ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Carl Cheffers was the referee for the Detroit Lions-Green Bay Packers Hail Mary game last season. He was one of two officials to throw a flag on Lions defensive end Devin Taylor, giving the Packers a free play and Aaron Rodgers a chance for his Hail Mary touchdown.
And on Friday, speaking to the media during the annual rules clarification meeting, Cheffers said he felt comfortable with what was called.
“I think it’s an illegal tackle. Horse-collar, face mask, I think it was an illegal tackle,” Cheffers said. “So I’m very comfortable with it.”
Cheffers said he believed Taylor’s tackle of Rodgers was both a face mask and a horse-collar. Taylor said after the game he did not believe it was a face mask on the play and was later not fined for the play. Lions coach Jim Caldwell also said at the time he did not believe it was a face mask. Aaron Rodgers said he believed it was.
The call set up the Aaron Rodgers-to-Richard Rodgers 61-yard touchdown pass. Cheffers knows that Hail Mary isn't a popular memory in Detroit, but says that it was "an exciting play" and that he had a good perspective on Rodgers tossing the ball 70 yards into the end zone.
Asked to clarify what constitutes a face-mask call, Cheffers explained that it does not necessarily mean grasping and grabbing onto the face mask.
“It’s just control,” Cheffers said. “So if you get fingers in there and you control the mask, there’s really no element of time or anything like that in that. It’s just controlling the mask so turning the thing sideways or anything like that is enough control to have a face-mask penalty.”
Cheffers said the mask has to be “grasped or controlled,” and that there is nothing in the rule book about grazing the mask. Cheffers said Taylor came up to him after the play but didn’t say anything to him.
“He seemed kind of disgusted,” Cheffers said. “His reaction, to me, was that he had done something wrong.”
After Cheffers was done with his presentation, the Taylor play was pulled up and he was asked to watch the play again for clarification on the horse-collar and the face mask. He refused to do it.
“It’s 2016, dude,” Cheffers said.
Cheffers did watch the play again as part of his typical review following the game on Dec. 3, 2015. He just declined to do so again with the media, saying it's a new year. It is, but it’s still a play that bothers Lions fans even eight months later.
Lions coach Jim Caldwell somewhat echoed Cheffers’ sentiments, even if he was perturbed at the call last season.
“Talking about last year is last year, right,” Caldwell said. “I’m not worried about that part of it. When you ask about how do we feel about guys making decisions, are you talking officials making calls? They call what they see and you gotta adjust to it. That’s just the way the game is.”