Only the Detroit Lions can get royally screwed by the refs in a game they’re not even playing.
Thanks, in part, to missteps by NFL officials in the Seattle Seahawks-Los Angeles Rams game, the Lions’ playoff hopes last week were dashed before the game vs. the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on Sunday Night Football.
‘Multiple executives and coaches said the NFL needs to reevaluate how it chooses and trains its officiating staff for future seasons,’ Schefter wrote late Friday. ‘… Even the NFL’s competition committee is aware of what one source described to ESPN ‘as the worst officiated game of the year.”
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The committee, a group of league coaches and executives that examine rules and officiating practices each offseason, was frustrated by the Seattle-LA game, as were the Lions and Rams, Schefter reports.
‘One source told ESPN this week that the NFL must do a better job of screening, hiring and training its officials,’ he said, ‘the league can’t have games in which teams’ seasons are on the line and have questionable and impactful calls such as the ones in the Rams-Seahawks Week 18 game.’
To recap, the Lions needed a Seahawks loss Sunday plus a win over the Green Bay Packers to clinch the seventh and final spot in the NFC playoffs. (The Packers could have clinched a spot with a win regardless of the Seahawks’ result.) Seattle played Sunday afternoon while Detroit played at night, meaning the Lions knew the result of that game when they took the field.
Despite being aware of the Seahawks’ win, which eliminated the Lions, Campbell’s crew dispatched the Packers on the road and prevented their rival from making the playoffs.
But how bad was the officiating in Seattle? To be fair, Lions fans are used to complaining about refs — they did so while overcoming questionable calls during the Packers game — so this is nothing new, right?
– A running-into-the-kicker penalty on LA with 8:47 left in the fourth quarter should not have been called. The flagged player Rams was pushed into Seahawks punter Michael Dickson, meaning the flag should have been picked up. The Seahawks were trailing by three at the time, and instead of punting to the Rams from their own 21, they maintained possession and later tied it at 16 with just over 2 minutes left.
– Later in the quarter, tied at 16, Rams corner Jalen Ramsey was called for an unnecessary roughness infraction on Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith that would make Dick Lane shudder in disbelief. Not only did officials possibly err in throwing the flag in the first place (it appears Ramsey was pushed out of bounds at the same time as Smith ran out of bounds, causing the two to collide) but Seahawks wideout DK Metcalf was seen sticking his finger inside Ramsey’s facemask after the play, which should have prompted a penalty. The ‘unnecessary roughness’ pushed Seattle into fringe field goal territory with less than a minute left, but kicker Jason Myers eventually missed a 46-yard field goal attempt.
– In overtime, Smith likely should have been flagged for intentional grounding. His pass under duress with 9:26 fell 10 yards short of any other Seahawks player.
– The final gaffe included a former Lions draft pick: Seahawks defensive back Quandre Diggs taunted an opponent after picking off Rams quarterback Baker Mayfield with about 8-and-a-half minutes left. Replays showed Diggs pointing at the Rams’ Bobby Wagner, a former teammate in Seattle. Had it been flagged, Seattle’s drive would have started at its own 21 instead of its own 36; that possession ended with Myers kicking the winning 32-yard field goal.
With all that being said, none of those calls led directly to points; the Rams had more chances to stop the Seahawks after the first questionable flag, but let that final fourth-quarter drive drag on for five more minutes of game time. Mayfield and the Rams also earned just one first down during the fourth quarter and overtime.
A source told Schefter the league needs a way to ‘mitigate’ such mistakes in a critical game, but no solutions were offered in Friday’s story. The Lions — thanks in large part to a top-10 offense and young, improving defense — completed a surprising season by winning eight of their final 10 games to finish 9-8 and 5-1 in the NFC North.
But now Detroit fans are left with this quote while they watch this weekend’s playoff games, including Saturday’s Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers matchup:
‘The Lions should be livid,’ one source told ESPN. ‘It was an awful way for them to end their season.’