NFL defends refs after controversial call costs Packers win vs. Seahawks

Nickalas Tabbert

The National Football League on Tuesday defended referees for not overturning the controversial touchdown that gave the Seattle Seahawks a 14-12 victory over the Green Bay Packers on Monday night.

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.

Instead, the officials ruled on the field that the two had simultaneous possession, which counts as a reception. The penalty was not reviewable.

The decision came down to whether Tate and Packers safety M.D. Jennings both had possession of the ball. The officials said they did, but the Packers insisted — and the replay appeared to show — that Jennings had clear possession for a game-ending interception.

“It was pinned to my chest the whole time,” Jennings said.

The NFL said in a press release that the replay was inconclusive, upholding the touchdown and giving Seattle the victory.

Replay official Howard Slavin stopped the game for an instant replay review. Officials could review whether the ball hit the ground and who had possession of the ball, the release said.

In the end zone, a ruling of a simultaneous catch is reviewable. That is not the case in the field of play, the release said.

Referee Wayne Elliott determined that no indisputable visual evidence existed to overturn the call on the field, and as a result, the on-field ruling of a touchdown stood.

The NFL Officiating Department reviewed the video Tuesday and supported the decision not to overturn the on-field ruling following the instant replay review.

There was mixed reaction around the league between coaches and players in a chaotic aftermath.

Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers, 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 on ESPN 540-AM in Milwaukee.

On his weekly appearance on Seattle radio station 710 KIRO-AM, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll made no apologies Tuesday.

“The league backed it up and game over. We win,” he said.

“They were right on the point looking right at it, standing right over the thing, and they reviewed it,” Carroll said. “Whether they missed the push or not — obviously they missed the push in the battle for the ball — but that stuff goes on all the time.”

But Rodgers, referring to 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. “We are actively reviewing any and all possible actions to protect you.”

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

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

Fans’ fascination with the finish was evident in the number who stayed with ESPN to watch the highlights on “SportsCenter” after the game. The show drew 6.5 million viewers, its highest total since records started being kept in 1990.

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 4 1/2. Had the play been ruled an interception, Green Bay would have won by five.


-The Associated Press contributed to this report.