Detroit Lions defensive back Quandre Diggs had just leveled Tampa Bay’s O.J. Howard, causing a fumble that was recovered by Detroit’s Glover Quin. As broadcaster Ronde Barber predicted,1 Diggs was flagged for unnecessary roughness on the play, his hit deemed a shot to the head of a defenseless receiver. As Barber also noted, this was the wrong call, mainly because the receiver wasn’t defenseless (per NFL rules) and because Diggs didn’t hit him in the head.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: an NFL team is on its way to a huge win when a goofy rule/blown call/dumb penalty costs said team the game. Always in the most infuriating way imaginable. Sounds familiar, right? Well, if it feels like we’re talking about asinine calls having an outside impact on who wins and loses every other week in the NFL, let me assure you, we are. This week’s disaster du jour befell the beyond terrible actually somewhat competitive Jets who, if we’re being honest, don’t need the league’s help in making their fans miserable.
In the play above Jets TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins appears to score a touchdown that would bring the underdog Jets in range for a shocking upset against their archnemesis Patriots. Naturally that’s not what happened. The touchdown was reviewed, as all touchdowns are, and not only was the score taken off the board but the ball was also awarded to the Patriots.
Seriously, what? We’re going to need to watch that video again.
Okay, so as he’s approaching and/or crossing the goal line, Seferian-Jenkins clearly loses the ball. He also, just as clearly, comes up with it after completing the catch.1 It’s what happens in the middle that sent Jets fans into hysteria. Since the call on the field was a touchdown, in order to overturn the call, referee there needed to be definitive proof that Seferian-Jenkins did not have possession of the ball when he went out of bounds. Definitive proof is exactly what the league’s officials determined that they had. So the Jets’ touchdown was wiped from the scoreboard and the ball was given to the Patriots at the 25 yard line.
In a week where the most important NFL action was taking place on the sidelines and where seemingly every game exploded into a cacophony of madness at onepointoranother, the Detroit Lions elected to spend Sunday afternoon honoring their proud heritage of failure and losing in the most heartbreaking way possible.
That the Lions, long one of the NFL’s greatest laughing stocks, would lose to an Atlanta Falcons team that – if only temporarily – held a huge lead in the Super Bowl just last season, is not surprising. It’s the manner of Detroit’s defeat that made this loss so particularly painful. After trailing all afternoon, the Lions marched down the field and appeared to take their first lead of the game with only eight seconds left on the clock as Matthew Stafford found Golden Tate on a quick in-route at the goal line.
The play, ruled a touchdown on the field, was subject to video review, as are all touchdowns. Replays of the play made it clear that there was certainly room for debate as to whether or not Tate was down by contact just short of the goal line. That no single camera angle showed conclusive proof that Tate is both down and touched by an opposing player before crossing the goal line – the latter portion being an important aspect of “down by contact” – did not stop the officials from overturning the on-field ruling and taking Detroit’s touchdown off the board.
While Lions fans were certainly aggrieved at this first portion of the revised ruling, it was no fresh experience; after all they’ve witnessed, “long-suffering” is the default epithet for all Lions fans. Luckily for Detroit, the Tate non-touchdown was a third down play, meaning they at least had one more shot for a victory on fourth down.
If you were looking for proof that the beginning of the NFL season is filled with disastrous, sloppy football then by the end of Sunday night you would’ve had a lot of material to work with: the first full day of the season included blown calls, botched punts and a handful of memorable brokenplays. None of that, though, measures up to the peak of NFL incompetence that was on display in Week 1. I am talking, of course, about review-tablet-holder-guy.
The official NFL review booth is a dude holding a tablet that looks like a miniature review booth.
This utter nonsense involved a living, breathing human being used as a replacement for, I don’t know, a fucking table? A goddamned tripod? Literally any flat surface? The whole thing is even more egregious when you realize that, in order to look at the tiny screen being held before his eyes by some poor, wayward NFL pleb, the referee is completely ignoring the massive, high definition jumbotron that’s lurking right over his shoulder.