Were the Detroit Lions Robbed by the Rules?

Jared JohnstonContributor ISeptember 13, 2010

Sean Hill drops back to pass in Chicago
Sean Hill drops back to pass in ChicagoJonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Detroit Lions were robbed today. 

They were robbed by the officials in Chicago.

They were robbed by the rules, that were enforced to the letter, but yet failed to apply the spirit of football. 

Head coach Jim Schwartz was notably cordial when discussing the call with reporters after the game, saying, “The rule states we must have possession of the ball after the play and we didn’t have possession, it is what it is."

But I will tell you that, in my own humble opinion, this rule was not intended for circumstances like this. 

My father, who is nearly 60 years old said, “That was the worst play I have ever seen in any football game, ever.” And he’s been watching football games since just after Bobby Layne was a World Champion. That says a lot folks.

Calvin Johnson clearly had possession of the ball all the way to the ground, at which point, he clearly got up to celebrate and left the ball on the ground. 

This was by far the worst single call an official has made in all of sports. Whether or not it abides by the rules, it was a bad call and if the rules say otherwise, they need to change.

I say it was even worse than the call that robbed Detroit Tigers SP Armando Galarraga of a perfect game because this call actually changed the outcome of a game. And unlike baseball, which has a 100+ game season, in the NFL you get only 16 chances to win.

The very point of rules is to ensure that the spirit of the game is not infringed by those who would use shoddy tactics and tricks to take advantage, and this was obviously not the case for Calvin Johnson on this play. 

For all my life in football, I’ve known the rules to be, “if your butt hits the ground and you’re in possession of the ball, it’s down at that spot." Well apparently not any more. 

Now you must apparently keep possession of the ball until the referee says it’s OK to let it go. However, I just can’t see how this rule can sit in congruency with other rules, such as the rule that says if you’re in possession of a ball, and you fumble it out of bounds, it’s still your ball and the point where you fumbled it. 

Well according to that rule, Calvin Johnson had possession of the ball and fumbled it out of the back of the end zone (after getting two feet and a butt to hit the turf in said end zone) yet somehow this was not a touchdown?

In the play in question, Calvin Johnson is clearly getting up to celebrate the touchdown he thinks he has scored, and leaves the ball at the back of the end zone after getting both feet and a butt to hit the ground in bounds of the end zone. 

He then gets up and starts to run away cheering, leaving the ball on the ground.

One referee throws both arms vertical, signaling a touchdown. Another referee though throws both arms sideways, back and forth, clearly acknowledging an incomplete pass a split second after that. 

There are actually two new rules here at play that I do not approve of as a fan of NFL football. 
It used to be that, “the ruling on the field stands, unless the challenge provides irrefutable evidence to overturn the call."

Well now there is a second caveat to that. The ruling on the field can be overturned by yet another ref or line judge on the field of play! 

It doesn't matter who saw it better. 

It doesn't matter who was right. 

It doesn't matter about anything (realistically) whatsoever, other that chronological order of calls on the field. 

In reality, the lazy referee, the referee to make the LAST call has “trump power” over anyone who actually sees the call and calls it as he sees it.

It could be a referee totally out of position to see the play, and yet he could say, “oh no, I didn't see that I’m going to overturn that call."

And then if there is no “irrefutable video evidence” the play stands as called, by the SECOND referee. As the second one, for some reason that is considered gospel, as in “as it is called on the field” for some reason. 

As I watched the Redskins vs. Cowboys as well as the Packers vs. Eagles matchups, Bob Costas continually interrupted the game on intermissions and brought up the Lions game ending, and the call made against the catch that Calvin Johnson didn't make according to the officiating crew in Chicago. Costas was on the Lions' side, and said this call simply went against the spirit of the game, and the rules as it were. 

If Bob Costas can see it, why can't the officials at Soldier Field see it?

I feel like a fan who was robbed by organized crime game fixing scandals, somehow modifying the rules so that the downtrodden Detroit Lions could never possibly win. Even when all the odds and stakes were set against them. 

Even when franchise QB Matthew Stafford was taken out of the game with a shoulder ligament sprain, somehow Detroit managed to stay in the game to the very end.  

The Detroit Lions defense was incredibly potent today. They played with the intention to win, and they figured they could do so all afternoon long. On five different occasions, the Bears got the ball in good field position and the Detroit Lions defense held up strong. 

They held up strong until the final possession when back up QB Shaun Hill drove down the field to attempt to win the game. 

He threw what everyone knew was a game-winning touchdown, except for the officials, with a new and useless rulebook. 

I'm sorry ladies and gentleman, but the Lions, even with a backup QB during half of the game, outplayed the Chicago Bears today, and yet it didn't show on the scoreboard. 

It showed in the stats though. Heck if you look at the stats, the Lions shouldn't have even been in this game at all, but the scoreboard is what counts. 

In the end, there should have been six points for the TD from Shaun Hill to Calvin Johnson on that very scoreboard, and I feel robbed. The NFL needs to take another look at this rule, as well as this new one that says the second referee on the field can, "overturn the first" and it's the second call that is designated "the call on the field."

I can't say it enough that the Lions were robbed today, and these rules need to change immediately. 

What do you think? Do you feel the Lions were robbed by this call?


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