Five thoughts on controversial ending in Detroit Lions’ loss to Atlanta Falcons

Eight seconds were the difference

DETROIT — For a good chunk of the fourth quarter, fans at Ford Field were on their feet. The Lions had a chance to beat the defending NFC  champion Atlanta Falcons .

With two minutes left and 89 yards of turf in front of him, the ball was in Matthew Stafford’s hands.

This is the quarterback who has led the Lions to 29 wins when they were down or tied in the fourth quarter. He is exactly the guy you want to have the ball.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions.)

It looked like the Lions pulled out another huge win when Golden Tate made a diving catch on third-and-1 at the goal line and the line judge threw up his arms signalling a touchdown.

All scoring plays are reviewed and this one was overturned because Tate was down before crossing the goal line.

The clincher is that because only eight seconds were left, the official ruled a 10-second runoff so the game was over.

The Falcons won 30-26.

The fans were stunned, feeling the officials, once again, had torn victory out of hands of the Lions.

Five thoughts on the final play:

1. Jim Caldwell said the players were obviously disappointed because it’s hard any time to lose. “So what happens in that situation is that if you don’t have a timeout left you can get a 10-second runoff. (That’s exactly what happened.) If you have a timeout left, you can use that and give up the timeout. Without any timeouts off they ran off the time of the clock — eight seconds remaining — and game is over.”

2. Caldwell wouldn’t really bite when asked if the Lions didn’t get the bad end of the deal because it was the officials who made the mistake — originally saying it was a touchdown on the field. If they had ruled it short, the Lions would have had 8 seconds to run a play from one yard out. Eight seconds isn’t much but Caldwell said they could’ve gotten off a play. He said they practice it all the time. He seemed to have no doubt about it.  “You can kind of look at it that way if you want. They ruled it correctly and that’s the way it is,’’ Caldwell said. “Our guys fought hard, they have a really good football team, there were a lot of things we could have done better that we didn’t do well. We have to pick up the pieces, it’s one ball game, we have to get ourselves together. We have a tough one next week on the road against the Vikings.’’ The Lions are 2-1.

3. Caldwell wouldn’t say for certain if the rule should be changed. “I don’t think so, it’s tough to digest that all right now. In terms of how it works, we all kind of know what the situation could/would be.  In hindsight we can complain all we want but they administered the rule exactly the way it’s written,’’ Caldwell said.

4. While many fans and several media members didn’t know the rule, the important people did including Caldwell and Stafford. “I did (know the rule) but it wasn’t in my head at the time. But looked up at the clock and knew it was either going to be a positive or negative right there,’’ said Stafford who was 25-45, 264 yards, one touchdown and a 80.2 rating.

5. “It’s not fun. Obviously wish I would have thrown it a foot higher maybe help GT (Tate) stay up, a game of inches,’’ Stafford said. “Tough one to lose, great effort from our team … offense we have to convert a little bit more on third down early and when our defense gets turnovers we have to put some points on the board.’’ Glover Quin scored a touchdown on an interception return. The Lions could not capitalize on the two interceptions by Darius Slay.

BONUS: Stafford said he can’t rank the odd endings he’s been involved with in his career in Detroit. This is definitely one of them. “I don’t know there’s a bunch of them. That’s the way it goes, you just play and let the chips fall where they may,’’ Stafford said.


Author: Paula Pasche

Paula Pasche, a veteran sports writer, covers the Detroit Lions for her Lions Lowdown blog. She has written two books, "Game of My Life Detroit Lions" and "100 Things Lions Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die" which are available at bookstores and on She won first place for column writing from the Society of Professional Journalists in Detroit (Class B) in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and was The Oakland Press 2010 Staffer of the Year.

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