New York, NY – The NFL issued a statement Tuesday that supported its replacement officials following the controversial finish in Seattle's 14-12 win over Green Bay on Monday.
While the NFL said Seattle receiver Golden Tate should have been called for offensive pass interference before being credited with a catch for the winning touchdown -- a call that would have ended the game in Green Bay's favor -- the league supported the field officials' ruling of simultaneous possession and the decision to uphold the on-field call upon video review.
On the final play of the game, Green Bay defensive back M.D. Jennings appeared to corral Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson's desperation heave to the back of the end zone, with Tate also getting his arms on the ball.
One official ruled it a touchdown on simultaneous possession, which is always awarded to the offensive player, although another official appeared set to call it an interception and a touchback. The touchdown ruling stood, but the referee never conferred with the two officials in the end zone and went to a video review.
The league's statement follows:
"When the players hit the ground in the end zone, the officials determined that both Tate and Jennings had possession of the ball," the league wrote Tuesday. "Under the rule for simultaneous catch, the ball belongs to Tate, the offensive player. The result of the play was a touchdown.
"Replay official Howard Slavin stopped the game for an instant replay review. The aspects of the play that were reviewable included if the ball hit the ground and who had possession of the ball. In the end zone, a ruling of a simultaneous catch is reviewable. That is not the case in the field of play, only in the end zone.
"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 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 result of the game is final."
The rule of simultaneous catch states that it is not considered simultaneous if one player "gains control first and an opponent subsequently gains joint control."
Replays appeared to show that Jennings first had control and Tate quickly followed, but it was not ruled that way on the field.
Monday's bizarre conclusion, along with several other notable gaffes during the first three weeks, has fueled the call from players, coaches and fans for the NFL to end its lockout of the regular officials.
Reports have indicated that the league and the Referees Association met over the weekend without coming close to a resolution.
The NFLPA came out with the following statement:
"The decision by the NFL owners to lock out the referees jeopardizes your health and safety. This decision to remove more than 1,500 years of collective experience has simply made the workplace less safe," NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said.
"It is the NFL's duty to provide a workplace that is as safe as possible. The League will want fans, the media and sponsors to talk only about 'the product' on the field. We are not product.
"While the focus today is about a blown call and the outcome of one football game, our focus as a family of players is and will remain squarely on workplace safety.
"Contrary to some reports, we are not crossing any picket line. The referees are not on strike. The Owners locked them out.
"We are actively reviewing any and all possible actions to protect you."