NFL concedes bad call cost Packers victory; refuses to change outcome
NEW YORK (AP) — The NFL conceded Tuesday that a bad call cost the Green Bay Packers the game while upholding the Seattle Seahawks' victory.
As coaches, players and fans — and even athletes in other sports — ripped the use of replacement refs, the league met with its locked-out officials Tuesday in an attempt to resolve the impasse.
Two people with knowledge of the talks told The Associated Press that the sides were meeting Tuesday. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussions were not made public.
The NFL said Seattle's last-second touchdown pass Monday should not have been overturned — but acknowledged Seahawks receiver Golden Tate should have been called for offensive pass interference before the catch for a 14-12 victory.
The ire around football at the struggles of the replacements had been steadily building this season, and it reached an apex Monday with what everybody had feared would happen: a highly questionable call deciding a game.
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."
On the final play of "Monday Night Football," 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 the NFL acknowledged Tuesday he should have been penalized, which would have clinched a Packers victory. But that cannot be reviewed by instant replay.
Tate and Green Bay safety M.D. Jennings then both got their hands on the ball, though the Packers insisted Jennings had clear possession for a game-ending interception.
"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. Once that happened, the NFL said, the referee was correct that no indisputable visual evidence existed on review to overturn the touchdown call.
"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.
On his weekly appearance on Seattle radio station 710 KIRO-AM, 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. 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."
Packers coach Mike McCarthy and players were stoic after the loss, though some vented on Twitter. Offensive lineman Josh Sitton tweeted sarcastically Tuesday: "So...according to the NFL the refs got the call correct?"
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.
Las Vegas oddsmakers said $300 million or more changed hands worldwide on the 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 political debate, with Republican Gov. 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 Sen. Jon Erpenbach added: "we're all fans, first and foremost."
AP Pro Football Writer Barry Wilner in New York, AP Sports Writer Tim Booth in Seattle and Associated Press writers Scott Bauer in Madison, Wis., Ken Ritter in Las Vegas, and Oskar Garcia in Honolulu contributed to this report.
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