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Lions commit the biggest pass interference penalty in at least 30 years, and the NFL says it got it wrong

The Lions gave up 66 yards on an incomplete pass against the Packers on Sunday. Referees later admitted they got the call wrong.

NFL: Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The Lions have found more spectacular ways to lose than perhaps any NFL franchise ever, often in ways that stretch the NFL rule book. Last season, they lost to the Seattle Seahawks because what should have been called an illegally batted ball was not called at all and gave up a Hail Mary to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers after committing a phantom facemask penalty.

They lost again to the Packers on Sunday, this time fair and square, but not before once again creating a dubious piece of history. At the beginning of the second quarter, defensive back Nevin Lawson committed a 66-yard pass interference penalty on a deep pass intended for receiver Trevor Davis. According to Elias Sports Bureau, the penalty was the longest in at least 30 years.

And it was a bogus call. On Thursday, Lawson said that the NFL called him to admit that he did not commit a foul on the play.

See for yourself:

According to ESPN, the next longest penalty since it has been tracking the stat was a 60-yard defensive pass interference penalty committed by Brown cornerback Mike Adams against the Ravens in 2010.

Watching the replay, an argument could certainly be made the contact between the two players was incidental. If you really want to get technical, it appears that Davis may have pushed off Lawson before falling down.

Pass interference is a unique penalty in the NFL because it’s a spot foul, meaning the ball is placed where the penalty occurred.

Many have called for the penalty to be adjusted. In 2015, the NFL Competition Committee discussed changing defensive pass interference to 15 yards and a first down, like it is in the college game. There are arguments for and against keeping it as is. On one hand, it makes sense that defenses are punished more for interfering with what would be big gains deep down the field. On the other, situations can occur like the one on Sunday when a somewhat innocuous interference was penalized much more harshly than, say, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty like targeting.

There are plenty of ideas out there for compromise solutions. For now, defensive pass interference remains as is — often the most costly penalties that teams commit on a weekly basis.