By The Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — The NFL conceded Tuesday that a bad call cost the Green Bay Packers the game – yet still upheld the Seattle Seahawks’ victory.
While coaches, players and fans – 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. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussions were not made public.
The NFL said Seattle’s last-second touchdown pass of the “Monday Night Football” game should not have been overturned in the 14-12 victory – but acknowledged Seahawks receiver Golden Tate should have been called for offensive pass interference before the catch.
Frustrations over the replacements have mounted through the first three weeks of the season and reached an apex Monday when a highly questionable call decided the outcome of a game.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, normally a soft-spoken player who didn’t say much after the game, lashed out on his radio show a day later.
“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 the NFL acknowledged Tuesday he should have been penalized, which would have clinched a Packers victory. But it was not called and 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. Simultaneous possession can be reviewed only on plays in the end zone.
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.”
But Rodgers, in a reference to referee Wayne Elliott not seeing indisputable evidence, said: “I mean, come on, Wayne. That’s embarrassing.”
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.
Coaches and players began griping about the replacements in the preseason, but the frustration seemed to boil over in Week 3 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 4 1/2. 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 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.