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. Jason Glugla

    The NFL owners don't care, as long as 99% of folks keep watching. I am surprised they don't ship in some referees on H1B visas from India. They are only making billions and probably pay about the same percentage of taxes as Mitt.

    September 25, 2012 at 9:32 pm | Report abuse |
  2. GetOverPal

    It was a TD. Ruled as TD and reviewed as so. Next time put the game away sooner if your team is that good. The Seahawks had a lot of merit, defended very well and never gave up.

    September 25, 2012 at 9:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • CJ Topspin

      ...except for the fact that it was an interception.

      September 25, 2012 at 9:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark9988

      No, we're talking about LAST night's game. Against Green Bay. The one with the interception at the end.

      September 25, 2012 at 9:59 pm | Report abuse |
  3. CJ Topspin

    How can the NFL not see what millions of people around the GLOBE can see? Fine...penalty should have been called...but the CATCH is what is so obvious. Its a pick. Everyone knows it...but the NFL apparently does not.

    The only question is why?

    September 25, 2012 at 9:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • warnercc

      Everyone is saying how bad it is that the league won't change the outcome of the game, blah, blah,blah,blah. That they aren't going to watch anymore, blah, blah,blah,blah. Nothing would be more damaging to the integrity of the league if the league took it upon themselves to change the outcome of a game the day after. The decision of the officials have always stood, period. End of discussion. It doesn't matter if they are the regular officials, replacement officials or high school officials from down the street. Athletes have always been taught that the decisions of the officials have been above reproach. Why should it change now. This is not the first time that a questionable call has been made and it will not be the last. Get over it. Nobody died. IT'S JUST A GAME.

      September 25, 2012 at 9:50 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Okay

    Lets talk about the rest of the game, shall we?. This was one play. It was not the whole game. I suppose the refs caused all those sacks, too? There were plenty of plays on both sides that were called poorly, and had this been a regular game with regular refs, nothing about it would have been the same.

    September 25, 2012 at 9:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • word

      Seriously?! Take off your are just as rediculous as the refs that officiated that game which has caused this mass hysteria in the first place.

      September 25, 2012 at 10:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • word

      Seriously?! Take off your are just as rediculous as the refs that officiated that game which has caused this mass hysteria in the first place. Anything that happened earlier in the game is completely irrelivant to the fact that the ONE and ONLY call was f'd up that changed the outcome of the game.

      September 25, 2012 at 10:09 pm | Report abuse |
  5. TheIrony

    The irony is that the 'real' referees will come back and do a TON of mistakes too, as usual. And then who are you going to blame for your team's shortcomings?

    September 25, 2012 at 9:44 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Dave Eicher

    Never leave the outcome of a game in the hands of ANY official. Also, Mr. Sweeny might do well to be as concerned about the economy and jobs in New Jersy as he is in the NFL.

    September 25, 2012 at 9:45 pm | Report abuse |
  7. C

    What a bunch of crybabies.

    September 25, 2012 at 9:49 pm | Report abuse |
  8. McGuffin

    Make every call reviewable. Why is this so hard? They do essentially that in the NCAA. It works well, doesn't slow down the game, and they get almost every call right. The NFL is a convoluted mess of rules that don't do anything to save time and only lead to frustration for everybody. Have a booth review on *every* play, and make *every* play reviewable.

    September 25, 2012 at 9:50 pm | Report abuse |
  9. 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 9:50 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Ghost of JoePa

    Butthurt Buttpacker Fans are Butthurt.

    More News at 11

    September 25, 2012 at 9:52 pm | Report abuse |
  11. George

    The real outrage should be having 2 guys with a chain measuring for 1st downs.

    September 25, 2012 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • McGuffin

      More so a guy running up to spot the ball wherever the heck he thinks it landed. I'll take chains over eyeballing the spot of the ball any day.

      September 25, 2012 at 10:02 pm | Report abuse |
  12. George

    This whole NFL business is a far cry from the real NFL of 30 tears ago.Its now the WWE.

    September 25, 2012 at 9:58 pm | Report abuse |
  13. john

    This was a blown call. Can't get around that and it's too bad.
    I've seen quite a few games this season and honestly for the most part the replacements have done a good job. In many of the games I've seen the refs let it all go in the first half of the game. I love this. They get out of the way and let the players go at it. Down and dirty football! Awesome! Then the second half the flags fly everywhere and not always at the right time.

    September 25, 2012 at 9:59 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Po the Panda(From Kung Fu Panda)

    Wow,how CRAY CRAY

    September 25, 2012 at 10:00 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Portland tony

    As soon as Vegas pulls certain NFL games off their sports book because of suspect officiating, the lockout will end. Think of the millions that were lost monday because of the errors by the officials!

    September 25, 2012 at 10:00 pm | Report abuse |
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