The referees called Golden Tate's last-minute reception legitimate despite conflicting calls from the two officials and video evidence to the contrary. (Otto Gruele Jr, Getty Images)
The NFL has issued a statement responding to the uproar over the last play of yesterday night's game between the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers. In it, the league supports the decision by referees to award a catch to Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate, claiming it to be a "simultaneous catch," in which the benefit of the doubt goes to the offensive player.
However, the league admits that end zone officials missed an offensive pass interference call on Tate, who pushed Packers cornerback Sam Shields to the ground before leaping to catch the Hail Mary pass to the end zone that won the game for the Seahawks in the closing moments of last night's contest.
The play has generated yet another firestorm of controversy throughout the league, with several players, analysts, and fans venting their frustration on social media and in person. It is also the latest in a series of gaffes by the replacement officials called in by the NFL to officiate games while the labor dispute with the league's normal referees is ongoing.
Despite the protests from all corners, the league dispelled any notion that the game result could be overturned, saying in the statement that "The result of the game is final."
The full statement from the NFL is as follows:
Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson threw a pass into the end zone. Several players, including Seattle wide receiver Golden Tate and Green Bay safety M.D. Jennings, jumped into the air in an attempt to catch the ball.
While the ball is in the air, Tate can be seen shoving Green Bay cornerback Sam Shields to the ground. This should have been a penalty for offensive pass interference, which would have ended the game. It was not called and is not reviewable in instant replay.
When the players hit the ground in the end zone, the officials determined that both Tate and Jennings had possession of the ball. 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.