Lions Burned by Rule Book Once Again

Golden Tates touchdown

NFL Rule Book Bit Them Again

It seems to Detroit Lions fans, if the team didn’t have bad luck, they wouldn’t have any luck at all. The NFL rule book bit them again on Sunday when what appeared to be a last second touchdown to win the game over the defending NFC champion Atlanta Falcons, was overturned, costing them the game.

We’ll talk about this more in a bit, but first let’s review the game between these two NFC contenders. Both started out 2-0 in the young season with at least one impressive performance.

For the Lions, after an opening game win at home over Arizona, they went on the road and played a Monday night game in New York against the Giants and won rather easily.  For Atlanta, after a slim win at Chicago, they went home to take on Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. The Falcons dominated Green Bay and came into Detroit flying high.


First Half

Atlanta looked good in the first half taking a 17-3 lead at one point before the Lions got going. After a couple of Matt Prater field goals, Glover Quin intercepted a Matt Ryan pass and returned it for a touchdown to make it 17-13. A field goal by Atlanta extended the lead to 20-13 at the half.


Third Quarter

But by the time the third quarter ended, the Lions had tied things up on a Matthew Stafford to Golden Tate touchdown pass and another Prater field goal. But the Falcons scored quickly in the fourth before Prater nailed a 57 yarder to make it a 4-point game.


Fourth Quarter

The end of the game is where things got interesting. Stafford drove his team down the field as time was running down, even as penalties and dropped passes were ready to derail them. After a pass interference call, Detroit had a first and goal with just seconds left. Stafford then hit Tate with what appeared to be the game-winning touchdown with just 8 seconds left. The fans in Detroit went wild and the players celebrated.

But wait. The play was reviewed and it was determined that Tate had his knee down at the ½ yard line. Okay, 8 seconds still left for the Lions, right? Wrong. Due to an actual NFL rule, because Detroit had no timeouts remaining and the game clock was under two-minutes, there would be 10 second runoff. With only 8 seconds left, guess what. Lions lose.


NFL Rule

Lion players and fans were stunned by this rule and no matter how many times I see the replay it just doesn’t seem definitive enough to overturn the call on the field. Also, why should the Lions be penalized when it was the officials who stopped the game to check the replay? Detroit would never have considered it since the call on the field was a touchdown.

Here’s why. Once the decision to reverse the call was made, the rules were applied correctly. However, the intent of the rule was to prevent a team from trying to gain an advantage when they were without timeouts. For instance, having a player fake an injury to stop the clock when they were behind in a game. Certainly, the Lions weren’t trying to do that.

So once again, the NFL may need to modify a rule that once again has hurt the team from Detroit. Here are a couple more examples:


September 12, 2010 – Lions at Bears

Calvin Johnson caught a touchdown pass to win a game against the Bears. Wait a second. On review it was determined that although he caught the ball and came down with it, he didn’t “complete the process” of the catch. Lions lose.


January 4th, 2015 – Detroit at Dallas

In a tight playoff game, Detroit was driving with a 20-17 lead over Dallas. On third and 1, a flag was called against Dallas for obvious pass interference. However, it was then picked up by one of the officials with no explanation and no penalty against the Cowboys. Lions punted and ended up losing.


October 5th, 2015 – Lions at Seahawks

Once again, Johnson was involved in a controversial call. Going in for a go-ahead touchdown, the ball was knocked loose at the 1-yard line and into the end zone. The Seahawk defender then intentionally knocked the ball out of bounds. The officials missed the call as the rules state it should have been awarded to the Lions at the spot of the fumble. It was not and Detroit went on to lose.

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