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. It's a Disgrace

    No one cared when the "real" refs handed the 2006 Super Bowl to the Steelers. So now we're supposed to care about this regular season game for the Packers? Boo hoo.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:55 am | Report abuse |
  2. Tony

    I'm not a ref, but I am an avid football fan. My understanding of possession is that the receiver must have both feet on the ground. The guy from Green Bay looked like he had the ball while he was airborne, but as he came down, Tate appeared to share that possession. And by the time both feet were on the ground, Tate had gained even more possession. This was a really close and tough call in my opinion.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Zach

      While I agree the interception or TD call was not as clear cut as some fans are making it out to be with Jennings making the interception, the real bad call was the lack of a pass interference call on Tate. He 100% pushed down a defender and that should have been called. It would have been called by a "real" NFL official. No doubt about it! It would have ended the game and the "catch" wouldn't have even mattered! That's where the real issue lies. Both teams played well though. It was a hard fought game and the Packers had some very questionable calls go in their favor that led to points for them. All in all. It was a well played game, but poorly officiated. Right down to the very end. Literally!

      September 25, 2012 at 2:03 am | Report abuse |
    • Sean

      I agree. People are jumping on the replacement ref hazing band wagon. It was a correct call. COACHES will blames refs for their failures and NFL should fine them vigorously@!!!! The call made was correct one. Don't be a SHEEP people. I repeat, the call was CORRECT!!

      September 25, 2012 at 2:08 am | Report abuse |
    • ken

      once the defender catches ball first, followed by the receiver putting his hand on it, the rule book states that its an interception. Once they all came down on the ground, it doesnt matter what Tate did to gain more possesion because the play is over.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:09 am | Report abuse |
    • William Frank

      Wrong. Caught by defender and as fell to ground receiver reached in never having possession, joint or other wise. The way out for the refs was to call the blatant pass interference that occurred. They blew two calls on one play. Never realized how good regular NFL refs were until I watched this horror show of calls. Looks more like the NBA, make calls and all.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:11 am | Report abuse |
    • Bryan

      Bro... they call out the EXACT rule on the situation, clearly on several networks right now. A tie goes to the passers if its simultaneous original possession, but in this case Jennings clearly made initial possession so it cannot go to the passers bc of this.

      EXACT NFL rule in full wording is being shown on ESPN like every 10 min..

      September 25, 2012 at 2:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Bryan

      But please everyone, listen to what "SEAN" says, because why not? NFL coaches, previous referees (Pereira), and paid-for-a-living sports experts are stating the exact NFL wording on the situation and calling it an interception.

      BUT NO, "SEAN" is like an expert on the situation guys! SO MUCH an expert he says the call is CORRECT in all caps!!!!

      September 25, 2012 at 2:15 am | Report abuse |
    • ken

      and what shocks me even more is that they blew the call again during the review!!! I think these replacement refs are trying too hard to please the home crowd...and this is where lack of experience hurts them

      September 25, 2012 at 2:17 am | Report abuse |
  3. Steve

    End seems fitting since Clay Matthews is on steroids.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:56 am | Report abuse |
  4. Zach

    To be honest, the Seahawks had their share of bad calls against them that led to GB continuing drives that led to 9 points. Regardless of whether or not Jennings or Tate caught the ball, the game should have ended on the blatant pass interference by Tate. Regardless, both teams had some pretty bad calls against them all night long. The NFL is 3 million apart with the officials. This is what needs to be discussed amongst fans, players, coaches and owners. 3 million dollars is the equivalent of 10 dollars to you and me compared to the money the NFL pulls in. We're talking BILLIONS! It's just amazing how stubborn and greedy the NFL owners are. It's pretty much along the lines of what is going on with the 1% in this country. I expect a deal to be done this week. This just can't continue. The players and coaches work too hard and the fans pay too much money.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Allen W.


      September 25, 2012 at 2:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Roger

      100 % agree. As a Packer Fan, I hate the way the game ended, but that isn't even the point anymore. The game was called terribly on both teams to the point that nobody knows what the real score would have been.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:20 am | Report abuse |
  5. vickisthoughts

    I think the Packers got ripped I think Godell needs to get to the bottom of this and stop this bull But everyone from the Cpmmissioner on down doesnt care all they care about is the Money they get for the games and not whats going down someone pleaseeeee open your EYES and look whats going on on the Field not the bozze your drinking in those Luxury Boxes I mean What the Hell

    September 25, 2012 at 1:57 am | Report abuse |
  6. Edupler

    To you in GB, from our house here in Wa....we agree you got robbed. We love our Hawks but want our wins fair like you do. I'll buy you a beer next time.......

    September 25, 2012 at 1:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Roger

      Yep that was a terrible call, but it was in line with all of the other terrible calls made throughout the game. There is no way of knowing what the real score would have been had the game been called well. These guys are just ruining the game. It is time to get the real guys back!

      September 25, 2012 at 2:15 am | Report abuse |
    • jaw4

      Thanks there buddy! I really appreciate that! Even my friends who hate the Packers are sending me messages about how they got screwed! No offense to the Seahawks at all-But the Pack got screwed. (and BTW- I have nothing against the Seahawks!) And the Pats (a team I loathe!) got screwed-not as bad as the Pack- but they did too. Something has GOT to be done about this ref situation!

      September 25, 2012 at 2:36 am | Report abuse |
  7. SteveMidwest

    I do agree that 8 or 9 sacks in the 1st half should have been the top story but if you watched the end of the game just as an NFL football fan w/ no interest in either team, The Packer's were flat out robbed. Not too mention all the other BS calls against both teams throughout the entire game. Until the "PROFESSIONAL" refs are back, wins and losses in the NFL will be veiwed much more differently. Next thing you know, whoever wins the SUPERBOWL this year will have an *asterick next to their team name in the history books????

    September 25, 2012 at 2:02 am | Report abuse |
  8. Seahawks fan

    Gee thanks, NFL referees, but if you're still trying to make up for the atrocious refereeing in Super Bowl XL you have a long way to go. Gotta love those Seahawks!

    September 25, 2012 at 2:04 am | Report abuse |
  9. Tons of Bad Calls

    There were a LOT of bad calls tonight, many of them going against the Seahawks.. Green Bay doesn't deserve special consideration. If the situation were reversed, no one would care that it happened to the Seahawks.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:04 am | Report abuse |
  10. Ricky

    WWE refs could do better than these sold out refs

    September 25, 2012 at 2:06 am | Report abuse |
  11. just love refs

    stop whining move on.. it's just a sport. Offical ref would have done same.. they have done same before. They have even done during superbowl. So let's not blame anyone.. it's just sport. That's how sport should be. Without this it would be boring... it's always fair in sport...

    September 25, 2012 at 2:09 am | Report abuse |
  12. LazyB720

    Where to start? Clearly full possession by Jennings. Even one ref saw that! Next, clearly offensive interference by Tate. One ref was right in front of that! Oh, they don't call that when it's a " Hail Mary " ? The rules suddenly change? Then, the topper. Why do you have replay officials looking at ALL THE REPLAYS and not see what is clearly visible? Afraid of fan reaction to a reversal that gives their beloved team a loss? Maybe fear that the rent can't be paid with lost betting money on the Pack? Hate to thinks it's the latter. Just sayin.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:09 am | Report abuse |
    • NYCGUY123

      I'm not a Seahawks fan, but it was NOT clear that Jennings had sole possession. There was too much of a scrum for it to be clear. The real refs would have had a hard time making that call.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:14 am | Report abuse |
  13. Name*John

    NFL (national flagfootball league) has been an embarassment to me for years. I no longer watch football for 12 hours on 2 TV's. Only watch my home team and it's tapew most of the time because I prefer nascar now.
    I like these new guys at least you get see a little contact now.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:10 am | Report abuse |
  14. Darrell

    EA sports now has a sizable challenge ahead of them. How in the world are they going to program this type of officiating into their games. Thanks Roger this is what it has come to. Once again corporate greed dictates all.

    September 25, 2012 at 2:12 am | Report abuse |
  15. joe

    man, that was an offensive interference pass play

    September 25, 2012 at 2:13 am | Report abuse |
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