‘Correct’ call costs Lions a win

Posted Sept. 12, 2010 @ 6:30 p.m.
Posted By Eric Edholm

If the call at the end of the Lions-Bears game was indeed a correct one, then the rule needs to be changed.


Here’s what happened: The Lions were driving at the end of the game into Bears territory. QB Shaun Hill — replacing the injured Matthew Stafford — tossed a fade route to WR Calvin Johnson, a ball Johnson leaped up and caught for an apparent game-winning touchdown with 25 seconds remaining. But no. Johnson caught the ball, hit the ground, appeared to be rolling over … and that’s when the ball squirted out of his hand.

The official in the endzone with a clear view of the play signaled touchdown. Another official, though, came sprinting in and signaled no catch. The play went up to the replay booth for further examination.

The rule is worded this way: “If a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass (with or without contact by an opponent), he must maintain control of the ball after he touches the ground, whether in the field or the endzone. If he loses control of the ball, and the ball touches the ground before he regains control, the pass is incomplete. If he regains control prior to the ball touching the ground, the pass is complete.”

Essentially, what the second official in the Bears-Lions game saw, along with the review official, was that Johnson was still in the process of making the catch when he let it go.


Johnson was no sooner making the catch than he was scratching his ear. It appeared to me that he had rolled over, well after establishing the catch, and was getting up to his feet, using the ball to hoist him up when he lost it. That happened about a three-Mississippi after he caught what could have been a game-winning touchdown.

If the Lions didn’t have bad luck, they’d have no luck at all. They have lost 37 of their last 40 games. They lost Stafford, their franchise quarterback, to a shoulder injury in the second quarter. They appeared to beat the Bears on the road — their first victory away from home since Oct. 28, 2007, when they beat these same Bears at Soldier Field.

But this one was taken away from them on a bad interpretation of the rules. The rule seems sound; you have to complete the catch. But Johnson had it, controlled it and on any other football field, I think this one is called a touchdown. Instead, it’s overturned on an overly strict reading of a rule that might require some revision.

That's because if the officials are going to call this rule this strictly, it takes away from the spirit of the game. Johnson caught the ball. The Lions should have won with that play, as only a few seconds would have remained on the clock once the Bears would've regained possession. To his credit, head coach Jim Schwartz took the high road and refused to blame the officials, but the fact is the Lions made a play that should've made them 1-0.

Instead, they got jobbed of a win. Do we need to handicap these guys any more?


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