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. adrifter

    Remember how some Americans criticized Canadians for complaining about the brutal refereeing in the women's soccer game at the Olympics? I guess Americans (at least Packers fans) are also complainers, sore losers, etc. etc. Not so much fun when it happens to you, eh?

    September 26, 2012 at 2:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Really

      Canada has a womans soccer team? You sure?

      Sounds like someone is holding a grudge a bit too long....

      September 26, 2012 at 6:05 am | Report abuse |
  2. CJ

    I feel the players should boycott the games and not play until the refs return for work let the owners pockets feel the need to say something.

    September 26, 2012 at 3:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Giovanni

      The answer is the fans... Fans should boycott the games. Let them play in an empty stadium for one week, make no revenue and you will see the refs back probably by the fourth quarter.

      September 26, 2012 at 5:42 am | Report abuse |
  3. The Spear

    A ref is still a ref is still a ref... Whether he's a replacement ref or a regular ref, the only thing hat matters is how they call the play from their perspective. The only difference is that regular refs get higher bribe $$$... The NFL is a sell-out to the sports fans and college football is headed the same direction. Get over it and find another hobby.

    September 26, 2012 at 3:36 am | Report abuse |
  4. TRUTH

    Roger Goodell is a Republican hack who uses the typical GOP dictatorial approach to governing – making mistakes and never admitting you screwed up. Don't make the same mistake by voting for Romney.

    September 26, 2012 at 3:48 am | Report abuse |
    • GrnBrtDoc3

      AMEN! ! ! !

      September 26, 2012 at 5:51 am | Report abuse |
  5. Mike

    It was pretty obviously an interception. This is seriously getting lame. Get high school refs if you have too.

    September 26, 2012 at 3:52 am | Report abuse |
  6. Sepulchre

    It's so funny to see this "crisis" reported as if it's some kind of serious news. I mean I guess it is a big deal for NFL fans, but is this really front page news worthy for an international news organization?

    September 26, 2012 at 3:53 am | Report abuse |
  7. Randy

    Those are replacement refs what did they expect to happen the right call duhhhhhhhhhhh

    September 26, 2012 at 4:19 am | Report abuse |
  8. Thomas

    Packers will get their revenge come playoffs...

    September 26, 2012 at 5:25 am | Report abuse |
  9. Tim

    I wonder if these "refs" had a job counting votes in Florida during the Gore/Bush fiasco.

    September 26, 2012 at 5:34 am | Report abuse |
  10. Bill Whidbey

    Sitting on the couch with my wife, Leslie brought two different calls. She stated clearly an interception. I waited until I mentally registered the full play and agreed with the second ref, touchdown / simultaneous reception. Since it was an offensive play. the TD would be regarded first, and the interception/touchback in the end zone secondly. Who knows, Glad I'm not a ref. As a Bills fan, I usually have more to worry about than bad officiating every year.

    September 26, 2012 at 5:35 am | Report abuse |
  11. AL

    "Wrong Way Corrigan" (?) strikes again.

    September 26, 2012 at 6:05 am | Report abuse |
  12. Peter Thompson

    What about the replay booth? They are not replacements.

    September 26, 2012 at 6:13 am | Report abuse |
  13. dynarider

    What about an OT missing 3 tackles a game, a receiver dropping 5 passes a game,a quarterback fumbling 2 handoffs a game? Get rid of them? Every player makes game changing plays too.

    September 26, 2012 at 6:21 am | Report abuse |
  14. Matt

    The refs are bad but a Senator wanting to enact legislation.(c'mon) This just shows we neeed to replace our elected officials as well.Whomever voted for this guy needs to vote him out next election.

    September 26, 2012 at 6:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Charles

      I agree 100%

      September 26, 2012 at 8:42 am | Report abuse |
  15. fiftyfive55

    this just proves the value of experienced workers over scabs

    September 26, 2012 at 6:53 am | Report abuse |
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