The Detroit Lions were stewing Monday night, with another controversial call going against them in a big spot. But, as quarterback Matthew Stafford said, this isn’t the first time he has experienced something like this.
With the Lions, these incidents happen so much so that Calvin Johnson had to half-sigh, half-laugh when asked about the possibility that a second rule invoking his name could end up in play.
It even led actor Jeff Daniels to say on ESPN Radio's Mike & Mike on Tuesday morning that “you feel cursed” as a Lions fan. Daniels lives in Chelsea, Michigan, and is passionate about the Lions.
With that in mind, here’s a look at some of those controversial and bizarre decisions the Lions have seen pertaining to rules and officiating over the past few seasons.
When: Monday night at Seattle
The situation: Johnson was running toward the end zone when Seattle safety Kam Chancellor knocked the ball out of his hands just before he crossed the goal line. That was a strong play, but Seahawks’ linebacker K.J. Wright saw the ball in the end zone and intentionally knocked it out of bounds, turning the play into a touchback.
What should have happened: NFL officiating czar Dean Blandino said the Lions should have maintained possession at the spot of the fumble instead of it being turned over to Seattle. With less than two minutes left, a potential Lions touchdown could have given them the upset. Instead, Seattle got the ball and iced the game, sending Detroit to 0-4.
The reversal and non-call
When: Wild-card playoffs against Dallas, January 2015
The situation: Stafford tried to throw a pass to tight end Brandon Pettigrew on a third-and-1 from the Dallas 46-yard line in the fourth quarter. Referee Pete Morelli initially announced a pass interference call on Dallas linebacker Anthony Hitchens, but that was reversed. There was also a missed defensive holding call on the play. Either one would have resulted in a Detroit first down.
What should have happened: Blandino said the non-call on the pass interference was debatable but that Morelli should not have announced the penalty. He also said the crew missed the defensive holding call by Hitchens that would have given Detroit a first down. The Lions punted and allowed Dallas to go on a game-winning drive in the 24-20 Cowboys win that ended the Lions' season.
The process -- twice
When: Week 1 against Minnesota, 2013 and Week 1 against Chicago, 2011
The situations: Both times, Johnson had touchdowns taken away because he was ruled to have not completed the process of the catch as he was going to the ground. This cost Detroit a win against the Bears, but the Lions did beat the Vikings. The Bears instance led to the process rule to become known as “The Calvin Johnson Rule,” though it has happened to many other players since, including Dez Bryant in last year’s NFC divisional playoff game against Green Bay.
What should have happened: In both cases, the calls appeared to be correct -- the ball did shift when Johnson hit the ground, therefore those receptions were deemed incomplete -- but the entire rule was somewhat unclear.
When: Thanksgiving 2012, against Houston
The situation: Former Lions coach Jim Schwartz threw a challenge flag after an 81-yard touchdown run by Justin Forsett, who clearly was down early in the run. The rule at the time was that challenges of plays that are automatically reviewed negated the review and also drew a penalty. The Lions lost in overtime, 34-31, after the touchdown stood.
What should have happened: Much like with the process rule, the call on the field was correct at the time -- something Schwartz later said he knew. But it called into question why the rule was there in the first place, and it was eventually wiped off the books before the 2013 season, becoming known as the “Jim Schwartz Rule.”