Lions burned by officials picking up another flag
Detroit — The magnitude wasn't anywhere close to the same, but the officials' decision to pick up a flag and allow a Chicago Bears' touchdown to stand in the team's 23-16 win on Thursday undoubtedly caused Lions fans to shudder with a mix of frustration and rage.
In the closing minute of the first half, the Bears had a first-and-goal from the 10-yard line. The offense lined up with three receivers, two to quarterback Chase Daniel's left and running back Taquan Mizzell in the backfield.
Prior to the snap, Mizzell motioned to the left slot, and as Daniels took the ball in shotgun, the back ran a corner route into the end zone.
From there, it was pitch and catch. Mizzell was wide open because receiver Allen Robinson had run a short comeback route, stopping three yards from the line of scrimmage, effectively setting a screen for his teammate.
Intentional picks are allowed but only within a yard from the line, so a flag quickly came out. But after briefly convening, the officiating crew determined Robinson wasn't guilty of interference.
Lions coach Matt Patricia called it a judgment call.
"I think I got pretty much the same explanation that everybody else did," he said. "Just the mechanics of the play, where it went to as far as the view and who had a better shot of it."
After the game, the head of the officiating crew, Brad Allen, was asked about the decision to not stick with the original call and offered an unsatisfactory explanation.
"There was a flag down for offensive pass interference initially," Allen said. "Another official who had a different view of the play came in and offered information and we picked the flag up."
When pressed further on the decision, Allen said he couldn't elaborate more because he hadn't seen the video of the play.
The best possible explanation is the officiating crew ultimately determined the contact was incidental.
As Robinson collided with linebacker Christian Jones, who was the man responsible for covering Mizzell, the receiver feigned reaching back for a pass, a dramatic emphasis that he was only running his route and didn't intend to block the defender.
The touchdown gave the Bears their first lead of the game, 9-7, with 40 seconds left before halftime.
Of course this isn't the first time the Lions have been victimized by an officiating crew changing its collective mind. More famously, a flag for defensive pass interference was picked up in fourth quarter of Detroit's playoff loss to Dallas in 2015.
The Lions were leading at the time, 20-17, and had driven into Cowboys territory. Picking up the flag on third down forced the Lions to punt. The Cowboys then drove for a touchdown on the ensuing possession to win the game, 24-20.