Official’s Call Negates Lions’ Potential Game-Winning 2-Point Conversion
In one of the most dramatic and controversial endings to an NFL game this season, the Dallas Cowboys narrowly defeated the Detroit Lions 20-19 after officials flagged the Lions for an illegal formation, negating their potential game-winning two-point conversion in the final seconds.
The riveting NFC showdown between playoff contenders came down to the final play after the Lions raced down the field to score a touchdown and cut the lead to 20-19 with under a minute remaining. Needing to convert a two-point attempt to take a late 21-20 lead, Lions coach Dan Campbell opted for a trick play, reporting left tackle Taylor Decker as an eligible receiver.
Confusion Ensues on Decisive Two-Point Attempt
On the two-point try, confusion reigned as quarterback Jared Goff threw to Decker in the end zone for an apparent conversion before officials threw a flag. After discussion, referee Brad Allen stunningly announced that Detroit had been called for an illegal formation due to improper eligibility reporting by Decker.
The call negated the conversion, allowing Dallas to escape with a controversial 20-19 victory. However, replays showed no clear evidence of Decker improperly reporting his eligibility.
“I don’t understand that call,” said Fox rules analyst Mike Pereira. “I have looked at this play at least 10 times and for the life of me, I cannot see where [Decker] did not report properly.”
Lions and Media Outraged Over Blown Call
The controversial ending set off a firestorm of criticism from Lions coaches, players and media pundits, who blasted officials for the game-deciding penalty.
“Everybody wants to know my thoughts,” said an exasperated Campbell in his post-game press conference. “Go ahead and write what you want, because I’m not commenting on officiating or things I can’t control.”
Lions players didn’t hold back, however, making their feelings clear on social media. “ADMIT IT REFS YOU KICKED THE CALL AND CHANGED THE PLAYOFF LANDSCAPE FOR DETROIT,” tweeted Lions defensive lineman Isaiah Buggs.
National media analysts also weighed in, siding overwhelmingly with Detroit over the botched call.
“The Lions absolutely got hosed. One of the worst calls I’ve ever seen,” tweeted former NFL coach Rex Ryan.
“A total nightmare for NFL officiating today in several games,” added Mike Florio of NBC Sports’ Pro Football Talk.
Table 1. Notable Reactions on Controversial Ending
|Dan Campbell, Lions coach
|“I’m not commenting on officiating or things I can’t control.”
|Isaiah Buggs, Lions DL
|“ADMIT IT REFS YOU KICKED THE CALL.”
|Rex Ryan, former NFL coach
|“The Lions absolutely got hosed.”
|Mike Florio, PFT
|“A total nightmare for NFL officiating.”
|Troy Aikman, Fox analyst
|“It’s awful for the NFL when calls like that are made.”
NFL Expected to Downgrade Officiating Crew
In a tacit acknowledgement of officiating error, the NFL is reportedly planning to downgrade referee Brad Allen’s crew for the postseason over the controversial call.
While an also-ran for most of Detroit’s history, Campbell’s scrappy Lions team entered as legitimate playoff hopefuls at 7-8, seeking a signature win over 11-4 Dallas. Instead, the Lions dealt a devastating loss in their bid for an NFC wild card berth.
Meanwhile, America’s Team gratefully escaped with their 12th straight home win on a day quarterback Dak Prescott struggled. Bailed out by the refs, Dallas (12-4) maintained a slim chance at leapfrogging Philadelphia for the conference’s #1 seed entering the final week.
“It’s awful for the NFL when calls like that are made,” said Fox’s Troy Aikman. “That crew is going to have a hard time getting a playoff assignment, as they should.”
Missed Triping Call Further Marred Ending
Lost amid the game-ending chaos, officials also failed to call Cowboys linebacker Anthony Barr for tripping Lions receiver Kalif Raymond on a critical 3rd down with just over a minute left.
The NFL has since acknowledged Barr should have been flagged, which would’ve given Detroit a new set of downs to potentially run out the clock or add to their tenuous lead.
“That should’ve been penalized for tripping,” said head of NFL officiating Walt Anderson of Barr’s actions. “The crew missed that call and should’ve stopped the game to enforce a penalty.”
Along with the reversed two-point call, the picked-up flag further darkened the storm cloud surrounding Dallas’ tainted victory. Whether due to one colossal error or a flurry of late-game mistakes, Brad Allen’s crew appeared overwhelmed on the big stage with the NFC playoff race hanging in the balance.
For Detroit, unjustly denied a statement win and possible playoff berth, the pain of this disappointing loss could linger well into the offseason. America’s Team escaped by the narrowest of margins to fight another day. And the NFL is once more plunged into crisis, their prized “shield” stained by a refereeing debacle that marred an epic showdown when the bright lights shined brightest.
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