Four bad calls helped doom Detroit; Packers edge Lions 23-22 at Lambeau

NFL official offers explanations via pool reports

In case you missed it, the Detroit Lions led the Packers on Monday night until Mason Crosby kicked a 23-yard field goal with no time left to win the game for Green Bay, 23-22.

Yes, the Lions settling for field goals instead of touchdowns definitely hurt their chances, but the officials were the talking point on ESPN and Twitter afterward. That is never a good sign. The Lions drop to 2-2-1 while the Packers are 5-1.

The Lions opened with a 66-yard flea-flicker from Matthew Stafford to Kenny Golladay,  but had to settle for a field goal, their first of five thanks to Matt Prater’s big leg.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

However, the officials made four second-half calls that were costly to the Lions. All four were at the very least questionable and likely just bad.

Lions coach Matt Patricia said they will take a look at the film to see what they could have done better. “We know how detrimental those penalties are,’’ Patricia said. It’s safe to say the Lions will communicate with the NFL asking for explanations. 

Hall of Famer Barry Sanders, who is admittedly biased, checked in on Twitter: “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.”

The four calls:

— Tracy Walker was called for unnecessary roughness for helmet-to-helmet hit on Geronimo Allison early in the third. The Lions safety was clearly going for the ball, not to make the hit. The NFL is trying to cut down on head injuries — and that’s all good — but Walker was not going for the head. “The rules are pretty clear, it’s on the defense to make sure we don’t make contact there,’’ Patricia said. It was a good politically correct answer but it would have been very hard, maybe physically impossible, for Walker to put on the brakes on that play.

Here’s what NBC analyst Tony Dungy tweeted: “That’s incredible. The Lions DB is trying to make an interception. He is playing the ball all the way and gets an unnecessary roughness penalty. Hard to believe.”

A pool reporter asked the official Clete Blakeman if Walker had a right to go after the ball and does that offset any helmet-to-helmet hit? Blakeman: “That’s a good question but the reality is, it is strict liability for a defensive player. In this case, he may be going for the ball and not intending to hit the helmet but when there’s helmet contact it is a foul in that situation.” Blakeman also said if he had impacted the helmet and made the interception it still would have been a foul.

— Defensive lineman Trey Flowers was called with hands to the face twice in the fourth quarter and neither one looked like a good call. With less than 12 minutes left, on third-and-10, Rodgers was sacked and Flowers was called for illegal hands to the face, giving the Packers an automatic first down. Then on the Packers’ next possession, on third-and-4 from Detroit’s 16 with less than 2 minutes left, Rodgers’ pass to Jake Kumerow was incomplete but Flowers was whistled again for illegal use of hands even though his hands were clearly on the shoulder pads.

According to ESPN, Flowers had never been called for this penalty in his entire career and he was called twice in one quarter.

After the game Patricia sat next to Flowers at his locker and had a few words for his D-lineman before giving him a hug, per FOX 2’s Jennifer Hammond.

Flowers told reporters (via Brad Galli’s Twitter): “I was working a move and they saw something different than what actually happened and they called what they thought they saw. I actually changed the position of my hand. It was to the chest initially, I was doing it all game, I didn’t know it was a flag to the chest so I changed it. I didn’t think hands to the chest was a penalty, I thought hands to the face, but I had them right here on the chest then I changed it. It’s part of a move that I do.

A pool reporter asked Blakeman about the Flowers’ calls. The pool report says: “The umpire threw both of them. 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.” The pool reporter asked for clarification: “Head or neck area?” Official replied: “Head or neck area, yes.”

—  In the fourth quarter, on a second-and-6, Green Bay cornerback Will Redmond had his arm across wide receiver Marvin Jones’s chest before the ball arrived. It was clearly pass interference, but there was no call. Jones was looking for the flag, but it never came. While NFL coaches can ask for a review on pass interference, it’s been made clear early in the season it’s unlikely a call or non-call will be overturned.

Dungy again checked in on Twitter: “That was clearly DPI on the Packers. Coaches are afraid to challenge now though because these plays have not been overturned recently.”

Former Lions and Packers offensive guard T.J. Lang tweeted: “In my 11 years involved with the NFL, I’ve never seen worse officiating than this year and it’s not even close.”

Dan Orlovsky, an ESPN analyst and former Lions quarterback, tweeted: “Enough is enough is enough is enough @NFLOfficiating. I choose my words wisely, and I love the #NFL You’re ruining football for fans.”

 

Five things to know as Lions play Packers

The Lions only get one Monday Night Football appearance this year and plan to make the most of it.

Detroit (2-1-1) will face the Packers (4-1) in a huge NFC North division battle. It will be the Lions’ first conference game while the Packers beat the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings to open the season.

Lions coach Matt Patricia refuses to budge off his belief that this game isn’t bigger than others.

“It’s really just that the next game is always the biggest game. I think certainly from that standpoint, the only thing that does really affect anything along those lines – but the next game is always the biggest game – it’s just when in the season is it,’’ Patricia said. “I think as the season goes and the farther you get along in the season then from that aspect of it those games are always critical from that point. They’re all important. We only have so many of them. That’s just kind of the way the NFL works. Really for us, it’s staying within the moment. I think that’s the biggest thing.”

The Lions have won two straight at Lambeau and three of the last four there. For years it seemed like they’d never win again at the Packers. Kicker Jason Hanson never won a game there in his 21 years with Detroit. But after losing 22 straight games in the state of Wisconsin (includes 3 games in Milwaukee 1992-1994) the Lions snapped the streak with the win on Nov. 15, 2015.

No excuses now.

Five things to know about Lions matchup at the Packers:

1. Matthew Stafford knows his work will be cut out for him  “They’ve got guys up front that wreak havoc on the game and guys in the backend that are really sticky in coverage and do a great job when the ball is in there of going and making plays on it,’’ Stafford said. “We’ll have our work cut out for us. It’s always a tough environment to go play there. It’s a lot of fun playing there. It’s a great stadium, but they’re a really good football team.” Stafford said it’s key to limit turnovers against the Packers, just like in every game.

2. Aaron Rodgers is back to being Aaron Rodgers. He’s thrown six touchdowns against just one interception in the 5-1 start for the Packers. The offense looks to be revived under new coach Matt LeFleur. “One of the fiercest competitors with just this calmness about him that’s pretty amazing. I think, when you step on the field and see what he can do and operate at such a high level. Just really unphazed by so many things that are happening around him and just continues to make these great plays. It’s pretty unbelievable,’’ Lions coach Matt Patricia said. “One of the things that they are doing that they’ve been known for, but I think he’s just doing a great job this year are some of the free plays that he’s getting. Whether it’s substitutions or – his cadence is amazing, so he gets the hard counts, he gets guys to jump. They’re really converting those into touchdowns.’’

3. Packers running back Aaron Jones was named the NFC offensive player of the week after scoring four rushing touchdowns in the win at Dallas on Sunday night. He also caught 7 passes for 75 yards. “They are running the ball very well, and obviously Aaron Jones is one heck of a back. It puts a lot of stress on you,’’ Lions defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni said. “It puts a lot of stress on the defense because regardless of what level of football you’re at, I think as a defensive coach you preach to stop the run, and they’re running the ball very well. Of course, they have a great quarterback, they have a Hall of Fame quarterback who is playing extremely well. They do have a nice play-action concept off of those stretch runs. You have to bring your A-game and you have to be at your best because it’s just very difficult to stop.”

4. The Lions’ run game must continue to evolve. Their 186 rushing yards against the Chiefs (125 by Kerryon Johnson) helped keep them in that game. “I mean the last couple games that he’s played, he’s really been beginning to trust the scheme that are going on in front of him. I think he’s beginning to trust himself in kind of what we’re asking him to do. He’s done a really nice job,’’ Lions offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said.

5. Coming off the bye week, the Lions are healthier. Tight end T.J. Hockenson, finished concussion protocol, and is expected to play. After missing the loss against Kansas City, cornerback Darius Slay and wide receiver Danny Amendola will return. Defensive linemen Mike Daniels and  Da’Shawn Hand will be sidelined, per Saturday’s injury report. For the Packers, wide receiver Davante Adams is out. 

PREDICTION: Lions 27, Packers 24. Detroit have the advantage of an extra week of rest and preparation. 

Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford has found recent success at Green Bay

Five things to know about Stafford’s records against Packers

ALLEN PARK — Matthew Stafford has played well against the Packers in recent years, with the Lions winning four straight against them and three of their last four at Lambeau Field.

The Detroit Lions quarterback will get his next shot on Monday night when the Lions play the Packers at Green Bay in their first NFC North matchup of the season.

“The toughest part about playing Lambeau — I say it all the time — is playing the Packers. It’s not the environment, it’s not all that, you’ve got to play the Packers they’re a good football team,’’ Stafford said on Wednesday. “They’ve got a really good defense this year, got an offense that’s explosive, they’ve got a great quarterback. They do a good job of playing great at home, it’s on us to play a little better.’’

The Packers (4-1) are tops in the NFC North with the Lions (2-1-1) in second place. It’s the first division game this season for Detroit.

“All the games count and no doubt a division game against a really good football team, it’s going to be a fun atmosphere. Monday night will be a whole bunch of fun. We’re going to have some young guys that I’m sure first time playing on Monday will remember it for a long time playing at Lambeau, excited to get out playing again,’’ Stafford said.

He can climb up the record charts with a good game.

Five things to know:

1. Stafford has seven wins against the Packers, tied for the 12th-most in NFL history. A win would bump him into a tie for eighth-most. A win would also mark his fourth win at Lambeau Field which would put him in a tied for seventh all-time. He’s 7-10 all-time against Green Bay.

2. Stafford has thrown for two or more touchdown passes in nine straight games against the Packers. With two touchdown passes on Monday night he would join Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino as the only players in NFL history to throw at least two touchdowns in 10 straight games against a singular opponent.

3. With one touchdown pass, he’ll become the quarterback with the most TD passes against the Packers in NFL history. His current total of 34 is tied with Johnny Unitas. 

4. Stafford needs only 58 passing yards against Packers to move into first place all-time in that category. He is already among elite company. Three of the top five in passing yards against Green Bay are Hall of Famers: No. 1 Fran Tarkenton, No. 3 Unitas, No. 5 Bobby Layne. Also, Vinny Testaverde is at No. 4.

5. Stafford needs 352 passing yards to reach 40,000 for his career. Also he needs just four touchdown passes to reach 250 for his career. It comes as no surprise that Calvin Johnson was on the receiving end of the most (56) with Golden Tate (22) in second and Marvin Jones Jr. (19) in third. (Titus Young, a blast from the past, ranks in the top eight of receivers with most touchdown passes from Stafford with nine.)

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)