Most sports fans have come to terms with the reality that bad calls are always going to exist in some form or another.
As hard as it is to accept a blown call against your team, the thought that they’ll all even out in the end is usually enough to provide some comfort.
Complaining about referees gets old quickly. (We get it, Saints fans). This is especially true in the NFL, where, with multiple cameras blanketing every square inch of grass, it’s easy to spot something that could have been called differently on almost every play if you comb through replays for long enough.
But every so often, there are game-changing calls so bad that they unite fans and pundits from around the league in outrage. Monday night’s game between the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers was one of those instances.
The divisional matchup had big implications, with the Packers sitting atop the competitive NFC North at 4-1 and the 2-1-1 Lions looking to stay within striking distance of the division lead.
A strong first quarter helped the visiting Lions jump out to a 10-0 lead. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers answered back with a touchdown and a field goal, and the first half ended with the Lions holding a 13-10 lead.
The Lions held onto their lead for most of the second half and even stretched it nine points early in the fourth quarter after Matt Prater nailed his fifth field goal of the night.
Cue the controversy.
Down by two scores in the fourth quarter, the Packers put together a pair of scoring drives and eventually won the game with a field goal as time expired. But on both drives, they got help from the referees.
Both Packers drives seemed to have stalled out on failed third down conversion attempts before phantom flags were thrown against the defense. Both calls were against Lions defensive end Trey Flowers for illegal hands to the face.
The first call came on a play where Rodgers was sacked and the Packers would have been forced to punt. Instead, the penalty gave them a first down, and they scored a touchdown three plays later.
Replays showed that Flowers had his hand on the Packers player’s shoulder pads.
“Illegal use of hands, hands to the face defense #90” WHAT?!?!?!?!?!?!?!pic.twitter.com/CMte9PzQo0
— #BusinessIsSuspended (@FTBeard11) October 15, 2019
The second penalty occurred with less than two minutes to go in the game.
The Packers had the ball deep in Lions territory and failed to pick up a third down conversion. It looked like they’d be forced to kick the go-ahead field goal with about a minute and a half remaining on the clock, giving the Lions time to try and counter.
But another strange penalty call on Flowers gave the Packers a first down, allowing them to run the clock down and kick a short field goal as time expired.
Trey Flowers Controversial Illegal Hands To The Face Calls Against Packers. (2019) pic.twitter.com/ktGKkw7UhM
— American Football News (@America02338159) October 15, 2019
Head official Clete Blakeman offered a less-than-convincing explanation after the game.
“The umpire threw both of them,” Blakeman said, according to CBS Sports. “The last one was really the only one I’ve discussed with him. Basically, it’s for illegal use of the hands, hands-to-the-face foul.”
“To be a foul, we basically need some forceful contact that’s prolonged to the head and neck area of the defender. So, in his mind he had pinned him back, it was prolonged, and that’s what created the foul.”
Understandably, that quelled approximately zero percent of the anger surrounding the calls.
That is sickening… the @NFL needs to look at a way to prevent that from happening. Two phantom hands to the face calls really hurts us tonight. Yes, we could have scored TDs, but @Lions played too well to have the game end this way. #DETvsGB @espn
— Barry Sanders (@BarrySanders) October 15, 2019
Wait, Flowers has never been called for illegal hands to the face in his career and now twice? And they were both bogus. Again 👇🏼👇🏼👇🏼👇🏼 https://t.co/Vj65scQwDf
— James Palmer (@JamesPalmerTV) October 15, 2019
Did any1 else see NFL Referee Clete Blakeman do the Lambeau Leap after game was over .. Lions Vs Packers pic.twitter.com/f5R5iZssVr
— David (@David7Houston) October 15, 2019
As NBC commentator Tony Dungy, a former NFL head coach, pointed out, there were other questionable calls that went against the Lions.
The bogus personal foul and the non call Pass Interference was six more points. Four wrong calls is hard to imagine. https://t.co/GUoT0h7JV4
— Tony Dungy (@TonyDungy) October 15, 2019
At the risk of sounding like a bitter Detroit Lions fan, since when is this not pass interference??? Also two nonexistent “hands to the face” calls that changed the game… C’mon man! pic.twitter.com/3IkquAr8gN
— Kent Knapp (@KentKnapp4) October 15, 2019
The Lions now sit at the bottom of the NFC North and face an uphill climb to reach the playoffs.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.