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. umiumo

    That was the wrong call. But if we're gonna complain about that, complain about the ONLY TD drive GB had that shouldn't have been as well. A wrong pass interference call gave them a firs down. Aaron was awarded a first and goal when he slid and should have been 4th and inches. So blown call helped GB score so I don't feel bad for them AT ALL.

    September 26, 2012 at 9:30 am | Report abuse |
    • PFD134

      You must have seen the whole game I am not even a Packer fan & I know they got robbed! How could this even be defended?????????????

      September 26, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Name chuck

    Steve sweeney your a joke putting replacememt officials as a political agenda is an out and out disgrace you help run the most corrupt political group in the country worse than the fed i can't believe you would even waste the publics time with something so dumb how about reducing taxes how about stop feeding your pockets with our hard earned dollars get a clue steve oh you probably owe your local bookie thats why you stepped in

    September 26, 2012 at 9:30 am | Report abuse |
  3. Jason Bourne

    The Replacement refs announced they wee wrong but too afraid to change the call because of the rowdy seattle fans. They feared for their lives and let the fans intimidate them. It is pathetic what footbal; has become.

    September 26, 2012 at 9:31 am | Report abuse |
  4. OldColt

    Didn't this happen to Green Bay once before? They didn't complain then. Wasn't it for the championship? Late 50's early 60's. They even have a trophy! It was a missed field goal call on the Baltimore Colts. The game winning kick, with time expiring was "called" "No Good". Everyone there and the millions of TV viewers s aw it. It was GOOD, but the official MISSED it. Green Bay won. Is this what they mean by "the shoe's on the other foot" or "what goes around, comes around"?

    September 26, 2012 at 9:35 am | Report abuse |
  5. MakeThemEatCake

    Yes it was a blown call. But the need for the call could have been avoided if the Green Bay defensive backs had done what you are SUPPOSED to do in that situation. KNOCK THE BALL TO THE GROUND OR OUT OF BOUNDS!! there was no reason for him to even WANT to catch that ball. On a side note, if Green Bay makes their 2 point conversion, that TD would have forced Seattle to go for 2 to win or kick it to send the game to overtime. Either way, Green Bay's coach and the players on that team knew that an extra point try was required so their walking off the field showed a total lack of class. Its not like Green Bay didn't benefit from a few bad calls during the game which, if they did not occur, would have changed the whole dynamic of the game. the end result being, if the players belong to a real union they shouldn't cross the picket line (so to speak) as long as members of other unions are negotiating for a contract. so they are as much to blame for the sad state of officiating as anyone else.

    September 26, 2012 at 10:01 am | Report abuse |
    • yada

      Shields was going to do that, but Tate's pushed him away. It isn't just this game – it is every game. The Lions and Tenn. game where the officials marked off a penalty from the wrong 44 yard line, twice giving teams 4 timeouts in a half. Every game!!! They are inferior to professional refs – the NFL needs to change it.

      September 26, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Staninsane

      I agree with you partly here. I am not a fan of either team, but do feel like Greenbay is one of those whinny teams that wants things their way every week. I aint gonna happen. Everyone out there is all up at arms saying the ref who called a touchdown made a bad call. If you go back and analyze the replay carefully, while BOTH players who had their HANDS ON THE BALL are in the air,THE FIRST MAN TO HIT THE GROUND WAS TATE. Jennings is still in the air at that time. To me, BAM thats a t.d. for seattle. After both guys are on the ground and the wrestling starts is what everyone is looking at. Totally agree that Jennings should have just played defense and slapped the ball away. If there is a rule that needs to be applied from this play then the NFL needs to get it in the books now! As far as the pass interference, yeah ok that did happen, but I counted numerous bear hugs by the Greenbay offensive line all night and none of that got called so what about that?? If I could just analyze the line of scrimmage area for each play throughout the entire night, Ill bet my paycheck that Greenbay got away with more cheating. Id much rather have these refs than no football at all. This wont last forever people. Stop whinning....JEES!

      September 26, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Who Cares? I Care

      I'd just like to point out that both teams left the field, for the simple fact that they didn't even think about needing to kick an extra point, not a lack of class.

      September 27, 2012 at 5:25 am | Report abuse |
  6. Joe

    Folks, it is a GAME ... even thought $B are involved in betting and advertising it is still just a GAME. Everyone is getting way too worked up about this. Calm down. Do you really not have more important things to worry about than whether one team rather than the other won a football GAME.

    September 26, 2012 at 10:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Niki

      Maybe it is just a game, but I'm taking a guess at saying that most people that have this opinion don't understand what the Packers mean to the town of Green Bay.
      First of all, we are a publicly owned team. There is no rich guy getting richer off of our team. All profits from the team go right back into the franchise.
      More importantly, one game can make a HUGE difference. It could mean missing out on a bye week. It could cost us a home playoff game, or cost us the playoffs all together! Do you know how much revenue a home playoff game brings into our town? Over 8 million dollars. Maybe that doesn't seem like much to other NFL cities, but Green Bay is a small town; much smaller than most people realize. The Packers really are our livelihood, that's why they mean so much to u, and that's why this debacle is such a big deal to us.

      September 26, 2012 at 9:08 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Romney2012

    Obama Lover! Take your CHINA MADE jeans and stick them up your un-American Obama Worshipping butt!

    September 26, 2012 at 10:07 am | Report abuse |
  8. Typical Packer Fan

    My sister is hot, we are gonna make babies.
    I'm drunk by 6am every morning!
    I vote for Obama because he'll keep the welfare train coming! How else will i pay for the Packer's Tickets?

    September 26, 2012 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
  9. teb

    NFL is a big joke! Greed, greed, and more greed!!!

    September 26, 2012 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Sinfully Yours

      That's why I follow the NHL. 😛

      September 26, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Kate

    You know the call was horrific if both Obama and Romney agree on it! Letterman did a top ten list on the replacement refs and the #1 reason you know you're a bad ref if everyone except for people in Seattle hate you. Seriously, though, I'm not a huge football fan and even I could see very clearly that this was not even a close call - and the picture of two refs motioning to different calls is a great snapshot of the whole mess. The owners need to stop being greedy jerks and just get on with it. This won't happen, but wouldn't it be sweet if all the players suddenly came down with the "flu" before Sunday and the fans simply refused to turn on the tube, then let the sponsors know they were paying big bucks for no one to see their ads? Bet THAT would get the owners attention since they are only motivated by greed and power. The only people benefitting from this fiasco is the late night comedians - provides endless material since it's so unbelievably stupid!

    September 26, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
  11. obylium

    I find it funny how the NFL Players Associating is saying how their safety playing football is in jeopardy, saying "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." What I would like to know is how is this sport is considered safe by any means? I don't really think putting something plastic with some inside protection is going to make anyone safe based on the number of injuries we see time and time again. In addition. you have former players that have had enough concussions to make them mentally retarded. Football is the downfall of American sports and people should not participate in a sport that makes us, as a country, become more stupid over time.

    September 26, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Ned

    I am boycotting the NFL until play determines the game again, not this garbage the NFL is trying to pass off as professional.

    September 26, 2012 at 10:30 pm | Report abuse |
  13. steelersstolethe06superbowl

    Did anyone express OUTRAGE when the NFL handed a SUPERBOWL the steelers? No so why the hell should any Seahawk fan care what the rest of the country thinks?

    September 27, 2012 at 4:24 am | Report abuse |
  14. Bryant @ NorCal

    Regular Refs can thank the replacements from last MNF for being returned ahead of schedule. Call was sooo blown it almost feels like a conspiracy; reg refs paid them off to make horribad calls!!! hehe

    September 28, 2012 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
  15. alin

    Welcome to our online shopping store, where a new NFL jerseys, snapped up the 32-team NFL jersey, 2012 the most popular NFL jerseys, NBA jerseys, Soccer jerseys, price, quality guaranteed, I believe you will like.

    October 8, 2012 at 7:59 am | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87