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. determinant

    Who cares? Why is this even news. Don't we have more important things to worry about in this country besides a game of football. When you have people starving and the economy tanking I think we do. As for anybody who bets on these games if you are dumb enough to risk their money on something that they have no control over you deserve what you get. If you bet when you know their is a chance of a bad call by a replacement referee then I really don't know what to tell you.

    September 25, 2012 at 8:45 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Brian

    It ain't going to matter, because the Packers suck, and aren't going to the post season anyway. SEE YA BRO

    September 25, 2012 at 8:45 pm | Report abuse |
  3. StoptheBooHoo

    The disputed call was the TD not the interference. The referees got the TD call RIGHT. It was a tie catch and goes to the offense. The review confirmed the TD, move on!

    September 25, 2012 at 8:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rita


      It was not a simultaneous catch. Jennings clearly caught the ball. Tate barely had a hand on it until he wrestled it away under the pile.

      September 25, 2012 at 8:55 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Dot8

    It's time to put these games on hold.

    September 25, 2012 at 8:47 pm | Report abuse |
  5. David

    The only way to force the NFL to end this is to not tune in this week. If nobody watches on TV, ratings go way down, advertisers review what they're paying for ads to run that no one watches. Hit them in the pocketbook. Besides the blown call, there are safety issues for the players that are being ignored by the League. I don't blame the replacement officials. They're like a passenger on a plane who's forced to land the plane when the pilot knocked out. The plane will usually get down with some help but it's usually not pretty. The only difference and it's a big one, is the NFL is choosing to fly with plane without a pilot.

    September 25, 2012 at 8:47 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Skeptimist

    NFL sux, government sux, and ATT Uverse crashed my TV signal again. So I got up this morning and decided to fire them all. Go Notre Dame – I'll see you on the radio.

    September 25, 2012 at 8:50 pm | Report abuse |
  7. tootbarn

    I just want to know who had the 'G' first: Green Bay or Georgia?

    September 25, 2012 at 8:51 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Ananymous

    Hawks won, get over yourselves.

    September 25, 2012 at 8:53 pm | Report abuse |
  9. andrew

    Packer fans think their team is perfect and any call against them is a mistake. That's a bunch of crap; they're just another team without divine province and not one bit special. We need the real refs back for all teams not just because of Green Bay's self-divined whiners.

    September 25, 2012 at 8:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • tootbarn

      "divine province?" ... I'm a GB fan, and according to your wise decree, I'll be the first one to admit that they are not perfect, man!

      and you sir, are a fart smeller!

      September 25, 2012 at 9:02 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Po Boy

    It's almost comical to hear NFL players talk about the integrity of the game. What do they know about integrity when probably 75 percent of them are juicing, holding, leading with their helmets etc, which are clearly rule violations. Give me a break.

    September 25, 2012 at 8:54 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Zaphod2010

    We are season ticket holders for a football team and I think the officiating has been disastrous this year.
    My concern is that we get more annoyed and mad at a football call when there are millions of Americans who are being kept from voting in this election.
    We really have our priorities all screwed up!

    September 25, 2012 at 8:56 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Dan

    After the review the ref said the ruling on the field was confirmed. Problem is he never made a ruling on the field, one ref signaled time stoppage another signaled touchdown. The ref never made a definitive ruling.

    September 25, 2012 at 8:57 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Po Boy

    Funny how everyone is pushing the NFL to settle with the highly paid referees, but if they were autoworkers or other less paid workers we hope they all get fired and their union disbanded. What a bunch of hypocrites we are!

    September 25, 2012 at 8:57 pm | Report abuse |
  14. frank cervone

    we all agree the regular refs also suck! but they know how to call an nfl game,they know the players coaches,and they know how to keep the game moving...most important they know all of the million rules..the casual observer has no idea how hard officiating is.if you have never officiated even one little league game..shut up already!!!

    September 25, 2012 at 8:58 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Lewy

    What ever happened to 'Doing the Right Thing'? Obviously, the NFL 'leadership' has never heard of it.

    September 25, 2012 at 8:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Roger Goodell

      "Do the right thing" is a registered trademark of the NFL. Refrain from using this phrase to avoid legal action.

      Roger Goodell

      September 25, 2012 at 9:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chip Douglas

      Back 20yrs ago or so, the Packers won on a game on a reversed referee call against the Bears. Replay showed Don Machikowki foot over the line of scrimmage (does not matter that the ball was behind it). Penalty was called against GB QB, which was correct. The pass for TD, was wiped out-which was correct call on the field. But replay reversed it, awarding the TD, and thus giving Pack the win, with no time left. 1 word for the cheddar heads out there: Karma

      September 25, 2012 at 9:38 pm | Report abuse |
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