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Lions 34 - Vikings 28

What looked to be a route shaping up, as the Lions went into half-time with a 31-14 lead, ended a nail biter that found the Lions escaping with a 34-28 victory on a missed call by the refs.

With a 17 point lead, late in the third quarter, the Vikings quarterback, Christian Ponder was replaced with Joe Webb, then everything began to fall apart. The Lions offense that showed signs of life early in the game could not score a touchdown in the second half. In fact they only managed one field-goal. On the other side of the ball, the Lions defense which had been outstanding most of the game, suddenly could not stop one single player.

The Lions defense intercepted Ponder 3 times and forced two fumbles before Webb took a snap. Two of those turnovers were taken back for defensive touchdowns. The Ponder took over and the Lions defense suddenly looked as if it was in slow motion. Webb would take a snap, then run and leave players wondering how he had simply stepped around them. On one particular play, Webb took off to the right side and went 55 yards without a Lions player ever coming anywhere near him. At least from the televisions perspective, Webb did not look very fast. Often it looked as if he was a big man out for a jog. Yet the Lions defensive players suddenly could not touch him.

After the Lions managed their single field-goal in the second half, Webb directed another drive that went 60 yards on 12 plays for another touchdown. Suddenly the Lions found themselves with only a six point lead. After a six play drive that only accumulated 20 yards, the Lions were forced to punt and count on their defense to stop the Vikings one more time. The Vikings, by the way, answered the call by charging 64 yards on 18 plays that led to the climatic finish.

With Minnesota on the one yard line, first down and nine seconds left on the clock, Webb to the snap and found instant pressure. As he scrambled to his left, DeAndre Levy closed in on him and forced a fumble, but as Webb lost the ball, Levy's hand grabbed his facemask and pulled his head down, keeping him from gaining control of the ball. I watched in shock as players scrambled for a loose ball, waiting for the flag I was sure would come. After all, this is the Lions and the refs rarely miss a chance to flag them for anything minimal much less something so obvious. Then Cliff Avril landed on the ball, time expired and no flag was thrown.

There has been debates on whether the Vikings would have kept possession if the flag had been thrown for the facemask. Many have their own opinions but the one that I have to believe would be that of Mike Pereira the ex-head of officiating who often is called upon to clarify calls on Fox Sports. Though I disagree with his assessment of the Calvin Johnson "Completing the Process" rule in 2010, he still knows the rules better than the fans do. He says that the Vikings would have regained possession and the penalty would have been half the distance to the goal from the place of the fumble, which would have placed the Vikings on the five yard line. Since a game cannot end on a penalty, the Vikings would have been allowed one more play from scrimmage.

Whether they would have scored does not matter. The fact is, the flag was not thrown and the Lions won the game. As much as I will agree that the flag should have been thrown, I will also admit that the Lions have lost their share of games due to penalties being ignored or flags being thrown on phantom fouls at critical points in games. If you follow my blog you would have read articles where I had complained about it happening too often last year. Now it has happened again, but for once the Lions were the team that benefited from the ref's mistake. It is a flaw in the NFL game. Refs are human and will make mistakes. Until the NFL makes penalties reviewable, these things will continue to happen.

If the Lions would have lost the game, the odds of them making the play-offs would have diminished to slightly better than terrible. But the Lions on this day were given a gift. Not only by the refs, but by the Bears and Giants losing as well. The Lions 2011 destiny is now in their own hands and it will be interesting to see what they do with it.

1 comment:

  1. Ken I love your die hard passion for your Lions. It would be great to see them make the playoff's, their fate is in their own hands. We will see what they are made of in the next three weeks.