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. Tyler

    I think it is disgusting that the NFL commissioner has that much power to influence million of people by being ridiculous and stubborn. We should ensure that any disputes in the future never involve replacing crucial elements of the game like: refs, players, coaches, trainers, etc. How about we replace the Commissioner with a replacement that can actually do his job and who loves football enough not to ruin it.

    September 25, 2012 at 10:01 pm | Report abuse |
  2. MaisieMay

    Nothing about the game, just wondering about those on strike. Currently make100,00-180,000 yr right and now want double. What is it they do that requires such a salary? Do they protect and serve like policeman, fireman, servicemen & women, do they save lives like doctors, nurses and medics? Do they educate our children and make the world a better place? How and why do they deserve such a salary???? Just asking. . .

    September 25, 2012 at 10:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan

      The players make millions of dollars a year. What is it they do that requires such a salary? Do they protect and serve like policeman, fireman, servicemen & women, do they save lives like doctors, nurses and medics? Do they educate our children and make the world a better place? How and why do they deserve such a salary???? Just asking. . .

      The officials are part of the winning formula. They deserve to be paid accordingly. You can see how important they are if you have watched any games in the last 3 weeks.

      September 25, 2012 at 10:43 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Randy Johnson

    There has been many 'blown' calls in sports events. I give the refs that have stepped up to the plate (so to speak) a lot of credit – knowing that they were going to get blasted no matter what. What about all you hockey fans? – would you rather see your sport continue with their lock out or maybe just put up with some 'non NHL' refs? How many people blame the ref's for everything anyway? – like all the time maybe? So – my advise NFL whiners – suck it up and enjoy the fact that you can at least watch your sport. Maybe the teams that really want to win will actually put out and score an extra touchdown to compensate for the ump factor. Sheesh – even the Democrats know that they have to get an extra 5% because of blatant vote rigging by the republicans? haha – just had to throw that one in!!

    September 25, 2012 at 10:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • brett

      You cant honestly think that call was fair. Do you understand how much money changes hands in Vegas over those calls. The replacement refs are simply not acceptable in a league like the NFL, which has become more of a mockery than anything else. If the referees dont call fairly, all order will be lost and the league will consist of 300 pound men beating each other up for an hour, and all sportsmanship will be lost.

      September 25, 2012 at 10:59 pm | Report abuse |
  4. David

    Boycotting NFL and their advertisers for the rest of this season.

    September 25, 2012 at 10:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Roger Goodell

      Sure you are. See ya Thursday Night!

      September 25, 2012 at 10:54 pm | Report abuse |
  5. k-man

    Just wondering where all these people were when bad calls cost seattle the super bowl in 05. The official even admitted he blew calls. But none of you cared about it. Now its your precious packers and your all mad. Bottom line is its the right call. When both players touched the ground they both had hands on the ball. Read the nfl rules.

    September 25, 2012 at 10:09 pm | Report abuse |
  6. gen81465

    So the contract dispute is all about $3.3M hmm... I'm sure there are at least 3.3 million true NFL fans out there. Everyone want to chip in a buck so we can get these clowns out of their zebra shirts and get REAL officials back in the game?

    September 25, 2012 at 10:14 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Joe Schmoe

    I think this is all FUNNY AS HELL!!! Makes watching football fun again! WOOOO HOOOO!!! GO SEATTLE!

    September 25, 2012 at 10:19 pm | Report abuse |
  8. gen81465

    Until the regular refs are allowed back in the game, there needs to be a temporary rule change: Each team is allowed 4 challenges, and those challenges will apply and be valid for ANY play the coach wishes to challenge (and every aspect of the play must be examined); and the final decision will be made in the replay booth by a competent and qualified regular official.

    September 25, 2012 at 10:19 pm | Report abuse |
  9. FZMello

    Players make millions,. Teams make hundreds of millions. Refs make,what? $30-40,000 A YEAR?

    September 25, 2012 at 10:25 pm | Report abuse |
  10. 2011cnn2011

    I wont be watching this bogus league anymore.

    September 25, 2012 at 10:41 pm | Report abuse |
  11. ELH

    More ridiculous than the call, is that the Seahawk's coach ran around acting like he had just orchestrated the best played game in the history of the NFL; all the while seeing the same replays as the rest of us. Where is the integrity of this sport and its participants. My 8-year old son wanted to know why he was so excited when he won because of a bad call. Sad that an 8- year old has more integrity and sportsmanship than a professional coach and his team.

    September 25, 2012 at 10:45 pm | Report abuse |
  12. bob

    Until the real refs are back, boycott the games, Money is the only answer the owners understand

    September 25, 2012 at 10:48 pm | Report abuse |
  13. totheidiots

    First off when betting there is always going to be a loser so to say people lost millions of dollars is irrelevant because it would have been lost one way or the other. Secondly, how many times have we seen a player make a one handed catch...and a catch is not ruled a catch until the players feet hit the ground. In this situation both players feet hit the ground at the same time. And according to the rules of the NFL possession would go to the offensive team there for to say that this was a bogus call on the refs is complete crap. The only thing the refs goofed on was the missed offensive pass interference call but in all honesty this happens even with the regular refs so stop complaining and accept that the Seahawks won that game. If you really have a problem blame the people who make the rules not the ones who enforce them.

    September 25, 2012 at 10:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • peakprofit

      100% Correct. It is sooooo nice to read someone with some common sense, and actual knowledge of the rules.

      September 26, 2012 at 12:56 am | Report abuse |
  14. Davessworks

    All this attention to just one potentially blown call in the game. Typical – the game was 4 quarters long and those of use that watched the entire fiasco know there were numerous bad calls in this game including one against the Seahawks (defensive pass interference) that lead to a GB TD. If all the bad plays were reversed I don't know who would have won the game – but I suspect it would have been Seattle. Let it go Packers – at least it didn't happen during the Superbowl . . .

    September 25, 2012 at 10:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Doug

      And on the last drive, there was a Defensive Pass Interference called that should have been an OFFENSIVE Pass Interference on Tate. That wasn't including the Offensive Pass Interference call the NFL ADMITTED should have been called on the final play. Fiasco doesn't begin to cover this idiocy.

      September 25, 2012 at 11:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Karen S

      STOP domestic terrorism against Medical Marijuana Patients – STOP.

      September 25, 2012 at 11:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Davessworks

      @ Doug – so what's your point? Offsetting TDs? Reverse them out and Seattle wins. Allow them and Seattle wins.

      September 25, 2012 at 11:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Carolina89

      @Karen - HEMP FOR VICTORY --->>>>> Medical Marijuana for LIFE.

      September 25, 2012 at 11:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Troy

      Where do you get "offsetting TDs" from? I don't think you understood his post. That PI that went against Shields was on the same drive they also awarded the comical end zone catch to Tate. Did you miss the bogus roughing the passer penalty on Walden earlier in that drive that negated a GB INT too? Or the shove by Tate before his "catch". Sure, the Packers had calls go their way that shouldn't have too, but the Seahawks had a heck of a lot more, and in more critical moments, saving the biggest of all for last. Refs are caving to home crowds and teams in my opinion. Its a disgrace.

      September 25, 2012 at 11:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paul

      @Karen+Carolina – you girls realize that Chocolate and Tylenol act on the CB1 and CB2 receptors in your brain and body to regulate menstrual cycles via Anandamide pathways and re-uptake inhibition, respectively? Marijuana is magical if you understand the nature of longevity vs. cancer.

      September 26, 2012 at 12:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Argyle

      That's wonderful news, what will all the soccer-moms do when the DEA bashes down their doors to get the hidden stash of Hershey Kisses and headache pills -– Newton's 3rd Law in action. (__'

      September 26, 2012 at 1:05 am | Report abuse |
    • davessworks

      @Troy, you're not getting my point. GB wouldn't have scored a TD in the 3rd without an assist from the refs. That's the bad call on a defensive pass interference call I'm talking about.

      September 26, 2012 at 1:50 am | Report abuse |
  15. Beck

    America: Anti-Union when it comes to our children's education. Pro-Union when it comes to our football.

    September 25, 2012 at 10:57 pm | Report abuse |
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