The biggest controversy of Week 14 took place in Detroit, where the Lions somehow got away with a blatant facemask on the final play of regulation.
Had the call been made, the Vikings would’ve had another chance to win the game with an untimed down inside Detroit’s 1-yard line. Considering that the Lions are battling for a playoff spot and the Vikings are in line to land a top-three draft pick, that’s a missed call that could have massive implications.
Now, missed calls happen. This one was just ill-timed. And as Lions head coach Jim Schwartz pointed out, his team was on the wrong end of several of them earlier in the game.
“Yeah, we grabbed the facemask, but there are probably about three or four other plays in that game where guys got a facemask or guys got a hold,” Schwartz said. “There’s a couple of fourth-down plays where I think we’re getting held where they convert fourth down. If they don’t convert that play, the end doesn’t even matter.
“There was a horse collar on Stefan Logan that negated a big return. We had a holding penalty on it, but we could’ve had that ball re-kicked, and Stefan Logan was hot. They were having a hard time handling him, and he was able to make some plays.”
Although the mistakes alluded to by Schwartz weren’t in the spotlight, they might have had just as much bearing on the final result as the non-call on DeAndre Levy’s now-infamous facemask. So I’m not more or less frustrated by what happened on that final play in Detroit than I am by the number of potentially season-changing penalties missed throughout each game.
That said, we have the ability to get more of these calls right.
Everything that is black and white should be reviewable. A facemask, for instance. Or a helmet-to-helmet hit. Even a horse-collar tackle. If an official’s instant judgment isn’t necessary for the call to be made/not made, then coaches should have the ability to challenge the potential penalties committed during the course of a game.
The game is getting faster, right? And it’s not fair to expect officials — humans — to catch everything. So until the league has perfected the science behind robot referees, it’s necessary that we utilize the technology already at our fingertips in an effort to ensure fairness (or the closest thing to it) and avoid controversial results like the one in Detroit.
I don’t care if it makes games longer — getting it right is more important. Besides, the league could always make up the difference by eliminating the double commercial break that exists after a team scores and either moving those ads to fill in the time spent while awaiting the added replay challenges or canning them entirely (fat chance).
There are surely ways to make it work without extending games by more than a few minutes. I think anyone who’s seen their team get screwed by a crucial missed call would agree that it’s the right step to take.