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. Ken

    I believe all games should be played without officials or referees. The games would be much more exciting, and faster. The only time outs would be to take the injured players off the field. Playing games like this would really show which team is the toughest, strongest and most deserving of the Super Bowl. I may not see this in my life time, but hopefully some day this becomes a reality.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:45 am | Report abuse |
  2. Stop Whining

    Two hours later it would appear the call wasn't so bad. Ruling on field simultaneous catch. Done deal, officials could have called it either way and we'd complain. Replay can't overturn called possession and IMHO shouldn't.
    Tough break for the Pack.. Probably should have played better... 9 sacks? That should be the story.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:46 am | Report abuse |
    • jon

      Except that it was blatant offensive pass interference on tate and clearly in the chest of Jennings.

      September 25, 2012 at 1:47 am | Report abuse |
    • lurker

      Ditto what jon said.

      September 25, 2012 at 1:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Jesus

      Rule 8, Section 1, Article 3, Item 1 of the NFL Rule Book (page 51) states that “if a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass (with or without contact with an opponent), he must maintain control of the ball after he touches the ground, whether in the field of play or the end zone. If he loses control of the ball, and the ball touches the ground before he regains control, the pass is incomplete. If he regains control prior to the ball touching the ground, the pass is complete.”

      September 25, 2012 at 1:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Jesusss


      Rule 8, Section 1, Article 3, Item 1 of the NFL Rule Book (page 51) states that “if a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass (with or without contact with an opponent), he must maintain control of the ball after he touches the ground, whether in the field of play or the end zone. If he loses control of the ball, and the ball touches the ground before he regains control, the pass is incomplete. If he regains control prior to the ball touching the ground, the pass is complete.”

      September 25, 2012 at 1:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Allen W.


      An incomplete pass would have denied the touchdown or an interception would have denied the touchdown. The alleged reception was simply a wrong call, which is not excusable after review.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:12 am | Report abuse |
  3. NFL Comedy Relief or Shock and Horror?

    I laughed at the "punk'd" tweet. I saw the last few minutes of the game. It was like nothing I'd ever seen before.

    There are clearly no rules to be relied upon in any NFL game now, thanks to these refs who are either deliberately being incompetent, or are so worthless as refs they never should have been hired in the first place.

    And for a fraction of one percent of their profits, the NFL must think they are making the referee's union look bad, but they are the ones who hired the referees and now look like total incompetents themselves. Paid incompetence is just wrong, but if we look at these games as sports comedy, then it is still worth watching to see the constant mistakes.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:46 am | Report abuse |
  4. roflpackers

    Tate wins the game with an amazing last second catch. I feel bad that the packers are so terrible that they need cnn to write an article to help justify their crying. Scrutinize all you want. I will enjoy drinking packer tears. nom nom nom

    September 25, 2012 at 1:47 am | Report abuse |
    • lurker

      I hate the Packers and even I can see the double-layered BS in this call.

      September 25, 2012 at 1:53 am | Report abuse |
  5. Allen W.

    I am in no way a fan of either team, so my comments are not based on nonsense fan emotion. And I understand that making such a call in a second or two is difficult. But to _review_ the call and still call it a touchdown is beyond comprehension, the height of ref incompetence.

    I blame the greedy owners who care only for money, not for the game.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:47 am | Report abuse |
  6. popcorn

    What happen to NHL, BASEBALL, BASKETBALL? My channels disappeared and appeared FOOTBALL SEASON? Why?

    September 25, 2012 at 1:47 am | Report abuse |
  7. FB Page Bring Back NFL Refs

    ESPN –" 31 owners and their puppet Goodell... Got to hit them where it HURT$$$$$

    September 25, 2012 at 1:48 am | Report abuse |
  8. SteveMidwest

    Complete and utter disgust!! It was a sloppy game by both teams but if you look at: 1.) the pass interference call where Sam Shields where he was mauled by Sidney Rice yet Shields was called for the penalty?? and then 2.) Golden Tate's blatent push off which wasn't called?? and then 3.) Clearly Jennings came down w/ the ball against his chest and Tate has only 1 hand in there at the time. The Packer's were clearly robbed! **Just to clarify no bias, I am a die hard Notre Dame and Golden Tate (ND alum) fan but wrong is wrong!!

    September 25, 2012 at 1:49 am | Report abuse |
  9. Frank Manzo IV

    I am an American. I am a Consumer. I am a Shareholder. And I am completely powerless.

    As an American, I love football. I grew up on football. I played football. My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving – family, friends, food, football. Although I am only twenty-two years old, I have of course seen some terrible calls by officiating crews. I have felt enraged and disappointed by calls that I thought to be anything from slightly unfavorable to completely erroneous. But never before have I as a Green Bay Packers fan felt so cheated as after the Monday Night Football game on September 24, 2012. And I am just a fan. I cannot even begin to imagine how the players feel.

    As a Packers fan and a general sympathizer with the American labor movement, I am obviously biased. I am outraged and I am concerned about the integrity of a professional sports league that I love – but I am mostly the former. I will now resort to the only power I have as a small, scarcely significant consumer and keep my television turned off this Thursday, Sunday, and Monday, for every week until the product is improved. I will also not partake in any NFL-related activities such as fantasy football until there are professionals officiating the game. This is a disgrace and a sham, permeated by the nauseating stench of [a certain very audible chant at a recent Baltimore Ravens home game]. I ask you– but of course it is your own personal decision– to join me in this boycott. It is the only action we can take as consumers to make a difference.

    As a shareholder of the Green Bay Packers, I, Francis Peter Manzo IV, would like to make a (very) public motion that the Greatest professional football organization in the history of the sport– my beloved Green Bay Packers– vote to change their stance on this monstrosity and favor an end of the professional referee lockout. Even if we are the only one organization against the other 31– with one commonsense mind, with one commonsense purpose, and with one commonsense goal, I motion that we express our intent to restore the integrity of the NFL shield.

    I am indeed a sore loser on this day. But I’d ask that you, my fellow fan of professional sports, and you, my fellow shareholder, join me in exercising the only powers we have to effect change.

    -Frank Manzo IV
    University of Chicago
    Master of Public Policy 2013

    September 25, 2012 at 1:49 am | Report abuse |
    • NYCGUY123

      You can cry all you want – that was a touchdown as per the rule book. Tie goes to the runner. Tate had half possession on the ball.

      September 25, 2012 at 1:54 am | Report abuse |
    • rightcall

      I want all the original refs fired and blacklisted for life. I realize that means a sub-standard product for a while but it burns me up when people who have it good get greedy. The greed of original refs is what caused this...if they genuinely cared about the integrity of the game they would accept their insane paychecks and do their damn job.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:00 am | Report abuse |
    • Comedy Relief is now the new NFL product

      Oh, the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune to suffer a mortal blow to our very souls and let loose the cry of reason!


      Now let thine flame of outrage be quenched, and the stirrings of passion turn to lesser things that do not rumple up one's very emotional and melodramatic yearnings for expression, lest we die a thousand deaths from ignoring your cries of piteous wretchedness and lowly moonings over your most beloved wonder-pets of sporting fame!

      September 25, 2012 at 2:01 am | Report abuse |
    • FB Page Bring Back NFL Refs

      Not helple$$ – we have to hit them where it hurt$. I notice the Nike $WOO$H (LOGO) on every jersey. I say we target the people that profit the mo$t the adverti$er$. Dont buy NFL product$ or the product$ of adverti$er$.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:06 am | Report abuse |
    • davessworks

      Eloquent but you fail to recognise that there was another touchdown scored in this game that directly resulted from yet another bad call in the game where Seattle was penalized for pass interference on an excellent defensive play. This atrocious officiating needs to come to an end. Let's not get too wrapped around the axle on who should have won this game. The true losers are the fans of the game itself.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:23 am | Report abuse |
  10. catsdad

    Wait a minute everybody keeps saying the officials in the upstairs booth are not effected by the strike and they are the regular reviewers. They are the ones who confirmed the ridiculous call. I agree the replacements are a joke but it is not their fault especially when they have the so called pros in the booth confirming their negligence.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:49 am | Report abuse |
  11. mttrailboss

    The NFL.., just lost respect tonight and that is bad for everyone. Two words, for tonights game, yesterdays' games and the prior two weeks, two words.., "Total embarrassment." Mike in Montana

    September 25, 2012 at 1:49 am | Report abuse |
  12. Brian

    Let's just play street ball.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:52 am | Report abuse |
  13. KMC

    It's Obama's fault!!!!

    September 25, 2012 at 1:52 am | Report abuse |
  14. infonomics

    Refs are incompetent? What fan has not shouted at his television with expletives about the incompetence of the players or coaches? Few, if any.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:54 am | Report abuse |
    • rightcall

      I know it, and none of us have ever criticized the original "legends" for bad calls and blown games. Original guys are greedy morons, fire them and blacklist them and let them find real jobs hovering somewhere around minimum wage with questionable benefits and see how they do!

      September 25, 2012 at 2:03 am | Report abuse |
  15. rightcall

    I vote that the NFL should permanently fire and blacklist all original refs. In the economy that we are all dealing with these guys wanna get greedy and not appreciate the golden egg they were sitting on? Screw them...go get a real job...who's with me?????

    September 25, 2012 at 1:55 am | Report abuse |
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