Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

04 Dec 2015

Clutch Encounters: Week 13 GB-DET

by Scott Kacsmar

Not so fast, Cleveland. Just 72 hours after the Browns' "kick-six" loss on Monday night, the Lions had to take losing to the next level. Forget the 20-0 lead that was squandered. Green Bay was 79 yards away from the end zone with six seconds left, and still managed to win the game. That only happens on a Hail Mary or a lateral-filled play. The Packers were able to try both after a controversial face mask penalty was called to extend the game with an untimed down. Detroit had already been on the wrong end of the missed illegal bat penalty in Seattle, but this one is going to hurt for much longer.

Aaron Rodgers unleashed a Hail Mary for a 61-yard touchdown, the longest Hail Mary to win a game since the phrase became famous after Roger Staubach to Drew Pearson in the 1975 playoffs. The Elias Sports Bureau has it as the longest game-winning touchdown pass to end regulation since Bobby Layne (65 yards) in 1960. That was back when the Lions (and Browns) were one of the league's best teams. Nowadays you just kind of expect these teams to find improbable ways to lose games.

We will make our way to the ending here in a Friday edition of Clutch Encounters. The rest of Week 13's close games will be covered on Tuesday. This was close to being a meager recap of another failed Green Bay comeback, but one penalty allowed for an ending that will live on through highlights of NFL history.

Game of the Week

Green Bay Packers 27 at Detroit Lions 23

Type: 4QC/GWD
Largest Fourth-Quarter Deficit: 9 (23-14)
Head Coach: Mike McCarthy (16-41-1 at 4QC and 22-43-1 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers (10-30 at 4QC and 14-32 overall 4QC/GWD record)

It just did not seem fathomable that this Detroit team, once 1-7, could pull off a season sweep of the Packers for the first time since 1991. Yet coming into the game, there were reasons to like the Lions in this one. Detroit had won three in a row out of its bye week, displaying some much improved defense along with a steadier Matthew Stafford. The Packers, 6-0 before the bye, had lost four out of five and came in with the passing offense struggling in ways we are not used to seeing. The receivers were not getting open, Aaron Rodgers was no longer throwing anyone open and two starters on the offensive line were out with injuries. Center Corey Linsley even got hurt in the second quarter.

After one quarter, everything we have recently watched looked to be happening again. Green Bay trailed 17-0 with Stafford on point for two touchdown passes while Rodgers threw a rare interception in between the scores. Then there was the strange second quarter -- the first scoreless second quarter of the 2015 season. These offenses managed an impotent 44 yards of offense between them in the quarter. That would be on pace for a 176-yard game, compared to the average 2015 game featuring 711 yards of total offense. After two strong games in a row, Eddie Lacy had six touches for 1 yard in the first half. He never touched the ball in the second half as John Crockett made his NFL debut and chipped in 22 yards on a night Rodgers led Green Bay in rushing with 27 yards. Lacy may have been in the doghouse for reasons unknown to the public this week.

The running game wasn't going, especially in short-yardage situations, and Rodgers was not able to do much even after getting good time. The receivers just were not breaking open for big plays.

The Turnaround

If there was hope for this comeback, it was that Green Bay's defense played very well in the second quarter on four possessions. Detroit opened up the third quarter with a field goal drive that consumed 6:06, but down 20-0, the Packers were still in position where one break gets them back in the game.

Finally establishing a good drive, the break came when a James Starks fumble squirted into the end zone and Randall Cobb was there for the recovery instead of a Detroit defender. On the very next play from scrimmage, Julius Peppers got around Riley Reiff for a strip-sack and the Packers only had to go 12 yards for a touchdown. Davante Adams hung onto this one and the Packers trailed 20-14. The threat of the big lead was gone.

Peppers has 132.5 sacks now, but hopefully his 45 forced fumbles will also factor into his Hall of Fame case. Only Robert Mathis (48) and John Abraham (46) have more since 2001 according to the data at NFL.com. The sack is one thing, but stripping the ball out to potentially get a turnover is huge. Peppers really turned this game around to set up the exciting fourth quarter.

Detroit Regains Control

Ezekiel Ansah (12.5 sacks) has provided the pass rush for Detroit this season. He sacked Rodgers on third-and-14 to start the fourth quarter. Detroit's offense had a very interesting drive, moving 34 yards on 13 plays to take 6:29 off the clock. Peppers did have a big offsides penalty on a third-and-13, costing his defense a stop. The Lions eventually converted a fourth-and-2 after that, which Jim Nantz called a gamble, but it was really a no-brainer decision at the Green Bay 38. You need points here. If there was a time to go conservative, it was under the 7:30 mark with the ball at the 24. Two runs could have burned off over 80 more seconds, putting Green Bay in a 23-14 hole with less than six minutes to play. Stafford threw two incompletions to stop the clock and Matt Prater made a 42-yard field goal with 7:06 left.

Just like in Week 10, the Packers trailed the Lions by nine points in the fourth quarter. We had the table earlier this season, but Rodgers was infamously 0-26 in his career when trailing by multiple scores in the second half. That table is going into retirement, but I am sure we will look at similar things down the road in comparisons to others. I thought the streak would end last time against the Lions, who now account for five of Rodgers' 14 game-winning drives.

Rodgers started and finished his next drive with a scramble, but the Packers also burned their first timeout with the clock stopped early in the drive. Those are crucial. On third-and-11, Rodgers had a path to the end zone and took it with a nice scramble for the touchdown with 3:04 left. Detroit's defensive backs were so committed to coverage in the end zone, they had no clue Rodgers was running untouched. Green Bay was now only down 23-21, which is either great because it means a field goal, or nerve-racking since that means the game comes down to Mason Crosby.

The Four-Minute Offense

The four-minute offense is indisputably the best way to end a game. Why even give your defense an opportunity to lose the lead? Detroit sure seemed poised to do so with a false start and negative run. After that false start, I think you almost have to throw on first-and-15, even if it is something short and safe. Stafford did so on second down with a screen, setting up third-and-12 with the Packers out of timeouts. The Packers rushed four, the protection held up and Stafford threw a dagger over the middle to T.J. Jones for 29 yards. It was just Jones' third catch of the season and he even got up to run some more after not being touched down right away.

But just like last week with Chicago in Green Bay, the offense could not run out the clock with this first down. If there was 2:47 left instead of 2:54, Detroit would have won the game, but those seven extra seconds meant the Lions needed to run a first-down play before the two-minute warning. Not surprisingly, Detroit stayed conservative with three Joique Bell runs that lost 3 yards. After a mediocre punt for 35 yards, the stage was set for our final drive.

The Not Pass Interference

With 23 seconds and no timeouts left, Rodgers took over at his own 21. This is a tough situation. Your best hope is to complete a pass over the middle like Detroit just did for about 25 yards, do a quick spike, then try to hit a quick sideline pass for about 15 more yards (like Tom Brady to Brandon LaFell on Sunday night in Denver) to try a 58-yard field goal.

Rodgers' deep shot on first down was defensed well. On second down, Rodgers scrambled before firing a bomb to Jared Abbrederis near the Detroit 25. If he catches the ball, the clock runs out, so Rodgers may have thrown this just to try drawing a pass interference flag. Otherwise, it made no sense. Some people thought the Lions got away with interference. I think it was a good no call. Isa Abdul-Quddus was looking back for the ball and was in better position for the catch. He contacts Abbrederis, but not in a way that reroutes or restricts him. Abbrederis actually puts both arms around Abdul-Quddus, so if anything it could have been offensive pass interference. But plays like this should just be left alone when two guys are competing like that.

The Lateral and the Controversy

With six seconds left, your only real option is the lateral. James Jones caught his lone pass of the night for 19 yards before flipping it back to Richard Rodgers. If Rodgers could have lateraled it immediately to Randall Cobb, then I think this might have had something down the field.

But the tight end Rodgers decided to throw the ball back 16 yards to the quarterback Rodgers, who was the only Green Bay player behind the play. Rodgers had no one to lateral to, so he tried to juke Devin Taylor, who pulled him down rather easily for the game-ending tackle with no time left. Well, at least that was the scene until the yellow flag came in.

At full speed, it is reasonable to see why the official would go with a face mask penalty. It had "that look" to it with Rodgers' head turning a little and him coming out of the hit with his chin strap covering his mouth. However, replay shows this was just a great illusion of a penalty. The length of contact to the face mask area lasts six tenths of a second, and that is measured from a slow motion replay. If they start calling face mask penalties for stuff like this, it really shows the need to add this penalty to the replay system.

This was basically the old 5-yard face mask penalty, which the NFL eliminated a few years ago in favor of a 15-yard penalty for serious infractions only. We have incidental contact with Taylor's thumb grazing the face mask. That is not grasping the face mask and then twisting, turning or pulling it. Taylor grasps the shoulder pad, and since Rodgers is trying to make a move on a strong player taking him down by the shoulder pad -- Rodgers was already turning his head left before the contact that moved him to his right -- that creates the illusion of the head turning due to face mask contact. The forcible pull was from the grasped shoulder pad. Grabbing the shoulder pad like that is legal. This head contact is legal since Rodgers is a runner in the field of play in a non-defenseless position and not under the usual protections of a quarterback in the pocket.

Even if you think Taylor grasps the face mask, he immediately releases it, so it should not be a penalty by rule. The referees blew this call and the game should have been over at this point with Detroit winning.

Having a system in place where replay can review such a crucial play seems like an absolute necessity with the stakes involved and the technology available to the league. Like I hinted at with the ending of Jaguars-Ravens this year, the final play of the game should be open to a special review by replay. With no time left on the clock, this would have qualified in spite of the untimed down to come. Why only the last play? Hey, maybe we can extend that to the final two minutes, but game pace becomes an issue at some point. The last play of the game leaves no margin for error. You cannot overcome a bad call like you can in the first quarter. If the NFL can get one more play right than they currently are, then that's still a good thing. They'll never get them all right because of human error, but at least get the most important play right.

The face mask is certainly not a call that has little controversy. How often do we see offensive players grab it on a stiff arm and get away with it? They hold it much longer than Taylor ever did. Any Green Bay fan saying NFL officials would always throw this flag must have blocked out the ending of the Packers' overtime loss in Arizona in the 2009 playoffs. Rodgers had his face mask pulled on a fumble-six that lost the game. No call. Dean Blandino's wording of officials "make that call almost every time" is interesting to say the least.

What happened next should go down as one of the all-time great winning plays in NFL history, but I cannot help but feel it is tainted by the face mask call.

The Hail Mary Finish

Now with the ball at the Green Bay 39, the Hail Mary should have been expected. Rodgers, who turned 32 on Wednesday, is well known to have the arm strength to get the ball that far. He evaded Detroit's three-man rush, got a good running start into the throw and unleashed a rainbow. Richard Rodgers was all alone at the 5-yard line and just tracked the ball with a perfectly-timed jump to make the tall catch for the 61-yard touchdown. Incredible.

Now that is an above-the-head catch. This looked too easy for such a low-percentage Hail Mary, the longest successful one we have seen in the NFL. Well, it was easier because the Lions inexplicably were not defending a Hail Mary. Jim Caldwell admitted after the game that Detroit played to prevent another lateral play. Are you kidding me? Everyone knows about Rodgers' arm strength. Anything after the 35-yard line should be considered a Hail Mary attempt here regardless of the quarterback. The three-man rush is fine in that situation. The problem is wasting two defenders at the 40-yard line, who provided absolutely no value to the play.

Think having eight defenders to cover five receivers might have worked better, or rushing five may have given Rodgers less of a chance to throw a nice pass? Think having someone like Calvin Johnson out there would have been smart? We recently watched Coby Fleener intercept a Hail Mary. You are the winners of losing this season, Detroit. Your grasp on this win was stronger than any grasp on Rodgers' face mask, yet somehow the Packers still walked out with a victory.

This is just the seventh drive since 1981 where an offense started with fewer than 30 seconds left in the fourth quarter, tied or down 1 to 8 points, and scored a touchdown.

In his post-game interview, Rodgers said this was the greatest game he has been a part of since his Super Bowl, which ended the 2010 season. Really? I know he hates the "win big, lose close" reputation. He sure sounded like a guy relieved to finally come out on the winning end of a game like this, but the greatest game? If his greatest game in five years requires two fumble recoveries, a phantom face mask penalty and a long Hail Mary to beat the Lions, then you really have to wonder where the Packers are headed this season.

Wherever it is, it is still better than Detroit.

Season Summary

Fourth-quarter comeback wins: 52
Game-winning drives: 60 (plus six non-offensive game-winning scores)
Games with 4QC opportunity: 109/177 (61.6 percent)
10+ point comeback wins (any point in the game): 25

Historic data on fourth-quarter comebacks and game-winning drives can be found at Pro-Football-Reference. Screen caps come from NFL Game Pass.

Posted by: Scott Kacsmar on 04 Dec 2015

74 comments, Last at 08 Dec 2015, 4:40pm by Eleutheria

Comments

1
by NYMike :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 12:25pm

Two observations: on the penalty play, the side judge also threw a flag. No one talks about that, because when the referee has a call, and it's a 15 yard penalty, he doesn't confer with anyone; he just makes the call. We will never know, but from what I saw, I think the side Judge would have had a horse collar.

On the non-PI, I think an end zone shot will show that the DB definitely rerouted Abbredaris. He looked back, but when he turned, he started running out, away from where the ball was thrown, and cut off the receiver. The arm bar across the neck was a nice touch.

Regarding the facemask, I think saying that the officials "blew this call" is very strong. (It would be equally strong on the PI.) From where the referee stood, he called what he saw. And no consideration was made that two flags were thrown. Are we really saying two officials blew the call? Agree or disagree whether what he thought he saw was what happened, but live it looked like a penalty, and from behind the play that must have been doubly so. If you have ever officiated any sport, you know angles are everything.

I've read enough comments about this game to know that rooting interests are clouding the judgment of fans, and that includes me. I'm not calling this win anything but lucky. I'm not *that* delusional.

2
by rrsquid :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 12:56pm

Regardless of any penalties or not, the Hail Mary needed to succeed to win the game. The defense run by Detroit on that play is mind boggling for a professional team.

Also a perfect opportunity was missed to put Tate in the end zone.

8
by NYMike :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 1:57pm

How many QBs can even get the ball into the end zone from that far away?

9
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 1:59pm

A minority, certainly, but it's inexcusable for the Detroit coaching staff to not know Rodgers was one of them.

16
by Will Allen :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 2:37pm

Not just from that distance, but with that mortar-shell arc.

18
by RickD :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 2:38pm

Rodgers can. Eli(?), Cam, Ben, Flacco, Cutler, Rivers(?), Luck, Ryan(?)...I'd say roughly 1/4 of the NFL starters. (Aside: I would love it if one of the stats websites tried to address QB arm strength systematically.)

Point is that Rodgers is definitely one of them, and the Lions had a poor defense in place.

31
by Eleutheria :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 3:16pm

Stafford completed a 60 yards (in the air) pass in a game once.
Dalton threw a 63 yard interception early this season.
I think I saw Brees complete a ~55 yard pass in a game once, and could probably do 65 with a running start like Rodgers had.
Romo, Bortles and Osweiler all have the arm strength to make that throw, but I haven't seen any of them do it in a game.

Most people undervalue just how good quarterbacks are at throwing the ball. I don't know why people are surprised, it is their job. At least half of them could throw the ball 65 yards with a running head start like Rodgers had.

Defend the hail mary.

37
by poplar cove :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 3:48pm

Also of importance is keeping Rodgers in the pocket. His running start was the key and he needed every bit of it too.

47
by Eleutheria :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 4:36pm

That would be something to consider, 5-6 man rush to make sure he doesn't have the time to get off a 61-yard bomb.

Though a 50-yard bomb+Lateral would have a decent chance at a TD if Lions don't have that many people going deep on the play.

40
by RickD :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 3:58pm

I was thinking of Osweiler - he seems to have a big arm.

Embarrassed I didn't think of Stafford. And yes, Bortles has a big arm, too.

I suspect Brees will start suffering the loss of arm strength that has hit Brady and esp. P. Manning, if he hasn't already.

I don't think throwing a 63-yard interception is 1/10th as hard as throwing a 63-yard completion. I know Brady could do the former but have strong doubts about him doing the latter unless the receiver were wide open. (In this case, that's close to what Richard Rodgers was.)

We should really respect that Rodgers throw. The arc he used was amazing. It's not the simplest thing to switch from a gun to a howitzer and keep your accuracy.

46
by Eleutheria :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 4:34pm

If you can throw a 63 yard interception from the pocket you can throw a 61 yard hail mary with a running head start. My point is Dalton has the arm strength do it.

I'm just saying that around half of the leagues QBs can do it, so even if they weren't facing Rodgers they should have put 8 guys in the endzone and had they they probably would have won.

And yeah that was a really nice throw, had the perfect amount of distance to it and was an incredible height. Very few QBs could do that throw, but a worse throw probably could have still resulted in a completion given how the Lions defended that play.

48
by PatsFan :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 4:43pm

There's this great video on YouTube of Drew Brees throwing a football at a standard Olympic archery target from 20 meters (which is rather less than the standard archery distance of 70m). The bullseye is 4.8" across and Brees hits the thing dead center 10 out of 10 times from 20m.

67
by duh :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 7:40pm

Here is a link to the video mention about Brees and the archery target. Really interesting stuff, thanks for mentioning it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tVoqA-LKGb4

43
by Travis :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 4:17pm

Brady's incompletion to Moss near the end of Super Bowl XLII officially went 64 yards beyond the line of scrimmage.

74
by Eleutheria :: Tue, 12/08/2015 - 4:40pm

That was 8 years ago, there's no way he could do that today.

4
by jmaron :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 1:10pm

whenever I look at PI calls I ask myself - if the two players were reversed - as in the defensive player is the receiver - how would the play be called.

In the of the play with 23 seconds left, I think if the GB receiver was the defender he would be called for PI every single time.

Players are supposed to have equal access to the ball, but that's a joke, the defensive player does not have close to the same rights for the ball in the way the game is called.

3
by Tundrapaddy :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 1:08pm

'Green Bay was 79 yards away from the end zone with six seconds left, and still managed to win the game.'

More to the point...Green Bay was 60-some yards away with no seconds left on the clock. Which (under normal circumstances) would be enough to lose.

19
by Will Allen :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 2:40pm

At the time Rodgers caught the lateral on the 2nd to last play, at about his 25 yard line, I think the odds of a Packers victory were literally no better than 1 million to 1.

24
by RickD :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 2:48pm

Absent the penalty, that multi-lateral play would have netted the Packers 2 or 3 yards. It was pretty funny.

26
by Will Allen :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 2:53pm

When you factor that the winning spread and over/under wagers flipped when Rodgers connected to Rodgers (sp?), that was the funniest thing I'd ever seen in a football game.

Of course, I had no action involved.....

68
by Perfundle :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 7:44pm

The Packers got let off the hook for one of the worst-designed lateral plays I've seen. It actually started promisingly, with two crisp laterals, until you realized that no one was behind Rodgers.

Regarding the face mask, I know that Rodgers didn't do this, but what if the ball handler intentionally moves his helmet toward a defender's hand specifically to draw that penalty? Normally the better option is simply to break the tackle, but in dire situations like this it seems like it would be worth a shot. And since you're blatantly gaming the rules, turning your helmet in the direction of the defender's hand to simulate it being yanked would help as well.

5
by jmaron :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 1:24pm

The Vikings once won a game against Cleveland with 14 seconds to go, no timeouts on their own 20. And it got them into the playoffs. A hook and ladder, then hail Mary from Tommy Kramer to Ahmad Rashad.

Apparently as the players were celebrating in the end zone, Rashad was yelling $5000 baby, $5000...the bonus for making the playoffs. Sounds funny now.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AwWdA-o04sg

20
by Will Allen :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 2:42pm

I was at that game, sitting next to a guy from Cleveland. That was fun.

34
by PatsFan :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 3:25pm

I recognize Charlie Jones's voice (one of my all-time favorite announcers). Who was in the booth with him?

And no replay of the catch in that telecast there. Production values have certainly changed. :)

6
by justanothersteve :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 1:52pm

On the no-call between Abbrederis and Abdul-Quddus, it was a good no-call. JA wasn't trying to wrap his arms around IAQ. JA was reaching back for the ball before IAQ ran into him. But it was legit because IAQ was also looking back for the ball. JA gets the call if he tries to high-point it because IAQ would have run into JA before IAQ turned around for the ball. JA needs to learn that.

The facemask may have been incidental, but it's not the first time that's been called and it won't be the last. It was the right call. Pointing out that Rodgers didn't get the call in the Arizona playoff game means the officials missed the call. (And everyone knows runners get away with facemasks 99% of the time and that may be an underestimate.) In either above case with Rodgers, a penalty called may not seem fair. It was ticky-tack. But penalties are often aren't fair and often completely unrelated to what happened during the play.

I didn't mind the Arizona missed call because I didn't think the Packers deserved to win after the fumble. I would have been unhappy but fine with a missed call in the Detroit game for the same reason. But it was called and it was legit. Get over it.

7
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 1:54pm

That hailmary defense, if it indeed came from Caldwell (and not Teryl Austin) should be the final nail in the Jim Caldwell regime. This decision is in the same category as his timeout in the 2010 Wildcard Game against the Jets. Also, he almost gave away the Atlanta game in London last year (only to be outdone by Mike Smith's idiocy). You simply cannot have a head coach that consistently makes bad, game-losing, decisions like that.

22
by Will Allen :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 2:45pm

I actually heard supposedly knowledgeable people say this morning that Caldwell should be allowed to survive this. Unreal.

29
by theslothook :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 3:01pm

I still blame that playoff loss to the Cowboys on Caldwell. The decisions to punt, the entire second half offensive approach -it had Caldwell's stink all over it.

Since the WAR stat is still fresh in my mind, Caldwell is at least worth a loss or two as a head coach, no? Like, no matter the talent, there will be a game or two where Caldwell's lunacy will cost the team in some unfathomably illogical way.

49
by Eleutheria :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 4:45pm

Believe it or not Caldwell was actually the third most aggressive coach on 4th downs last year, though all that aggression during the regular season seemed to not matter come playoffs, when he decided to never go for it on 4th down.

55
by theslothook :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 5:05pm

Actually - Matt Bowen's description makes it look even worse. My god.... this is supposed to be a league where 32 of the brightest minds in the world are in charge.

http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/14288668/how-defend-hail-mary-how-detr...

58
by Perfundle :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 5:22pm

From the way he has it drawn up, it looks like the X receiver is being single-covered. Worse, he wants the DB to jam him; if the jam misses the receiver will have no one covering him. Maybe he means for the MLB to cover him as well while keeping an eye on the RB, but there's no guarantee that he'll be able to keep up with a speedy X. Perhaps the right-side defenders will be able to make it to the left side on time, especially with the hang time required, but if I were the QB the left side is definitely the better option here.

61
by tuluse :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 5:38pm

I think he's expecting the free safety to not be an idiot and help on the X receiver if needed.

65
by Perfundle :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 7:32pm

Well that's a level of complexity that he's not mentioning. The way he has it drawn up looks great with 3 receivers being covered by 6 defenders with well-defined roles, but the defense on the left side leaves a lot to be desired.

One thing I would like to see more of is lateral plays before the last play of the game, like what Boise St. did against Oklahoma (if they failed the game was over, but they could've gotten a first down for another play). Teams always wait until the last play to pull out desperation laterals, so a designed play with built-in laterals might catch defenders unprepared. That 4th-and-18 TD was the slickest trick play I've ever seen, like what you'd see in a movie.

10
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 2:01pm

Hey, football gods? Between Michigan's loss to Michigan State (on the punter's fumbled snap as time expired), and this game, I've had my fill of crazily improbable victories by opposing teams, thank you very much. This means I'm due for some going the other way. Right? RIGHT?!

27
by theslothook :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 2:55pm

When I saw this game, my instant reaction went to Jeff Daniels. He exposited his feelings perfectly well. The lions always lose in new and inventive ways.

11
by dmepolitic :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 2:12pm

I have no rooting interest here, but as a sports official, I could never see this as a "blown call". In real time it looked like a facemask and I still cannot tell if he touched the facemask or not with the benefit of slow motion. Officials have to call what they see they don't get the benefit of super slow motion. Human vision while a good tool, is limited, and unless we want replays every other play we have to truly accept that. In a game where receivers regularly drop balls, kickers miss kicks, snaps go awry, and all sorts of other mistakes occur, I don't understand why officials are expected to be flawless.

I think there are reasonable rule cleanups that can help and making nfl officials full-time employees would be a helpful step. Endlessly bashing the officials for not seeing what only a HD camera can see in slow motion is an unfair and silly exercise.

- An official

13
by Perfundle :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 2:28pm

unless we want replays every other play we have to truly accept that

Or, you could have replays in the final two minutes of the game as Scott is advocating for, and which the NBA already has in place.

17
by deus01 :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 2:38pm

I think replays should also be moved to centralized place and taken away from the crew on the field (they could communicate by radio). This would help speed up the game as we wouldn't have to watch the Referee run to the replay booth.

21
by RickD :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 2:44pm

If you cannot even tell whether the defender touched the face mask or not, then it should not be flagged. The 15-yard penalty is supposed to be reserved for contact far greater than a glancing blow. It's supposed to be reserved for situations where the player grabs the face mask and then uses the face mask as a tool - twisting, pulling, shoving, doing something other than immediately letting go.

Lots of money is involved in this game. It's quite possible that Green Bay's playoff berth will depend on this one call. I would think that the chief priority of the NFL here should be to make sure that they get the call right. But, as with many things, they seem to think that the highest priority is to get people to respect their decision, whether it's right or wrong.

I feel like I'm repeating myself on this point for some reason.

23
by deus01 :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 2:46pm

Next year the NFL will introduce a new 'clarification' of the face mask penalty that will make the rule harder to interpret and lead to more controversy.

25
by Will Allen :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 2:49pm

If your point is that it should be subject to replay, that's worth debating. I'm ambivalent. If the argument is that what happened did not not very much look like a facemask, in real time, making it a very reasonable wrong call, I differ.

41
by RickD :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 4:02pm

I don't think the official who threw the flag should have thrown it for the plain reason that he was behind Rodgers and couldn't possibly see the relevant part of the play. If the official on the other side had thrown the flag, I would be more forgiving. But it seems clear that the guy who threw the flag did so because of something he inferred, not something he actually observed.

It's a reasonable inference (and, indeed, it was my first inference), but it wasn't an observation.

And sure, why not allow replay? (But yes, that's a different discussion.)

50
by SandyRiver :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 4:51pm

What kind of view did the side judge have when he also (according to post #1) tossed a hankie?

69
by NYMike :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 9:01pm

http://www.nfl.com/big-play-highlights has the video (presently in the second row, second one in "Game Changing Facemask Penalty Leads to One More Packer Play". You'll see the referee's flag come in pretty close to Rodgers about the ten second mark, and between 11 and 13, a second flag comes in the lands near the zero of the 20 yard marker.

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by NYMike :: Sat, 12/05/2015 - 9:45am

I'm trying to make the link a link, but the spam filter is going full blast this morning. Sorry.

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by Will Allen :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 5:04pm

Yeah, I think you have an unrealistic view of how the human brain works. The mush between our ears tells us, with what is available to it, what we thought we saw, and it is just incredibly, incredibly, hard to discipline that brain to restrict itself to what was observed. Especially with fast moving events. Or raiderjoe posts.

I just don't think you can ever meaningfully reduce this kind of wrong call. The brain wants to see what it wants to see.

39
by poplar cove :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 3:55pm

EXACTLY.............WELL PUT!!!

12
by Sakic :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 2:22pm

Great article and even more impressive turnaround time.

I guess my take on this game (and the constant nitpicking of the officials) is to go the other way and completely get rid of instant replay all together. Is the game better off with replay? I've seen blown calls go both ways where either I (A) can't believe it was overturned or (B) can't believe it WASN'T overturned and if instant replay is all about getting it "right" how come many of us still believe a certain call is wrong (the Fail Mary comes to mind.)

And maybe it just makes me old school but I really miss the days when you saw the official's hands go up you knew it was a touchdown...good or bad.

14
by Perfundle :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 2:31pm

Is the game better off with replay?

Yes. The calls you're referring are few and far between.

And maybe it just makes me old school but I really miss the days when you saw the official's hands go up you knew it was a touchdown...good or bad.

The Fail Mary had one official signalling for a TD and another signalling for a touchback. Then what?

15
by Sakic :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 2:35pm

"The Fail Mary had one official signalling for a TD and another signalling for a touchback. Then what?"

Your brain is required to explode upon viewing.

33
by LyleNM :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 3:21pm

The Fail Mary had one official signalling for a TD and another signalling for a touchback. Then what?

He didn't signal touchback. He signaled timeout. In other words, he hadn't really made a decision yet and was probably going to ask the other official.

38
by Perfundle :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 3:50pm

Fair enough. But there's also this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sg6oDimEWAg

28
by Dave Bernreuther :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 2:59pm

What frustrates me is that Blandino is taking a stand to say it was the correct call on the Facemask, which is nonsense. It was, by rule, incidental and shouldn't have been flagged.

I understand why they called it, and I understand why it couldn't be reviewed, but Blandino needs to stop defending indefensible positions.

42
by RickD :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 4:03pm

But that's half of his job description!

51
by Eleutheria :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 4:53pm

He never said it was the right call, he said he understands why the refs made the call.

His wording was very political and indicated he disagreed with the refs making the call, but given that he's their VP he has to stand by them.

56
by Will Allen :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 5:08pm

To be fair to Blandino, he has in the past openly acknowledged bad calls, so as their VP he has, at times, not stood with them. In this instance, I think it more likely that he honestly believes it is the sort of mistake that is very, very, difficult to avoid.

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by Eleutheria :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 5:32pm

but even then he's very political about it:
Like the batting ball in the Lions game, he claimed the ref misinterpreted the batting, not that the ref blew the call.

60
by PatsFan :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 5:32pm

It would be nice if the NFL's head of officiating actually had officiating experience -- as the position did for decades until Blandino came along.

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by Will Allen :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 6:01pm

Yeah, I'd agree with that.

30
by techvet :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 3:05pm

What about the missed DPI call against Detroit just a few plays previous to this one? I haven't seen it myself but have heard others say the DPI by the Lions on #84 should have been called.

32
by Will Allen :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 3:16pm

The defender was looking back for the ball prior to contact, and that negates the penalty a good percentage of the time. Reasonably so, in my view.

35
by lrargerich :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 3:35pm

McCarthy & Rodgers just confirmed the Hail Mary was also a missed assignment. The "design" of the play is to get the ball after a tip. McCarthy referred to a "rebound pass".
Richard Rodgers admitted his assignment was to wait for a tipped ball.

I think it is kind of ridiculous to have a play were the design is to catch a tipped ball but I can't argue with success.

The play is called "2 jet rebound pass"

36
by NYMike :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 3:48pm

The most hilarious thing about Rodgers catch was that he got himself in perfect position because he was so late getting down the field. When the camera gets to the people in the end zone, there's Rodgers trudging along about the ten yard line. Which of course puts him in perfect position to make the catch.

It was a great throw and a great catch. There was never any question once RR got his hands on the ball that a Bostic would occur.

45
by dank067 :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 4:32pm

That's funny because I think I recall the Packers trying to do exactly that on another Hail mary at Detroit on Thanksgiving 2003 in the same end zone. They got a tip but it wasn't close enough to get it to the man they had hanging back. I think it was Tony Fisher

52
by SandyRiver :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 4:55pm

Last play of SB 46, Pats did the tip but Gronk's dive came up about 2 feet too short.

53
by Scott Kacsmar :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 5:00pm

Planned tip is an interesting concept, but once that happens, defenders have to just grab the hell out of the receiver's arms. It's legal then, and it's not like the refs are willing to throw flags there anyway.

57
by Mike B. In Va :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 5:17pm

Except if Buffalo's playing the Pats. (I don't expect many of you to remember that one...)

44
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 4:18pm

Wonder how Dean Blandino defends the refs failing to throw a flag for "excessive celebration" after that final play? Plus at least one Green Bay helmet got taken off and thrown to the sidelines, so that's another unbsportsmanlike conduct flag that should have been thrown.

(None of which changes the result and I'm all in favour of allowing excessive celebration for these sort of endgame moments but the NFL has a big thing about applying rules consistently)

62
by NoraDaddy :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 5:43pm

Once the catch is made in the endzone, the game is officially over.

edit: I take it back the play by play has one more play run. I didn't see the end of the game, why did they run a 2 point conversion there instead of the extra point try? Sounds like your asking for a pissed Detroit player to purposely injure one of your players.

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by Scott Kacsmar :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 5:50pm

There must be a point-after attempt in regulation. The trend this year has been for teams to take a knee as I guess they don't want to risk injury or give up 2 points on a return. Just another way to weaken the 2PC numbers and scare coaches away from trying more of them.

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by duh :: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 7:38pm

That is funny about scaring the coaches. Sadly somewhere someone will do that ... 'well they only make 44% of them so it doesn't make sense' or something like that.

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by big10freak :: Sat, 12/05/2015 - 9:38am

Amazing throw and catch

Both coaches made between them at least 20 tactical mistakes which given McCarthy's success overall just continues to baffle me. Mike over the years is clearly one of those guys who is great between games but for those 3.5 hours boy can he get in the way.

Clinton-Dix continues to impress.

72
by big10freak :: Sat, 12/05/2015 - 11:02am

As the penalty discussion of the 1,000,000th iteration this 'controversy' is in the league's interests.

Folks will respond that fans will lose faith in the sport or some such but the NFL isn't Don King led boxing. The games are not fixed. The officials are just incompetent. And to the league's advantage ALL of the officials are pretty much equally incompetent.

So the league put in replay under the pretense of 'getting things right' but the real outcome has been not much has changed in terms of officials performance quality while game length has been extended which is only a big boon for the league and its partners.

And if the absolutely stupid, foolish, ill-advised suggestion of making MORE things reviewable is enacted well then the games will become even LONGER and the league and everyone around the NFL, save the fans of course, will cackle with glee.

And the fans will still watch. And complain. And watch. And complain.

The bulk of NFL fans are only happy when they are unhappy. Meaning they get to go somewhere (work, bar, chat room) and b*tch nonstop about the injustice served

This seems to be the formula. Everybody gets what they want.

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by dank067 :: Sat, 12/05/2015 - 3:33pm

Disagree on replay extending game length being a positive for the league/networks (or us!). I'm almost certain that the networks are only allowed to take so many (5?) TV timeouts per quarter, and even though that's still plenty, really long replays or referee conferences at certain junctures just add to the length of the game without allowing for a break. It's these types of cases that really make games seem like a chore to watch sometimes.

I'm with you that officiating probably won't harm ratings for now, but if games keep getting longer and slower it might. Baseball and college football both recently identified this as a problem. The NCAA even went so far as to adopt a longer play clock a few years ago, which had the coaches who aim to run 80 plays a game apoplectic because it was so transparently done just for TV.