It’s been four days since the game and I’m still not quite over it; I was really dreading having to write this post. It’s a tough pill to swallow. What else is there to say? I’m not one to blame losses on refs but this was utterly ridiculous. Referees miss calls all the time. They miss holding calls on a lot of plays. They make mistakes, but this was particularly egregious. Never in my life have I seen a flag get thrown, a penalty get announced, the sticks moved down the field and then have it get picked up. Not only was there holding on Brandon Pettigrew before the throw, but there was pass interference after the ball was thrown and then Dez Bryant ran on the field without a helmet on to argue with the referee. Never in my life have I seen a play transpire like that and it’s safe to say that we will never see it again.
Now I’m not going to put on the tinfoil hat and say that the referees and the NFL wanted the Cowboys to win. I thought about it, I really did, but they didn’t make the Lions go ultra-conservative on offense the last 2.5 quarters of the game. The offense completely unraveled during the second half and the play calling wasn’t good, to put it politely. The refs didn’t force the Lions to do that. The refs didn’t force Jim Caldwell to not go for it on 4th and 1. The refs didn’t force Sam Martin to shank a punt 10 yards, who is the least clutch punter ever, I might add. That’s all on the Lions, it is.
That being said, I now understand how the Cowboys offensive line was so great all year; they got away with holding on literally every single play. It was absolutely appalling how often Ndamukong Suh, Ziggy Ansah, George Johnson were held on almost every single down. Hell, Suh was tackled one play and still got up to make a sack.
I mean really? This isn’t just some simple tugging on the jersey either. I’m not going to complain about a guy tugging on a jersey as they go by. That always happens. But these are textbook examples of holding. Oddly enough, DeAndre Levy was called for holding on this play but no one else. It should have been two holding calls and a replay of the down.
Here is what Dean Blandino, the VP of officiating had to say about the infamous play:
My opinion on the Dez Bryant taking his helmet off? It’s a penalty, clear as day. Here’s how the rule is written.
That’s not a judgement call. At all.
But what do I know, right?
Oh, and there was some illegal contact on Calvin Johnson on the Lions final play of the game.
Now there were some missed calls on the Lions too, it wasn’t just the Cowboys that got away with stuff, though they certainly benefitted the most.
The bottom line at the end of all of this is that Pete Morelli, and everyone else on that crew should never be allowed to ref a playoff game again. And the NFL needs to get rid of their “all-star crew” of officials that they use for the playoffs. They have the same referee crews work together every week and then come playoff time, they decide to mix-and-match crews. It makes zero sense and it has to stop.
A former NFL referee also implied that the crew was intimidated, which is 100% true.
On the pass interference call:
“I am confused as to why the head linesman got involved in the play, saying he had a better view.”
On Dez Bryant running on the field:
“I can tell you honestly, that bothered me more than the pickup of the flag.”
On why officials didn’t make the call:
“I can’t imagine an explanation—there is no explanation. Because that’s a very easy call. Anytime a player comes on the field, in that type of situation, it’s an automatic penalty.”
On the refs preparation:
“It may have been a little intimidating for some of these officials. The game could have been too exciting for them, too big for them.”
The home crowd got to them, and that is just sad.
John Smoltz even talked about the play during his Hall of Fame conference call.
I could write about the game itself, but there’s really no point. The Lions played well enough to win. The defense was stout and did all they could while dealing with the holding. Could the defense have been more aggressive on some plays? Absolutely. Should the offensive play calling have been better and more aggressive? Absolutely. But they still played well enough to win the football game and they should have won. The referees had far too much of an impact on the outcome of the game, and I wish it hadn’t come down to that. And anyone that blames that loss solely on Matthew Stafford is totally ridiculous too. No, he didn’t play a perfect game, but it’s tough to make throws from your back and complete passes to guys being held and interfered with.
I’ll have a season recap and an offseason plan coming up soon, so stay tuned.