Officiating chief on penalty: Ref makes that call

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News
Devin Taylor reaches in on Aaron Rodgers and is called for a facemask penalty on the play before the Packers' Hail Mary TD pass to end the game.

The Lions, obviously, didn’t think it was a penalty. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers thought it was karma for a foul the officials missed two plays earlier.

The NFL, meanwhile, had no issue with the facemask penalty on Lions defensive end Devin Taylor, which gave the Packers an untimed play at the end of regulation and allowed them to score on a game-winning Hail Mary pass.

“It’s one that it’s really close and so we made the call,” said Dean Blandino, the league’s vice president of officiating, in a statement Friday morning. “I think when you watch the play live I was just like everybody else. You thought, “That’s a facemask” and then you see the replay and it’s a lot closer than it initially seemed. But again, hand up near the mask, finger caught in the bottom bar and the head does turn”

The Packers beat the Lions, 27-23, Thursday night at Ford Field after benefiting from the call. Wrong or right, though, the Lions lost a game in which they led 20-0 in the third quarter.

“Can’t leave anything to refs,” Lions defensive end Darryl Tapp said. “I’m not saying it was, I’m not saying it wasn’t. But I’m saying we can’t leave anything to referees.

“We have plenty of time throughout the game, plenty of different opportunities to make sure that they weren’t even involved in the game. Shame to us on that one.”

With 6 seconds left and the ball at the Green Bay 21, the Packers tried a miraculous schoolyard pitch play, hoping to move the ball 79 yards with a series of laterals. The Lions stopped that play, tackling Rodgers after he couldn’t find any a teammate available for a pitch.

Blandino: I'm not convinced it wasn't a facemask

But two flags fell on the field as Rodgers did, and referee Carl Cheffers quickly called a facemask on Taylor, giving the Packers 15 yards and an extra play after time expired.

Taylor appeared to graze Rodgers’ facemask without grasping it. But he did jar it, which was apparently enough for two officials to throw flags. Coach Jim Caldwell and Taylor said they didn’t think there was a penalty, but that hardly matters.

“Didn’t think it was, but because you don’t think it was or I don’t think it was, it was called, so therefore it is,” Caldwell said. “And we’ve just got to find a way to make the play.”

After the second game this season in which a possible officiating blunder hurt the Lions, there will surely be more public outcry for expanded replay reviews. But it doesn’t look like that would’ve necessarily helped the Lions.

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“It’s a close play, but even looking at the replay, the hand is up near the mask, the finger looks like it gets caught in the mask and the head gets turned,” Blandino said. “So I’m not convinced it wasn’t a facemask even looking at the replay, but live at full speed, the referee is going to see that hand at the mask and the head turn and he’s going to make that call every time.”