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. Matt

    I saw the play and watched it a few times and it is just a controversial play with wierd rules by the NFL as far as what defines possession. The backup refs didn't mess this up it was just a weird play. Give me a break about Green Bay getting cost the game, refs aren't some 100% right machine that guarentee you always get right calls, they are there to make sure the game stays in bounds and try to call what they see in a reasonable fashion. I think all of these people complaining about the refs (although I understand the aren't up to par) are what's ruining the game not the replacements

    September 26, 2012 at 7:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Todd

      Matt...The complaining isn't all about the interception, Even a blind man could see the Shove on the Green Bay defender. And if the ref is about 10 yards away, How COULD he miss that?

      September 26, 2012 at 8:29 am | Report abuse |
  2. replacement sports writers

    Who ever wrote this story isn't a sports fan or knowledgeable
    Consideing Pete's Carrol quote "TAG goes to the runner"

    its TIE,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

    September 26, 2012 at 7:15 am | Report abuse |
  3. upstateny

    I am soooooo sick of hearing, reading, and watching the "replay". I'm not a fan of either team so I think it's time we all moved on. I've seen the "seasoned" ref's and umpire blow calls. I know it's different because the "game" was on the line but to blame the replacement ref's when in fact the owner of the NFL and "seasoned" players are both too greedy is where the blame should be. Even if the seasoned ref's come back....everyone would say it would have had a different outcome at the Superbowl. It's a game should only matter to the players.

    September 26, 2012 at 7:31 am | Report abuse |
  4. michael

    I'm tired of all the complaining about the current refs. I don't see anything unreasonable about what the NFL is wanting to do in regards to the referee crews. Why should part time employees that work 17 to 28 weeks a year get a pension? Why does it not make sense to have replacement crews that can fill in when there's a need, or when a crew is performing poorly?

    As far as poor refing by the fill-ins, even the full time refs make bad calls, and some have resulted in a win for a team that shouldn't have won. Beyond that, the one thing that almost every coach told me in years playing amatuer sports was to worry about how I played and the team played and not to blame the refs. The coaches drilled into us that until we played perfect, (eg. no missed blocks, no missed tackles, no wrong plays, no missed catches, no missed cuts, no missed reads), we had no right to blame the refs.

    THis is just another example of players, and even some coaches being whiners and babies! They're not perfect, but they expect the refs to be? The only argument that is even remotely on target is player safety on the field. However, all the players know the rules, and if the players followed and obeyed the rules, then even player safety wouldn't really be an issue. So, player safety is also largely in the hands of the players.

    September 26, 2012 at 7:37 am | Report abuse |
  5. mark

    I think the players ought to strike for the rest of the season

    September 26, 2012 at 8:11 am | Report abuse |
  6. Jerry Sandusky

    The Packers getting screwed is the WORST THING to ever happen in the world of sports!

    September 26, 2012 at 8:14 am | Report abuse |
  7. Dave Hilt

    Watched three games Sunday and Monday nite's game. Awful. Dear Roger, please tell your advertisers and networks and owners, I am no longer watching your "product" as you call it, until you fix this problem. Refs that can't cut it in the "lingerie league" , and you have the audacity to question a player's integrity! C'Mon Man!

    September 26, 2012 at 8:16 am | Report abuse |
  8. tutuvabene

    Give the unions what they want and let's get back to quality play. The public needs their games. The owners are good for the money the unions are asking for anyway.

    September 26, 2012 at 8:23 am | Report abuse |
  9. tutuvabene

    "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." I'm sure that the league will do something about such calls if there are enough complaints.

    September 26, 2012 at 8:31 am | Report abuse |
  10. Davey Jones

    Ok, while some may disagree, lets think about it. The penalty as a missed call is just that and while there are many missed calls in a football this one may have decided the outcome of the game. The rules are simple about who gets the ball and only is applicable to balls in the end-zone. It is awarded to the Offensive player when there is a tie on the reception. So since there is no perceived foul called the ruling was correct. Instant replay is used to help determine the score or not and there was not enough evidence to overturn it. The penalty is not reviewable. There is another problem and would not have been a problem had the Pack scored 8 points more than Seattle. So lets review the:
    PACK only scored 12 points which is way below their usual point total and last year they led the league in most points scored.. Why is this, well the OFFENSIVE LINE of the packers is so inept that Roger's was sacked 8 times in the first half. An NFL record for 1/2 of the game.
    They cannot play the game over! It would be unfair to Seattle to award the win to Greenbay because it was an official game. There is no reason to believe that the old REF.s would have also caught the pass interference....We will never KNOW. So while it hurts some of us to see the PACK lose. There is a solution and that is for the Pack to win the division! I know that should they do not there will be a lot of disappointed people who will blame that game as the reason. Come on guys it is only a GAME.

    September 26, 2012 at 8:32 am | Report abuse |
  11. Jeremy

    I just think that it's HILARIOUS that everyone is saying that the Packers got robbed the game because of the last call. Well, maybe if the Packers offense would have played a lot better in the first half the game this would have not been decided by that last call!!!! So stop complaining, the Packers have no one to blame but themselves.
    On a positive note, all the crying Green Bay fans have done has ended in drought!!!

    September 26, 2012 at 8:51 am | Report abuse |
  12. Ed43026

    Penalty should've been called, but given the fact that Tate was allowed to be anywhere near that ball is the defender's fault. At that point in the game, you don't want an interception – you want an incompletion. Swat the ball into the stands, and this issue doesn't exist.

    September 26, 2012 at 8:55 am | Report abuse |
  13. Bill

    If the NFL can't see fit to reverse the decision in light of the obvious error shown in the replays, I think the Seahawks
    themselves should do the honorable thing and force the issue. Kind of like when the bank deposits too much money in
    your account. They KNOW they didn't win that game. If they really want respect they should have the win reversed.

    September 26, 2012 at 9:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Prem V

      To expect that kinda graceful action from Pete Carroll is absurd. Remember his days back in the USC?

      September 26, 2012 at 9:25 am | Report abuse |
    • LC

      Seattle had to suck it up when they were jacked for a Super Bowl ring against the Steelers. That was done by the "real ref's" Lets just move on and quit the whining.

      September 26, 2012 at 9:25 am | Report abuse |
  14. tony tony

    did anyone think about the MASSIVE risk of these refs beeing easily bought by organized crime to fix games....
    I mean, this represents hundreds of millions of dollars per game fixed.......
    I'm sure the league knows..... and is probably in on it 😉

    September 26, 2012 at 9:10 am | Report abuse |
  15. Joe

    I hate to see what is going to happen if replacement refs are allowed to participate in playoff games and, God forbid, the Super Bowl.

    September 26, 2012 at 9:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Zebula

      The League needs to have some ba lls and overturn Seattle's win.

      September 26, 2012 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
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