NFL officials take criticism after a rough Week 3

Confusion reigns as one official (right) signals that the game-ending play Monday night is a touchdown — but another official (left) signals that it is not.
Confusion reigns as one official (right) signals that the game-ending play Monday night is a touchdown — but another official (left) signals that it is not. – Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

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The NFL put its stamp of approval on the still-smoldering outcome of the Green Bay-Seattle game:

Wrong call.

Right review.

Wrong team still wins.

Seahawks 14, Packers 12.

With frustration mounting among coaches, players, and fans, the worst fear finally materialized: a mistake by a replacement official would decide the outcome of a game.

It came while the NFL and its regular officials, locked out since June, were in resumed talks in an attempt to resolve the impasse.

That was still a day late for the Packers.

The fiasco, which unfolded on the prominent stage of ‘‘Monday Night Football,’’ was deconstructed by the league Tuesday in a way that surely rendered little comfort for Cheeseheads.


The NFL said Seattle’s last-second touchdown pass should not have counted because Seahawks receiver Golden Tate should have been called for offensive pass interference, ending the game with Green Bay winning.

Instead, officials ruled it a touchdown, and penalties either way are not reviewable.

That left it to whether Tate and Green Bay safety M.D. Jennings both had possession of the ball. The officials said they did, but the Packers insisted Jennings had clear possession for a game-ending interception. The NFL agreed that the replay was inconclusive, upholding the touchdown and giving Seattle the victory.

Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers, normally a soft-spoken player who didn’t say much after the loss, lashed out on his radio show Tuesday.

‘‘First of all, I’ve got to do something that the NFL is not going to do: I have to apologize to the fans,’’ he said.

Even President Barack Obama got in on the conversation Tuesday, tweeting: ‘‘NFL fans on both sides of the aisle hope the refs’ lockout is settled soon.’’

The controversy began on the final play when Russell Wilson heaved a 24-yard pass into a scrum in the end zone with Seattle trailing, 12-7. Tate shoved away a defender with both hands, and he and Jennings got their hands on the ball.


‘‘It was pinned to my chest the whole time,’’ Jennings said.

Instead, the officials ruled on the field that the two had simultaneous possession, which counts as a reception.

‘‘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 league said in a statement.

Saying there was no indisputable evidence, though, is not the same as confirming the initial call was correct.

The Packers, the Super Bowl champs two years ago, fell to 1-2. The Seahawks are 2-1.

Fans’ fascination with the finish was evident in the number who stayed with ESPN to watch the highlights on ‘‘SportsCenter’’ after the game: 6.5 million viewers, the most for the full-length show since records started being kept in 1990.

On his weekly appearance on a Seattle radio station, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll made no apologies Tuesday, saying, ‘‘The league backed it up and game over. We win.’’

‘‘Golden makes an extraordinary effort. It’s a great protection. It’s a great throw. It’s a great attempt at the ball and he wins the battle,’’ he said. ‘‘They were right on the point looking right at it, standing right over the thing and they reviewed it.’’

But Rodgers, in a reference to referee Wayne Elliott not seeing indisputable evidence, said: ‘‘I mean, come on, Wayne. That’s embarrassing.’’

NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith posted a statement to members saying the lockout ‘‘jeopardizes your health and safety.’’

‘‘This decision to remove more than 1,500 years of collective experience has simply made the workplace less safe,’’ he wrote, adding, ‘‘We are actively reviewing any and all possible actions to protect you.’’


The NFL locked out officials in June after their contract expired. Unable to reach a new agreement, the league opened the season with replacements, most with experience in only lower levels of college football.

Coaches and players began griping about the officials in the preseason, but the tension seemed to boil over this past weekend.

Scuffles after the whistle were frequent with players appearing to test the limits of the new officials, and coaches were fined for berating them.

Las Vegas oddsmakers said $300 million or more changed hands worldwide on Monday’s call. The Glantz-Culver line for the game opened favoring the Packers by 4½. Had the play been ruled an interception, Green Bay would have won by 5.

The call also found its way into Wisconsin politics, with Republican Governor Scott Walker tweeting for the regular officials to return. Opponents noted that he seemed to be supporting the referees union after going after public employee unions last year, though Democratic state Senator Jon Erpenbach added: ‘‘We’re all fans, first and foremost.’’

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