Tortured Lions find a new way

NurPhoto/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire

Well, that was the most Lions-y thing ever.

Forgive the literary license but, from an NFL perspective, turning Lions into an adjective is about as descriptive as you get because few franchises, even the most tortured, can lose like Detroit.

After a borderline facemask call extended the game by one play, and more importantly the 15 yards Aaron Rodgers needed in order to heave the football into the end zone, Lions’ defenders, who performed yeoman work for most of the night, inexplicably ignored Richard Rodgers as he leaked toward the goal line to haul in a 61-yard touchdown pass to lift the struggling Green Bay Packers to a 27-23 win.

You can call it stealing a win if you like or marvel at Rodgers’ arm strength or mobility to keep plays alive, but this was really the Lions embracing the holiday season and invoking the adage it’s better to give than receive.

By the letter of the actual law, Devin Taylor’s quick grazing of  Rodgers’ facemask wasn’t a penalty even though NFL VP of Officiating Dean Blandino was correct when he claimed an official makes that call “every time.”

The rule reads as follows: “No player shall grasp and control, twist, turn, push, or pull the facemask of an opponent in any direction. If a player grasps an opponent’s facemask, he must immediately release it. If he does not immediately release it and controls his opponent, it is a foul.”

“I knew I grabbed his collarbone, shoulder pad,” Taylor said. “Whatever the ref saw, he called facemask. There’s nothing I could do about it, just keep playing until the next down. … It’s whatever the refs call. I can’t control whatever they decide. I can just play ball and keep going. I didn’t believe I touched it.”

He touched it, but at no point did Taylor grab, control twist, turn, push or pull Rodgers’ facemask and the defensive lineman’s own momentum took him off it as he brushed by but the Lions are hardly the first victim of reputation-based officiating and most certainly won’t be the last.

“Didn’t think it was (a penalty),” disappointed Lions coach Jim Caldwell said after the game. “But because you don’t think it was or I don’t think it was – It was called, so therefore it is and we’ve just got to find a way to make the play.”

Caldwell is correct in that blaming this setback on the latest shaky call from an official is about as specious as it gets.

Dec. 3, 2015 - Detroit, Michigan, USA - Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) reacts after scoring a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions in Detroit, Michigan USA, on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015 (Photo by NurPhoto/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire)

Dec. 3, 2015 – Detroit, Michigan, USA – Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) reacts after scoring a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions in Detroit, Michigan USA, on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015 (Photo by NurPhoto/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire)

Detroit failed miserably in the most obvious of situational-football circumstances both from a coaching and personnel standpoint on the last play, standing behind Green Bay receivers in the middle of the end zone and ignoring Richard Rodgers because he was stationed about five years outside of the promised land when Aaron launched the football.

Lack of arm strength is never the problem with Aaron Rodgers, and he easily reached the end zone as Richard simply played center fielder, slowly tracking the ball before going up and high-pointing it as the stunned Ford Field faithful stared on in disbelief.

“I blacked out,” Aaron Rodgers told Tracy Wolfson of the NFL Network. “I don’t know what happened.”

The 6-foot-5 Calvin Johnson, who has been used as a defender in Hail Mary situations in the past, remained on the sidelines and the players who get paid to actually be defensive backs didn’t look like ones at the most important moment of the game, attempting to catch the football instead of knocking it down.

“In that situation we have a couple of different things that we do,” Caldwell answered when asked why C.J. wasn’t on the field. That was one where you’re kind of looking for more of that pass back and forth kind of thing because of the range. He ran around there so long, moved up, gave himself a chance to get into the end zone. We had plenty of guys back there, we had plenty of guys. We just didn’t make the play … they did.”

In other words Caldwell and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin underestimated Rodgers’ ability to reach the end zone and assumed the Packers would go underneath and move forward from there.

Whether Johnson was on the field or not, however, doesn’t explain why the Lions’ DBs went for the glory of the interception instead of their job of winning the game.

“We’ve got to execute that situation a lot better,” Lions safety Glover Quinn admitted. “The thing about that one is, nine times out of 10 it always costs you a game.”

It’s also encapsulates Detroit Lions football.

“What you try to do is not let them catch it, plain and simple truth of it,” Caldwell lamented.

“There’s no certain victory,” he continued. “Until that clock ticks zero, there’s no such thing as certain victory. I never feel that way. When it’s over with it’s over, that’s why I never smile during the course of games for the most part until it’s over and that’s a perfect example.”

— John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRagSports.com and TodaysPigskin.com. You can reach him at jmcmullen@phanaticmag.com or on Twitter @jfmcmullen — Also catch John this season on ESPN Southwest Florida every Monday at 3 PM ET; on ESPN Lexington every Thursday at 6:05 ET, and live every Tuesday from 2 to 6 PM ET at the Golden Nugget Casino in Atlantic City for the NFL Wraparound on ESPN South Jersey.

Also check @JFMcMullen on Twitter for John’s upcoming appearances on YAHOO! Sports Radio, FOX Sports Radio, YAHOO! Sports Radio Indiana, Omaha’s The Zone, Mobile’s WNSP, Baltimore’s 105.7 The Fan, 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston, 92.9 The Game in Atlanta, The Score 1260 in Syracuse, Sirius’ Mad Dog Sports Radio, ESPN 1530 in Cincinnati, TSN 1290 in Winnipeg, TSN 690 in Montreal and WNSR in Nashville.

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