There should have been plenty to discuss beyond the officiating after the Green Bay Packers’ 23-22 win over the Detroit Lions on Monday night.
Lions coach Matt Patricia’s clock management could come into question. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ obscenely precise play was worth discussion. But unfortunately, no one — not even the ESPN broadcasters, who typically avoid criticism of the officials — could avoid the chatter around the referees’ calls on the field. The officials were the most influential people during the game — and in the worst ways.
There were many poor calls on the field on Monday. But let’s focus, in particular, on two calls: a pair of illegal-hands-to-the-face penalties on Lions defensive end Trey Flowers. Both calls helped the Packers stay in the game.
The first penalty came on a third-and-10 on the Packers’ penultimate offensive possession in the fourth quarter when the Lions sacked Rodgers for an 11-yard loss. The penalty gave Green Bay a first down (rather than a fourth down). The replay showed Flowers had his hands on Packers tackle David Bakhtiari’s shoulder pads — not on his face. Three plays later, Rodgers dropped a dime to Allen Lazard for a touchdown, which trimmed the Lions’ lead to two points.
On the Packers’ final possession on a third-and-4, Flowers was again putting his hands on Bakhtiari’s shoulder pads — and the tackle threw back his head, perhaps in an effort to draw a penalty. It worked. The refs flagged Flowers again. And again, the flag gave Green Bay more life. In fact, that play gave the Packers a first down with enough time to bleed the clock and attempt a field goal without the Lions ever getting a chance at getting the ball back. Essentially, the call ended and determined the game. And it was very apparently an errant call.
Here’s a look at both plays. The top video is the first time Flowers was flagged. The second video is the second time he was flagged.
That’s why there was outrage on Twitter.
The game should have been a classic, with two division rivals keeping it close before Rodgers pulled off an epic comeback in a primetime game. But that wasn’t the story. It was all about the officiating, which is a shame.