Another controversy has sparked in the NFL after Monday night’s game between the Seattle Seahawks (2-2) and the Detroit Lions (0-4). The incident had an all too familiar feel to the “Fail Mary” incident that took place in 2012 in a game between Seattle and the Green Bay Packers on Monday night.
Detroit wide receiver Calvin Johnson caught a pass with 1:51 remaining in the fourth quarter near the end zone and ended up fumbling the ball as Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor punched it out. With the ball loose and trickling towards the back of the end zone, which would’ve led to a touchback, Seattle linebacker K.J. Wright intentionally batted the ball out of bounds.
Back judge Greg Wilson declared this was a fumble, which gave Seattle the ball and let them run out the clock to win the game. Wilson did not realize that Wright batting the ball out of bounds was a penalty that should have rewarded the Lions the ball back at the 1-yard line. The missed call basically lost the Lions the game and kept them winless.
Dean Blandino, NFL vice president of officiating, told NFL network immediately following the game that the NFL has a clear rule of illegal batting.
“You can’t bat the ball in either direction in the end zone,” Blandino told NFL Network. “K.J. Wright batted the ball. That is a foul for an illegal bat.”
This means a penalty should have been called on the play, and Detroit should have had all four downs back at the 1-yard line with a chance to take the lead.
This missed call is only the most recent controversy with the NFL and their referees.
The “Fail Mary” incident also involved the Seahawks when the referee that night, Lance Easley, made the call that Seattle wide receiver Golden Tate caught the Hail Mary to win the game.
Because Seattle and Green Bay both had possession of the ball, the pass should have been ruled incomplete. Tate also should have been called for offensive pass interference that would have still had Green Bay winning the game.
Ironically, Tate was on the opposite side of the controversy this time, now a member of the Detroit Lions.
K.J. Wright admitted after the game that he was not aware of the rule. Many other players and coaches said the same. Wright thought it would be safer to knock it out of bounds instead of diving for possession.
“I thought I was making a smart play,” Wright told The Seattle Times.
With players and referees not realizing certain rules, this is affecting teams wins and losses and has become a problem in the NFL.
Lions safety James Ihedigbo, was not happy with the call and felt it wasn’t fair.
“A simple, ‘Sorry, we made a mistake,’ doesn’t suffice,” Ihedigbo told MLive Media Group. “The officials have got to be held accountable, just like the players are.”
NFL players are held accountable for behavior on and off the field, and even with apologizes, they are still handed down a punishment.
Meanwhile, refs seem to be getting away with a lot of misunderstandings and bad calls that shouldn’t be happening. Referees need to have more knowledge to make the right calls.
Referee Greg Wilson had a very good view of the play and he may still have missed it, but either way, the play was not reviewable.
“It’s not reviewable in replay, that is specific in the replay rule,” Blandino said. “You can’t rule on an illegal bat because it is a judgment call.”
I am not saying we need a better review system, because refs get to watch every scoring review and other illegal plays, which help make the game better.
If the NFL required more reviews, it could just make the game longer and less enjoyable. The NFL has to solve the issue by increasing and ensuring the referee’s knowledge of the game.
The controversy will likely be stuck with the Lions and the NFL throughout the season, but Lions head coach Jim Caldwell understands it’s just part of the game.
“What can you do? We aren’t going to cry about it,” Caldwell said. “We lost, no matter how, we lost.”
Calvin Johnson is taking some blame, as the fumble shouldn’t have even happened.
“At the end of the day I have to hang onto the ball,” Johnson said. “Can’t leave it in officials’ hands.”
It’s only week four of the NFL season, and the drama has just begun.
Story by: Jason Huber, Sports Reporter