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. Tom G Parody video: Touchdown Maybe! lol!

    September 25, 2012 at 8:58 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Tom G Parody Video, hahahaha!
    Touchdown maybe??? 🙂

    September 25, 2012 at 8:59 pm | Report abuse |
  3. grinch

    People are overreacting. The real refs make calls like this all the time. The only error was missing the offensive pass interference which we know happens all the time. The TD was otherwise the right call. If GD deserved the win, they shouldn't have kept the score this close. Their own fault for not playing well enough to win decisively.

    September 25, 2012 at 9:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • mfoxman

      if catching the man that caught the ball is considered a fair catch then yes it was a touchdown. You'd have to be blind to not see offensive pass interference along with the fact that it was an interception.

      September 25, 2012 at 9:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • StoptheBooHoo

      No indisputable evidence existed to overturn the on-field ruling that Tate scored a TD. End of the story. There were many wrong calls before that, missing a pass interference makes no difference. Good job Seahawks.

      September 25, 2012 at 9:31 pm | Report abuse |
  4. FactChecker

    As though the regular refs never miss a push-off by a receiver. (sarcasm) They ignored most of them. And the simultaneous catch was reviewed by regular officials so the replacement refs are not alone in that call.

    September 25, 2012 at 9:02 pm | Report abuse |
  5. smokinbluebear

    NOT a good call but if the refs HAD called pass interference everyone would be crying about that...
    Stupid fans deserve it for being conned into watching 2 1/2 hours of commercials between the 60 minutes of football.

    September 25, 2012 at 9:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      I hate to disagree, but there was no arguing the blatant push-off by Tate – a two-handed push that knocked the guy down. There would be absolutely no argument on that call.

      September 25, 2012 at 9:29 pm | Report abuse |
  6. mfoxman

    Everyone should boycott the games for 1 weekend. This would expedite a decision and bring this matter to a quick resolve.

    September 25, 2012 at 9:10 pm | Report abuse |
  7. packsuck

    everyone stop whining. the pack look horrible, and they shouldn't have to depend on preventing a hail mary pass just to win a game.

    September 25, 2012 at 9:10 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Pat

    Unbelievable- I didn't know that this season could get any worse- and now you have our Packer's Right in the middle of this!! I am a huge Football fan- but after the games this past week-end. I am not going to be watching until you have the Regular Refs- I sure hope that the Bottom line doesn't cost someone irreversable damage-
    This has been very painful to watch- !! Hope that this will be settled soon. !!

    September 25, 2012 at 9:10 pm | Report abuse |
  9. 20309 In Town

    Mr. President – Fix the country, not the NFL...

    September 25, 2012 at 9:15 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Tom S

    It is time to lock out the NFL owners! Stop going to games, stop watching games, stop buying NFL clothing & gear. Hit them in the wallet. What we are getting in these games is not what we are paying for. SO STOP PAYING!!!

    September 25, 2012 at 9:16 pm | Report abuse |
  11. varsitycheergirl

    Althought the calls from the replacement refs were not correct or not called at all they are the ones who make the calls that determine the game and we have to respect that no matter what because there is nothing you can personally do about it. The calls a=have been a=made and there is no turning back

    September 25, 2012 at 9:16 pm | Report abuse |
  12. northerstar

    You have a professional sports league valued at $Billions of dollars a year ($9.8 Billion 2012) and one key element is being managed by ameturs. Whether a team wins or loses now that the season is under way has the potential to cost the teams
    $ millions in ticket sales and $100 millions if a playoff spot is lost due to poor calls. If this strike goes on long enough it could cost teams a chance at a playoff spot. GreenBay losing is just an example. Look at the number of penalties being called. It is at an all time high.
    I had to laugh when the Head Ref said that the "call on the field would stand". There was NO call on the field. Both Refs had different calls in the end zone. How is that a "call" ? The league has to settle !

    September 25, 2012 at 9:22 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Lizzy10

    To the NFL-stick a crowbar in your wallets and bring back the real ref's, if you don't, people are going to stop watching.

    September 25, 2012 at 9:29 pm | Report abuse |
  14. David

    This is so crazy. If the commentators didn't talk about it most people watching the games would not even realize that the s refs are replacement. And its not like these guys have never reffed football before. The media is definitely in favor of the union.

    September 25, 2012 at 9:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • CJ Topspin

      Actually it is because the refs are horrible. The media (who I typically loathe) is amazingly correct for once.

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

      Actually I don't follow NFL very closely and I was thinking "Jesus, these refs are horrible" even before I found out they were replacements. The NFL just needs to learn from the pros in the NCAA and get every call right via booth review.

      September 25, 2012 at 9:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • fredd fezzo

      Sweeny, Sweeny...big fat weenie. Haven't you got something better to do with taxpayers' money than this? Get a life, fella!

      September 25, 2012 at 10:04 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Jim Weix

    Thank goodness it is only a meaningless game. I wonder if Mitt will blame it on Obama?

    September 25, 2012 at 9:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • George

      I hate to tell you but in 3 weeks no one will even remember.Now quick who won the Super Bowl 3 years ago.Dont Google it.

      September 25, 2012 at 9:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Not PC

      Not likely but Iam sure Obama will blame it on Bush!

      September 25, 2012 at 10:10 pm | Report abuse |
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