NFL Admits Errors on Several Plays in Lions vs. Cowboys

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJanuary 5, 2015

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Dean Blandino, the NFL's head of officiating, revealed to Mike Florio on PFT Live that the officials in Sunday's Wild Card Game between the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys made an error in judgment on a contentious pass interference no-call in the fourth quarter, via Pro Football Talk's Michael David Smith.        

On Tuesday, the NFL admitted the officials missed a hold on Ndamukong Suh on a critical fourth down. The league also informed the Cowboys on Wednesday of several missed calls against Detroit.

Continue for updates.

NFL Admits Several Missed Penalties Against Lions

Wednesday, Jan. 7

Clarence Hill of the Star-Telegram reported that "the NFL has told the Cowboys that game officials missed several penalties against the Lions."

NFL Claims Ndamukong Suh Was Held on Crucial 4th Down

Tuesday, Jan. 6

Adam Schefter revealed the NFL claims another officiating mistake was made in the Lions vs. Cowboys game:

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NFL Admits Fault in No-Call Against Anthony Hitchens

Monday, Jan. 5

On a 3rd-and-1 with eight minutes and 25 seconds left in the game, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford's pass to tight end Brandon Pettigrew fell incomplete. Cowboys linebacker Anthony Hitchens was originally flagged for pass interference, but the officiating crew subsequently decided against penalizing Dallas and provided no explanation for doing so.

Blandino made the case that Hitchens was guilty of holding and could've been flagged for it:

But Blandino said the missed call that troubled him most was not the pass interference flag that was originally thrown but later picked up.

According to Blandino, the clear penalty Hitchens got away with was defensive holding: Hitchens grabbed Pettigrew’s jersey while Pettigrew was running his route, and Blandino said that should have been called. If it had been, it would have given the Lions an automatic first down.

He explained his perspective further, via Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com:

I think it's debatable. There was a left hand on (Brandon Pettigrew's) shoulder, but does that significantly hinder the receiver's ability to make the catch? Looking at all the angles, we're not convinced it is or it isn't. I think had the flag not been thrown, I think we still would have debated it.

I certainly could have supported it if they left the flag down. I would have supported the foul. But I think it's a close judgment call where you have two officials with differing opinions on it. [...]

I'd prefer that they kept it down, having the flag down. But like I said it's a tight judgment call that could have went either way.

Detroit didn't get the first down. It subsequently lost the game, 24-20.

Lions head coach Jim Caldwell agreed with Blandino's comments but remains aggrieved about the outcome, per Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press:

Dave Birkett @davebirkett

Caldwell said he "absolutely" concurs with Blandino's opinion ... "I'm angry about it and trying to keep my composure here."

Pettigrew voiced his displeasure with the decision after the game, per NFL.com's Albert Breer:

Albert Breer @AlbertBreer

Lions TE Brandon Pettigrew on the call: "I didn't get an explanation. It was ridiculous. ... He ran through me."

Caldwell argued that replay should be expanded to include controversial penalties, per Tim Twentyman of DetroitLions.com:

Tim Twentyman @ttwentyman

Caldwell said the PI reversal was not called correctly. Said he wants to see replay used in those situations in big games moving forward

Some Cowboys fans countered that Pettigrew was guilty of face-masking and was lucky to have avoided a flag. Mike Harlos provided a Vine of the evidence:

"I felt that was minimal contact," said Blandino in the interview regarding Pettigrew's potential indiscretion.

Another aspect of the play that has stirred debate is when Dez Bryant ran onto the field to dispute the call. Blandino addressed that, via Rosenthal:

It's not an automatic penalty. It's the officials' discretion whether they felt that he was out on the field confronting them in an unsportsmanlike way. In that situation, the officials had some discretion and they felt that it didn't warrant a penalty. They just moved him back onto the sideline. If they had flagged him, I'd support it, but it's not an automatic.

Blandino's words will offer little comfort to Lions fans. Detroit has now lost in the Wild Card Round in each of its last seven trips to the playoffs, with the team's last postseason win coming in 1991.

Dallas, meanwhile, travels to Green Bay on Sunday to face off against the Packers. Both offenses have the potential to score a lot of points and move the ball at will through the air, and all eyes will again be on the passing game in the divisional round as a result.

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