June 24, 2024

Controversial Penalty Call Mars Lions’ Comeback Bid Against Cowboys

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Jan 2, 2024

The Detroit Lions nearly pulled off an incredible comeback victory against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night, rallying from a 17-6 fourth quarter deficit to take a 19-17 lead in the final minutes. However, a controversial penalty call on a potential game-winning two-point conversion left the Lions fuming over what they deemed a missed call by the officiating crew.

Breakdown of Controversial Two-Point Attempt

With just over a minute remaining, Lions quarterback Jared Goff connected with wide receiver KJ Osborn on a 4th-and-goal touchdown to bring Detroit within two points at 20-19. Trailing by one, Lions coach Dan Campbell decided to go for two and the win. What transpired next created mass confusion and debate:

  • Lions tackle Taylor Decker checked in with the side judge before the play, declaring himself an eligible receiver
  • Decker lined up split out wide to the right, with Goff taking the snap in shotgun formation
  • Goff rolled right and threw a quick pass to Decker in the end zone
  • Back judge Dino Paganelli threw a penalty flag for illegal touching/ineligible man downfield
  • After discussion, referee Brad Allen announced Decker did not report properly as an eligible receiver, negating the conversion

The Lions vehemently argued Decker did properly report to officials before the play. Replays showed Decker clearly pointing to his jersey number and declaring himself eligible. However, the penalty stood, forcing Detroit to attempt an onside kick trailing 20-19.

Key Events on Controversial Two-Point Attempt
1. Taylor Decker declares himself as eligible to side judge
2. Decker lines up split wide right as eligible receiver
3. Goff throws two-point conversion pass to Decker
4. Back judge throws flag for ineligible man downfield
5. After discussion, Brad Allen says Decker did not properly report
6. Penalty upheld, negating Detroit two-point conversion

Reaction from Lions Players and Coaches

The controversial ending left the Lions utterly dismayed after battling back to take the lead late. Coach Dan Campbell could barely contain his emotions in his post-game press conference.

“That’s an absolute crime. That can’t happen,” fumed Campbell. “The back judge threw his flag and claimed [Decker] didn’t report eligible. That is not true…I don’t know what they were talking about.”

Quarterback Jared Goff echoed his coach’s anger over the pivotal reversal.

“It’s just ridiculous…I hope this brings more clarity to being able to review penalties, because that’s obviously game changing,” said Goff.

Other Lions players voiced their disbelief and frustration on social media following the loss. Defensive end Aidan Hutchinson tweeted bluntly: “We got hosed.”

Meanwhile, Cowboys players breathed a sigh of relief after escaping with the victory. Still, even Dallas head coach Mike McCarthy acknowledged the confusion surrounding the late two-point play.

“There was a lot going on,” said McCarthy. “I’m not exactly sure what happened.”

NFL Admits Officiating Mistake

In a highly unusual move, the NFL publicly admitted the following day that Paganelli and Allen’s crew made a mistake in penalizing the Lions two-point try. League executive VP of football operations Troy Vincent issued a statement saying the penalty should not have been called based on Decker properly reporting his eligibility.

“That was definitely not a foul for illegal touching of a pass by [Decker],” Vincent said. “Decker appropriately reported his eligibility to the referee in advance of the play. The Referee improperly penalized Detroit for illegal touching instead of Dallas for defensive pass interference.”

Essentially, the NFL placed the blame on officials rather than the Lions for the communication breakdown on the pivotal play. However, the league stopped short of saying the mistake directly cost Detroit the game. The Lions still would have needed to recover an onside kick trailing by one point.

Impact on Lions’ Playoff Hopes

While the NFL apology provided little actual consolation, the fallout from Sunday’s ending could significantly damage Detroit’s postseason chances. Combined with wins by Seattle and Green Bay, the last-second loss dropped the Lions from the current NFC playoff field.

Detroit now sits a full game behind the Packers and Seahawks for the conference’s third Wild Card spot. However, the Lions still have a narrow path if results break favorably next weekend. Here is how Detroit can sneak into the playoffs in Week 18:

  • Lions defeat Packers at home
  • Seahawks lose at home to Rams

This combination would create a three-way tie between the Lions, Packers, and Seahawks at 9-8. In this scenario, Detroit would win the tiebreaker and clinch the #7 playoff seed based on having a superior record against NFC opponents.

Scrutiny on Officiating Crew

Given the widespread criticism from all corners, referee Brad Allen’s crew will face consequences for their mistake in Sunday’s Dallas-Detroit game. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the NFL is expected to “downgrade” and potentially replace members of Allen’s staff for the upcoming playoffs.

League sources indicated to Schefter that the crew is highly unlikely to be assigned to any postseason games in the immediate future after such a high-profile error.

While accountability measures provide little relief for the aggrieved Lions, the intense scrutiny on this crew could pressure league executives to consider modifications allowing increased replay review of subjective penalties. That outcome would at least carry meaningful long-term impact in the name of accuracy and transparency around such impactful calls.

What Happens Next?

In short, the Lions face a must-win finale for any shot at an NFC Wild Card berth after Sunday’s heartbreaker. Taking down the arch-rival Packers on primetime next weekend represents Detroit’s last remaining path to extend Dan Campbell’s rebuild into January.

Beyond 2023 postseason implications, the ending also left the Lions feeling robbed in their ongoing quest for greater respect. Campbell’s feisty group seems to constantly find themselves embroiled in officiating disputes after hard-fought defeats.

Sunday likely only hardened the team’s sizeable chip on their shoulder. Rest assured, the Lions will wield the painful memory of this loss as motivation fueling their continued ascent next season and beyond.




AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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