The Detroit Lions, like many residents in the suffering city, were robbed yesterday. The first Sunday of the NFL season featured the Detroit Lions facing division foes in the Jay Cutler Era, the Chicago Bears. The game was surprisingly good, until a blown call ruined what should have been a comeback win breaking a 20-game road losing streak.
The officials overturned a potential game-winning touchdown catch by one of the only Lions stars, wide receiver Calvin Johnson, with 25 seconds left in the game after that outstanding play was originally called a catch.
For those who have watched the play once to numerous times, the Lions have 2nd & 10 from the Bears 25 yards line when QB Shaun Hill throws a beautiful pass right to Calvin Johnson, who jumps up, grabs the ball with both hands, gets both feet down and comes down in the end zone, where he promptly releases the ball from his hand to begin celebrating.
See for yourself –
It was called a touchdown, but then recalled. The decision was a Jim Joyce game-ruining act that justifiably prompted disgust throughout the league and for fans of fairness everywhere. At least when Joyce destroyed the perfect game, he was trusting his old eyes, not new replay technology and he knew he made a mistake.
Sunday’s error was supported by a ridiculous rule that doesn’t even apply to the situation.
Referee Gene Steratore said, “The ruling is that in order for the catch to be completed he has got to maintain possession of the ball throughout the entire process of the catch.”
Here’s the rule this Bears fan, I mean, NFL official, was citing:
Rule 8, Section 1, Article 3, Item 1
If a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass (with or without contact by an opponent), he must maintain control of the ball after he touches the ground, whether in the field of play or the end zone. If he loses control of the ball, and the ball touches the ground before he regains control, the pass is incomplete.
In this case, the player went to the ground in the act of catching a pass and maintained control to the point when he let the ball go voluntarily, because he had control, in the end zone.
Here’s what should have actually happened. The touchdown should have stood, because it was touchdown. Then, Referee Steratore should have whispered to Johnson, or perhaps Lions Coach Jim Schwartz, that he could have been a real dick and cited a rule that didn’t really apply to the situation because Johnson let go of the ball so quickly, so maybe Johnson should follow through with the play before he thinks to go celebrate, a feat he’s clearly not used to, since he plays for the Lions.
Jim Schwartz took the agonizing loss with poise and dignity by saying, “The time I stand up here blaming the officials for a loss is the time I don’t have to do this anymore.”
And it’s true. The Lions had two more downs to get the ball in the end zone, not to mention the entire game to make plays to position them for a victory. Every game has bad calls, this one was simply more dramatic and timely than a baloney holding call no where near the action of the play, or a “they barely touched” pass interference call.
But teams shouldn’t have to feel they need to build a solid lead to protect them for if/when the officials take a crap on the spirit of the game. The point of having rules is to ensure that the fundamental concepts and point of the game is not destroyed by those who would use sketchy behavior and/or shifty tricks to play dirty.
It’s 2010 and we’re in the age of technology, but sports continue to torture fans by making substantial mistakes. The NFL should consider the integrity of the actual game, not just how to balance the paychecks of players and owners.
As per the classic, “ If it walks like a duck , quacks like a duck , looks like duck , it must be a duck,” the NFL should consider its own proverb. “If it seems like a touchdown, feels like a touchdown, looks like a touchdown under slow motion high-definition replay, it must be a touchdown.”