It was one of the most egregiously officiated games of the NFL season. It's been talked about ad nauseam for the last few days. The Lions were screwed, and the Packers were gifted a win in a pivotal early-season divisional matchup.
Instead of being in first place in the NFL North at 3-1-1, the Lions are in last in the division at 2-2-1. The Packers are now alone in first instead of being stuck in a tie for second with Minnesota and just a half-game up on last place Chicago. It changed everything for all four of these teams.
I could go on and on about how we should be able to institute a "Sky Judge" or allow for reviews of any automatic first down penalties, but that argument has been made.
Instead, I want to tell you why you should feel bad for the Detroit Lions, their fans, and anyone associated with the organization.
Of course, there's been a ton of mismanagement and poor play from this franchise since their last title in 1958, and that lack of competence drove the likes of Barry Sanders and Calvin Johnson into retirement in their prime. But in recent years, there has not been a team screwed over more by bad calls or weird rules than the Detroit Lions.
Here's one from 2005 where Packer running back Samkon Gado was about to be tackled for a safety but threw the ball as he was being tackled, resulting in an "incomplete pass."
The Lions would eventually lose in overtime in Lambeau, 16-13.
One of the most notable calls in football history, which really ignited the "what is a catch?" discussion: Calvin Johnson in 2010 against the Bears:
Instead of taking the lead in the final minute, this ridiculous rule created a Week 1 loss, 19-14.
How about the time the Lions hosted the Houston Texans on Thanksgiving in 2012? They were leading by ten points when this play was ruled a touchdown on the field:
NFL rules at the time said that if you challenged an automatically reviewable call, that play no longer was reviewable. Absolutely absurd that a rule like that existed, and instead of maintaining their two-score lead in the third, the missed call was upheld with no review and the Lions would naturally lose the game in overtime. And, of course, the NFL changed the rule after the season so these kinds of plays would still be reviewed regardless if the coach inadvertently threw the challenge flag.
Or how about the time the Lions played the Cowboys in the playoffs in 2014 and thought they had a first down which would have helped them ice the game via pass interference, only to watch the refs pick up the flag?
Obviously, the Lions would lose that playoff game and their season would end. What a surprise...
Another classic: When Aaron Rodgers and the Packers got an untimed down after a phantom facemask call, leading to a walk-off hail mary late in the 2015 season:
That one hurts to watch. Something about the Lions and Packers.
And also, the Lions and the playoffs. Here they are against the Seahawks in the Wild Card round of 2016 in what was still a tight game late in the first half, when Paul Richardson makes an absurd catch while also decapitating a Lions defender (there was no flag for the facemask):
That game would get away from them late, but the complexion certainly could have changed had that play been called back.
The following season, Golden Tate thought he had a game-winning touchdown in the closing seconds against the Falcons, but the review determined he was short, and by rule, there was a 10-second runoff which meant the end of the game:
If the call was correct on the field, there would have been enough time for the Lions to spike the ball or run one more play for the winning touchdown. Instead, it was ripped from them because the officials thought they had scored on the field. That season, the 9-7 Lions missed the playoffs, finishing one game behind... the Atlanta Falcons for the last Wild Card spot. You can't make this up.
That leads us to the abomination that was Monday Night Football:
I'm not a Lions fan, but I'm a fan of fairness. According to NFLPenalties.com, the Lions are dead last in the league in Beneficiary Yards, which measures the penalty yards that are in favor of the team. No one gets less penalties called on their opponent than the Detroit Lions.
The careers of Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, and the rest of the modern Lions continue to be haunted by these calls. The coaching tenures of Jim Schwartz and Jim Caldwell have been affected by these mistakes, and one can only hope than Matt Patricia doesn't endure the same fate.
If there was ever a team that we needed to rally around as fans of the sport of football, it is the Detroit Lions. The rest of the 2019 schedule has very winnable games against the Giants, Raiders, Redskins, Buccaneers, and Broncos, and God knows they'll need every one of those if they'll compete for a spot in the NFC Playoffs.
Brothers and sisters, join me in solitude and sympathy for lovers of the Detroit Lions. Here's to one day seeing Matthew Stafford celebrating a well-earned playoff win and maybe even more. Lord knows they deserve it.
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