From the “Calvin Johnson rule” in 2010 to the Seahawks’ illegal bat in 2015, the Detroit Lions have a long history of getting bad calls from referees. Saturday’s loss to the Seahawks in the Wild Card Round was no exception.
The Lions lost 26-6 to the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field, and while Seattle dominated the time of possession and only allowed Detroit to convert two of 11 third-down attempts, the Seahawks also got a little help from the referees.
"We expected that, to be honest with you," Lions receiver Anquan Boldin said, via the Detroit Free Press. "I mean, there were some calls that left us shaking our head. I'm sure you guys know exactly what I'm talking about. But it is what it is. Anytime you come into a place like this, you know you have to play more than the team."
Boldin was the recipient of two personal fouls for unnecessary roughness — both for shoving Seahawks players late. But Detroit’s complaints about officiating went beyond the flags thrown on Boldin.
Paul Richardson used a facemask to assist his highlight touchdown
In the second quarter against Seattle, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson threw a 2-yard touchdown to receiver Paul Richardson in the back of the end zone. The young receiver made a one-handed catch, but he grabbed Lions safety Tavon Wilson’s facemask during the process:
The officials flagged Wilson with a pass interference call but didn't penalize Richardson.
Lions coach Jim Caldwell then told NBC at halftime that officials informed him they missed the call. But according to the Detroit Free Press, referee Brad Allen said in his pool report that he didn’t admit an error to Caldwell and wasn’t aware of any other official in the crew doing so either.
Uncatchable, thanks to interference
Early in the fourth quarter, down 13-6, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford lobbed a deep pass to receiver T.J. Jones, and it was incomplete. However, Seahawks cornerback DeShawn Shead grabbed Jones while he was running his route.
The ball flew over the receiver’s head, and the referees said the ball was not catchable when it clearly was — especially if Jones hadn’t been held:
For the uncatchable rule to come into play, there has to be zero chance that the receiver could’ve caught the ball. Even if it would’ve required a miraculous, diving, one-handed reception, the officials have to throw the flag for interference.
But the Lions have had gripes with officiating for most of the 2016 season, and these calls are just added to the list of times Detroit has been on the wrong end of bad calls.
Week 2: Eric Ebron has a touchdown wiped out
Detroit tight end Eric Ebron juked a Titans defender so hard that officials just assumed he pushed off, and they threw a flag:
Week 3: Incorrectly flagged for 66 yards on one play
Against the Packers, Detroit’s Nevin Lawson was flagged for pass interference, and it ended up netting Green Bay a 66-yard gain. The league later contacted Lawson to let him know he hadn’t actually committed pass interference:
The penalty was the longest in league history, surpassing a 60-yard pass interference penalty committed by the Browns’ Mike Adams in 2010.
Week 14: Lions penalized for Bears breaking the rules
In Week 14 against the Chicago Bears, referee Jeff Triplette threw a flag against Detroit for illegal hands to the face. The problem with that was that a Lions player was actually the victim of illegal hands to the face:
Week 15: Free 4 yards for the Giants after a clear drop
New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. dropped a catch, but the officials ruled that it was a catch anyway:
The ball slips through his hands, bounces off the ground, and Beckham catches it off the bounce. It’s clearly not a catch, and Jim Caldwell chose to not challenge it because it was just a 4-yard play. The officials definitely missed that one.
Week 16: Not all roughness is unnecessary
The Lions can’t even tackle opposing players without getting flagged. Defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson was hit with an unnecessary roughness penalty in Week 16 against the Dallas Cowboys for simply tackling running back Ezekiel Elliott:
Elliott didn’t mind the penalty, though. He told reporters after the game that Robinson was playing dirty all game because of a grudge that dates back two years to the Sugar Bowl.
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Seahawks running back Thomas Rawls bulldozed his way to 161 yards against the Lions defense, averaging 5.96 yards per carry. And Detroit made plenty of mistakes on both sides of the ball, including several drops of Stafford passes.
The Lions earned their 26-6 loss.
But the team’s complaints about officiating during the 2016 season seem to have some justification. Every team is on the wrong end of a call from time to time, but the Lions struggled with it all year.