.
    Yes, that was probably Offensive PI by Tate, but it was a missed, blown call just like the other awful calls during the Packers' drive before that. Nobody can really believe the Packers' O-line got magically better in the 2nd half to cut the sacks down from 8 to 0 can they?

    September 25, 2012 at 7:55 pm | Report abuse |
  7. olvera32066

    I love it !!! it's fantastic !! packers lose, it's a win for many of us. the greedy no fun league loses, awesome!! another example of the wrongs in america.......but very funny....ha ha ha ..

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

      You are what's wrong with America

      September 25, 2012 at 7:59 pm | Report abuse |
  8. tucsnad

    Its still in the same season why can't they reverse the decision?

    September 25, 2012 at 7:57 pm | Report abuse |
  9. tucsnad

    That's why we use this technology to let us know when we screwed up isn't it?

    September 25, 2012 at 7:58 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Mork

    Then why don't they give GB the win?

    September 25, 2012 at 7:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mork

      Or at least have a rematch / grudgematch

      September 25, 2012 at 8:00 pm | Report abuse |
  11. CK

    I wonder how much of this media frenzy would be happening if it was the Packers who caught the ball to win??? I have a feeling it wouldnt be anywhere near this. they would just say "atta boy" and played the catch on sportscenter top 10 for the next 3 months.

    September 25, 2012 at 8:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ryan

      The Packers did catch the ball. That's the whole problem!

      September 25, 2012 at 8:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • CK

      @Ryan- I know but I'm just saying what if it was the other way around? if seattle lost because of this same thing I jsut dont think they would even look at it twice.

      September 25, 2012 at 8:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Just another football fan

      that is what it should be, nothing special. it should not be anything special that Jennings caught the ball. but the refs had to go out and make it about them instead

      September 25, 2012 at 8:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • kobrakai7474

      Puh-lease. I had no vested interest in that particular game. I don't care about either team and, heck, I didn't even have a player on my fantasy team playing. It was just a bad call. The ball was clearly intercepted and possessed by Jennings. Golden Tate did the best that he could and he deserves credit for not quitting on the play but, if he was truly honest about it, he would freely admit that he didn't come anywhere close to possessing that ball.

      September 25, 2012 at 8:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • CK too

      I disagree. There would be equal outrage as the refs have missed many more calls compared to the regular refs.As for the "win" no objective person can argue the ball wasn't intercepted. Carroll knows this as do the Hawks fans and the whole country. For the ref that made the call, he probably needs to go back to Footlocker.

      September 25, 2012 at 8:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • honest abe

      I hate people that can find justification to an OBVIOUS wrong doing. How do they justify it in Washington? Oh yea, "the refs missed calls against the seahawks too"... PATHETIC! Must be that seasonal-weather disorder! And i'm not a Packers fan (hate them too).

      September 25, 2012 at 8:53 pm | Report abuse |
  12. lauriebee61

    I remember another questionable call when the Seahawks were playing in the superbowl. It was my feeling back then that Seattle got the shaft and where was the outrage? That being said, it is time another team got the short end of the stick and not Seattle. Go Seahawks!

    September 25, 2012 at 8:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • kobrakai7474

      There is a substantial difference between a "questionable" call and a downright blown call. This was a blown call made by a guy who, while doing his best, was in a situation he was not properly trained for.

      September 25, 2012 at 8:36 pm | Report abuse |
  13. drbob66

    Who cares? It's a game, it's not real life.

    September 25, 2012 at 8:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • shawn l

      Uh. It's a game in real life.

      September 25, 2012 at 8:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bobby Geeter

      IT'S NOT JUST A GAME!!! It's much more than that... 🙂

      September 25, 2012 at 8:20 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Buster

    I hear that Obama wants to hire these refs to make sure there is no cheating at the polls. Look the other way when ilegals and dead people vote, and stop anybody that looks conservative....

    September 25, 2012 at 8:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Buster Is An Idiot

      Really? You are stupid enough to go there? Take a gun to your head and do the world a favor.

      September 25, 2012 at 8:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • joe

      Ha. Ha.

      September 25, 2012 at 8:20 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Hillcrester

    The NFL should have just canceled the season, like the NHL. These games are a joke.

    How about no walk-up ticket sales until the professional-grade zebras return!

    September 25, 2012 at 8:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • kobrakai7474

      The only problem with that is that most cities have NO walk up ticket sales. Most NFL teams are sold out for months if not years in advance. The NFL knows this and knows their money will keep on flowing with no end in sight no matter who officiates the games.

      September 25, 2012 at 8:38 pm | Report abuse |
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