Houston 27, Detroit 31. That is what the final score should have read at Ford Field, but the officials didn’t see it that way. And for the second time this year on a prominent nationally televised game, the NFL wrongly awards a loss to a NFC North team that in reality won the game.
To be fair, that’s assigning a little too much blame on the officiating crew. Jason Hanson has to make the game winning field goal attempt in overtime, which doinked innocuously off the right upright and fell just shy of the crossbar. The Lions defense needs to do a better job of helping on Andre Johnson instead of having a backup safety playing centerfield between the hashes, especially when Matt Schaub stared at Johnson from about 3 beats before he took the snap until after Johnson was on the ground. Kyle VandenBosch must make the simple INT on a ball thrown right into his hands. Matt Stafford must do better than three wild incompletions with 1st and 10 at the HOU 45 on the drive after the missed Shayne Graham field goal, or three straight incompletions from the exact same mark inside the two minute warning when the Lions had a golden opportunity to win in regulation. Detroit had ample opportunity to overcome, and they failed every single time.
But the story here was the officiating, and it goes beyond the blown call on the Justin Forsett “touchdown”. They missed a blatant defensive holding call committed against Ryan Broyles on 3rd down. They missed an obvious chop block on an Arian Foster first down conversion on Houston’s first overtime drive. On the offsides penalty on Cliff Avril on that same drive, Texans center Chris Myers moved the ball and never came to a set position before snapping, a feat he would repeat twice more during overtime with no penalization. Matt Stafford got clubbed in the head by Jared Crick after sliding on a play that would have made any Inuit proud, with no call. On the flip side, they allowed Ndamukong Suh to kick Matt Schaub in a place no man wants to be kicked and missed several should-have-been holding calls, including a blatant hold by Dominic Raiola on Joique Bell’s 26-yard scamper on the final play of the third quarter. There were plenty of early season efforts by the replacement officials that far outshined this clunker of an effort by the so-called professionals.
Now for the “touchdown”. There’s not a person in the world that didn’t see Justin Forsett’s knee and elbow hit the ground except the guys wearing black and white stripes at Ford Field. Even the most homeristic Texans fans on my Twitter feed, and there’s a lot of them, were laughing in joyful disbelief. Jim Schwartz reacted the way 99.8% of the population would, angrily throwing the challenge flag in complete disgust and aghast despair at the egregious inadequacy of the officiating crew. Yes, the officials applied the rule correctly that the illegal challenge wipes out the automatic review. That they got that right after missing a call that any sighted 3 year old could make is mind boggling. Schwartz needs to keep his composure better under those circumstances, but it’s hard for me to fault him this time. Even officiating sycophant Mike Pereira, who has never said an ill word about any call by his former colleagues in his life, agreed it was an awful call and that the rule must be changed. If the unofficial mouthpiece and biggest cheerleader of the “real” officials knows the rule is awful, it must change.
Give the Texans credit. They didn’t quit when it looked bleak for them, and their playmakers made plays when they needed them the most. JJ Watt solidified his grasp on Defensive Player of the Year, consistently showing the game-altering awesomeness that Lions fans so desperately crave from Suh. Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels made the tough, contested catches that Tony Scheffler bobbles and Brandon Pettigrew fumbles away. Arian Foster is a runner that can make the first guy miss, something that remains largely a foreign concept to Mikel Leshoure. There is little question the better team won, but there is also no question they received a great deal of help from some truly inadequate officiating to achieve that win.