National reaction to Lions' bizarre defeat
National writers react to the bizarre conclusion of the Lions' loss to the Seahawks Monday night:
Doug Farrar, Sports Illustrated: The Lions had only themselves to blame before the strange call. Many of the same issues that had plagued Detroit throughout this season showed up again here -- spotty production, questionable play-calling, and an inability to sustain drives at a repeatable rate. Matthew Stafford completed 24 of 35 passes for just 203 yards, and overthrew Calvin Johnson on several vertical boundary routes. The Lions amassed just 53 rushing yards on 18 carries, which won't help their league-worst ground game. Johnson led the team with seven receptions for 56 yards, which is not the kind of numbers one would expect from a player of his magnitude. The defense played well against a Seattle offense that was playing without the injured Marshawn Lynch, and is sporting perhaps the worst offensive line in the NFL, but in the end, none of that mattered.
Chris Wesseling, NFL.com: As is the case with the rest of the NFL's most disappointing outfits, the Lions have been undone by an offensive line that simply can't block effectively. Play-caller Joe Lombardi's ongoing inability to unlock the obvious talents of playmakers such as Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate and Ameer Abdullah is exacerbating the issue. Matthew Stafford has now gone seven consecutive games without a 300-yard performance, his longest such stretch since his first seven career starts.
David Steele, Sporting News: The Lions choked. Just not as big as the officials. The Lions will pay for their mistakes. The zebras should not make them pay extra. The Lions are 0-4, the NFL's last winless team. Coach Jim Caldwell won't get graded on a curve. He won't be soothed by the notion that, well, that should've been a win. The NFL isn't bringing both teams back to finish the last 1:45. The explanation by the league wasn't its finest hour. It was a play that resulted in a turnover, in the end zone yet, but as head of officiating Dean Blandino said on NFL Network, it wasn't reviewable. He revealed that what seemed pretty black-and-white was actually a judgment call, about whether the act was "overt." That's no way to oversee a sport like this, with so much riding on its outcomes and so much sunk into it by players and everybody else.
Sheil Kapadia, ESPN: When you're on the right side of a botched call, it's easy to say the breaks will even out and one play didn't determine the result. But for the Seahawks, it's worth acknowledging they could easily be staring 1-3 in the face with a trip to Cincinnati looming. "Now that you look at it, we're fortunate on that one," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said."
Sean Wagner-McGough, CBS Sports: After the game, ESPN's crew of analysts on location -- former NFL players Steve Young, Ray Lewis and Trent Dilfer -- all seemed shocked by the rule. And really, the only explanation would be that the official in the end zone also wasn't aware of the rule. Because the play clearly unfolded right in front of him. ... Regardless, instead of the Lions having the ball just inches away from the end zone, the Seahawks escaped.
Frank Schwab, Yahoo! Sports: There will be a lot of discussion about the rarely called penalty and how the Seahawks got a big break from the officials, just like they did in 2012 on Golden Tate's disputed touchdown on the final play against the Packers. Those, however, were replacement officials for the Fail Mary. It's hard to figure out how all the regular officials on the field Monday night missed the illegal batting call. And it's not like the 0-4 Lions will get to replay the game again from that blown call on.
Don Banks, Sports Illustrated: The bottom-line takeaway from the NFL’s latest officiating debacle in Seattle is as crystal clear as the last one (see “Fail Mary”), even if Park Avenue is loath to admit it: (Patriots coach Bill Belichick) is right, yet again. The league needs to make all plays subject to replay reviews in real time, while mistakes can still be corrected, and stop the charade of adding to the list of reviewable plays in a piecemeal, reactive fashion only after another obviously blown call has occurred and made a mockery of things.
The Lions got jobbed Monday night in Seattle, and that much isn’t open for debate. NFL director of officiating Dean Blandino has already admitted the illegal batting non-call that turned on a subjective judgment by back judge Gregory Wilson doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, or remotely pass the eyeball test.
Brian Burke, ESPN Stats and Information: The officials' missed call on the batted ball was a plus-.702 win probability added event, as we might say in the football analytics world. In other words, it swung each team's chances by about 70 percent. It's very rare that single events in football even approach that big of a swing.
Bill Barnwell, ESPN's Grantland: You could forgive Lions fans for being upset at the moment, given that they were knocked out of the playoffs by the Cowboys last season after a controversial no-call when a pass interference flag was atypically picked up. It will certainly be a crushing blow to the Detroit players, who showed up in Seattle as 10-point underdogs and played like their season was on the line.
Despite missing the two best players from their 2014 defense in Ndamukong Suh (who left for Miami in free agency) and DeAndre Levy (still out with a mysterious hip ailment), the Lions went into Seattle and delivered a performance that would be in line with their best from the 2014 season.
Mike Florio, NBC Sports' Pro Football Talk: The NFL should adopt the suggestion from Patriots coach Bill Belichick that everything should be reviewable. Specifically, coaches should be able to throw the red challenge flag in any situation. If indisputable visual evidence exists to rectify a mistake made on the field, why not give coaches a way to fix it?