Since it remains the elephant in the room more than fifteen hours after it happened, let’s go ahead and get this out of the way quick.
The Detroit Lions were jobbed by the officials Sunday afternoon in Dallas. In no universe is Anthony Hitchens’ defensive play anything but pass interference. Not only did Hitchens not make a play for the ball, he tugged on Brandon Pettigrew’s jersey. Regardless of if Pettigrew got a piece of Hitchens’ face mask in the battle, two Dallas fouls should have been called on the play, allowing the Lions a first down.
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Before the flag was picked up, Dez Bryant foolishly left the bench to protest, but Pete Morelli and his crew didn’t dicipline Bryant for this violation. Most of the time, an offensive player leaving the bench would be a clear 15 yard penalty, and nothing was done. This is perhaps the most unfortunate circumstance of the entire series.
For one moment, Morelli and his crew lost complete control of a game they were in charge of, and took no responsibility after the fact. Even if the legitimacy of calls is contested, this shouldn’t happen to referees in playoff games.
That series itself was a mental turning point for Detroit. After the calls went against the Lions, that seemed to be that. Jim Caldwell elected not to be agressive on fourth and short, punted the ball (getting a ill-timed, Phil Mickelson-style shank from Sam Martin) and watched his defense make several mental errors down the stretch en-route to the loss.
Offensively, though the Lions got the ball back with a chance to win late, Matthew Stafford came up short. In the second half, Stafford and his offense could only manage three points against a Dallas defense they had sliced and diced most of the afternoon.
Champions don’t do any of that. Champions find a way to push through, execute, and make a handful of plays to eliminate errors from a mistake-prone referee crew. Champions find a way to add points throughout the second half and avoid the silly mistakes late.
Champions find a way to push through, execute and make a hanful of plays to eliminate errors from a mistake-prone referee crew. Champions find a way to add points throughout the second half and avoid the silly mistakes late.
Those are the reasons why the Lions aren’t to be considered champions yet. They haven’t learned how to execute the best in the biggest moments, nor deal well with the ebbs and flows of a usual playoff game. Hey, who could blame them? They haven’t been there, done that and won that.
Sunday’s loss was a great teaching moment in that department. As much as Caldwell, Reggie Bush and Golden Tate can tell the team strange things happen in the playoffs and urge them to ride the wave, it’s a whole other thing for players without playoff experience to see it happen and react appropriately.
Detroit did a poor job in this department, lost a close game to Dallas as a result, and has to grow up quickly in order to taste any postseason success in the future. That’s true with or without the untimely intervention of the referees, even if that sequence helped accelerate the disaster.
Nobody can say with certainty that Detroit’s future is completely bright, because every single NFL season is different than the one before it. A salry cap and league parody always assures that. Perhaps that’s why so many feel so passionately about the multiple errors of the officials.
The bottom line remains: Detroit still has work to do in order to reach their ultimate goals. 2014 was a step in the right direction, but more has to be done.