Fumbling out of the back of the end zone in the final two minutes of the game, right before your team was about to take the lead on Monday Night Football, is a heartbreaking way to lose. Finding out after the game that the officials missed a call that would have given your team another shot from inside the 1-yard line makes it all the more difficult.
Such is life for Calvin Johnson and the Detroit Lions following their 13-10 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
Safety Kam Chancellor punched the ball from Johnson's arm as the receiver was about to score to take the lead, and Seattle took over following the touchback. However, K.J. Wright batted the ball out of the back of the end zone, which is illegal and should have given the ball back to the Lions, as ESPN Monday Night highlighted on Twitter:
Vice president of officiating Dean Blandino reiterated that position to NFL Network (via Around the NFL): "Judgment call on the field. Back judge felt it wasn’t overt. That’s why he didn’t call it on the field."
The NFL provided a highlight of the play and some additional comments from Blandino:
Chris Burke of Sports Illustrated provided the rule Wright violated when he batted the ball out of the end zone:
Rob Guerrera of ProFootballTalk wondered how the official could miss the play when he had such a clear view:
Gino.wav did not make Lions fans feel any better about the result with this observation:
John Breech of CBS Sports noticed the official reach for the flag as well:
The rule is not an obvious one, and many diehard NFL fans didn't know it off the top of their heads, but the officials should understand each and every rule. It is literally their job. The fact that they failed to enforce this one in a high-profile situation was not a good look for the NFL, and both Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times and Skip Bayless of ESPN suggested as much:
Don Banks of Sports Illustrated thought this may have been a sign the rule book needs to be condensed, while ESPN's Sam Ponder and Bleacher Report's Matt Miller were as confused as the rest of us:
Wright explained his thought process after the game, as Brian Floyd of SB Nation noted:
While many didn't know the rule, one man in the NFL has prepared his team for situations like this one, as former New England Patriots linebacker Rosevelt Colvin shared:
The fact that it was such a bizarre ending naturally lent itself to humor, and PFTCommenter did not disappoint:
Others found humor in the explanation that the back judge felt the batting was not overt, such as Rich Eisen of NFL Network and Chicago Cubs play-by-play announcer Len Kasper:
This was not the first controversial ending for an NFC North team in Seattle during a Monday night game. The Green Bay Packers were victims of the "Touchception" call in 2012, as Breech recalled in the aftermath of Monday's ending:
Reporters naturally asked Detroit's players and coaches about the play after the game. Quarterback Matt Stafford addressed it, per the team's Twitter account, and coach Jim Caldwell commented on it as well, per SportsCenter:
Lost in the controversy surrounding the missed call was the fact Chancellor made an incredible play to win the game for the Seahawks. Without his forced fumble, the two-time defending NFC champions would have fallen to 1-3 with a date with the undefeated Cincinnati Bengals on the horizon. Adam Hoge of WGN Radio and Mike Hill of Fox Sports recognized the Seattle safety:
As gut-wrenching as the call was, Detroit would have likely taken the lead with better ball security. Miller pointed that out amid the discussion of the missed call:
It's hard to argue with that.