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Lions have a long tradition of getting hosed by NFL referees

The Lions have been getting hosed by referees all season. Given their history, that shouldn't be surprising.

The Lions have been on the wrong end of a lot weird officiating during the 2016 season. In September, referees called a phantom pass interference on tight end Eric Ebron on what could have been a game-winning touchdown in a tight loss to the Titans. In Week 14, referees called a hands to the face penalty on the Lions that had actually been committed by the Bears.

Then on Sunday, referees made perhaps their most hilariously bad call against the Lions. Odell Beckham clearly dropped a pass that was ruled a completion on the field. It was only a 4-yard gain, and the Lions could have challenged the play and didn't, but it solidified the Lions as one of the most strangely unlucky teams when it comes to officiating.

The Lions have long history of getting hosed by the NFL rulebook, starting with one of the most notorious on-field ruling of recent NFL history.

Sept. 12, 2010 -- the "Calvin Johnson rule"

"Completing the process" entered the NFL lexicon thanks to what is still regarded as an unbelievably strict definition of an incompletion. Trailing by five points to the Chicago Bears, the Lions appeared to have taken the lead when Stafford hit Johnson for a 25-yard touchdown with under one minute to play. Johnson corralled the ball above his head then landed in the end zone with his feet, butt and left hand all hitting the ground.

However, referees ruled that Johnson did not have possession of the ball long enough when, while palming the football in his right hand, he pushed himself off the ground with the ball to celebrate the play. Ostensibly, he didn't establish control after touching down. Most people who saw the play would have happily given him credit for his effort, however.

NFL players are still getting robbed by this rule, from Dez Bryant in last season's NFC Championship to Tyler Eifert against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 3.

Nov. 22, 2012 -- the "Jim Schwartz rule"

During the third quarter of a Thanksgiving Day game against the Lions, then-Houston Texans running back Justin Forsett was very clearly down after a modest gain. Referees never blew their whistles, however, and Forsett got up off the ground to finish off an 81-yard run to the end zone.

Furious, then-Lions head coach Jim Schwartz threw his red challenge flag, not realizing that scoring plays are automatically reviewed. Schwartz was given a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty, which -- and this is the egregious part -- negated the possibility of a review. As a result, an obvious wrong was never righted. The Lions went on to lose, 34-31.

The NFL eventually fixed the loophole in the rulebook, but it was far too late for Detroit.

Jan. 4, 2015 -- Referees reverse pass interference call


Cowboys linebacker Anthony Hitchens was initially called for pass interference on the play above as the Lions were driving with 8:25 to go against the Dallas Cowboys in the Wild Card round of the 2014 playoffs, up 20-17. The penalty would have given the Lions a first down with momentum on their side.

Then, of course, disaster. Cowboys players lobbied the referees, and the head linesman overturned the call after conferring with the back judge who threw the flag. Facing fourth down, the Lions punted on the next play, and went on to lose a thriller, 24-20.

The Lions had plenty of chances to beat the Cowboys after that, and the call/non-call wasn't even the biggest momentum-swinging play of the game. Still, when you've been to the playoffs just twice in the last 15 years, these moments tend to stick out. Doubly so when they never seem to go your way, ever.

Oct. 15, 2015 -- Seahawks get away with illegal batting

The Lions were robbed of a chance to redeem themselves after Calvin Johnson fumbled at the goal line while trying to score what would have been a late go-ahead touchdown against the Seahawks. As Johnson's fumble bounced towards the back of the end zone, linebacker K.J. Wright intentionally batted the ball out of bounds, which is a clear penalty ... except the referees didn't call it.

If they had, the Lions would have regained possession at the half-yard line after the penalty was assessed. The Lions started the possession at the complete opposite end of the field -- at their own 9-yard line -- and marched up the field thanks to a masterful bit of passing by Matthew Stafford, only to have a chance at a season-saving win snatched away.

At the time, that the no-call helped solidify Detroit as the NFL's only remaining winless team.

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SB Nation video archives: Referees screw the Lions in playoff game (2015)