Karma Cashes a Long Overdue Check on Golden Tate
The Lions found a new way to lose on Sunday, via the 10-second runoff for an incorrect scoring review. Lions fans are still steaming over the loss, but to me it seems that there is justice in the world--well, at least the football world.
Five years to the day on Sunday, during the height of an officiating lockout, the Seattle Seahawks won a Monday night football game over the Green Bay Packers that would later come to be known as "the Fail Mary."
If you don't remember the play, Russell Wilson (then a rookie in the league) scrambled on a 4th and 10 play with no time left on the clock down 12-7. As he heaved it to the end zone, Golden Tate shoved Packers defensive back Sam Shields in the back while trying to come down with the catch, an action the NFL has acknowledged should have been flagged for offensive pass interference. Had the shove been flagged, the game would have been over.
However, the replacement refs on the field were oblivious to that fact and then Tate and Packers defensive back M.D. Jennings fought for the ball in the air and continued wrestling on the ground, with Jennings looking slightly more the winner with the inside edge on the ball. One referee signals touchdown, another signals touchback. One lengthy review and mass confusion later, the replacement refs erroneously awarded the game to Seattle.
The referee lockout ended within 48 hours of the game.
After the game, Tate was adamant that he did nothing wrong. "I don't know what you are talking about," he said in a postgame interview.
Fast forward to yesterday and Golden Tate's number came in five years later, and the Lions just so happened to get caught in the karmic crossfire.
However, in breaking down what happened on Sunday it's clear the Lions and their fans have no reason to be complaining about this game or its ending. It was all done correctly by the book.
On third down and goal from the one-yard line Matthew Stafford threw a pass to Golden Tate on an inside slant route with a pick route being ran to the outside by Kenny Golladay. The play worked and Tate caught the ball, however he was touched down by the Falcons outside of the end zone, despite the ruling on the field being that of touchdown.
After a scoring play review found that Tate was not in the end zone, a mandatory 10-second runoff had to be enforced by the referees because the ball was downed in the field of play and the Lions had no timeouts to stop the clock retroactively. With only eight seconds left in the game, the runoff killed the clock and the Falcons won.
Here's your photo evidence that Tate was down before the goal line.
Grievances were voiced loudly and frequently by Lions fans after the game, but they will fall on deaf ears from the NFL's front office.
But for fun, let's look at some of those
excuses explanations Lions fans have had over the past 24 hours as to how they were wronged and why the NFL's conspiracy against them remains ongoing.
"If the refs got it right on the field the Lions could have run another play"
First off, given how close the play was and how quickly it happened it's easy to understand why the referees called touchdown on the field. I'm willing to bet you did at home whether you were a fan of one of these teams or not.
Considering that even the Madden video game series gets calls wrong and you have to challenge calls in that game, I'm more than willing to give a pass to the refs for thinking this was a touchdown. I did too at first, then the replay showed he didn't. That's why replay is there to get the call right.
Now, could the Lions have run another play if the call was made correctly on the field? No. With only eight seconds left on the clock it is highly unlikely the Lions are able to get organized and set to the line in time for a snap. As former NFL VP of officiating Dean Blandino has pointed out in a video, the NFL competition committee has looked at data and ruled that even while hustling to the line the average time to get set up for a snap is 10 seconds.
This is where the 10-second runoff comes into play. The spirit of the rule is that the Lions did not make the goal line and while the replay officials were figuring that out, the Lions should not be allowed to snap the ball on the ready for play whistle unless they have a timeout to stop the clock, and they did not. It is an unfair advantage to give to the offensive team considering they were in no way ready to snap the ball at the eight seconds left mark if the clock was actually running.
And before you post your screenshot of how there should have been 11 seconds left in the game not eight, save it. The incorrect touchdown signal did not come right away, therefore the clock operator was not within his right to stop the clock legally just because Tate was down and the play was whistled dead. The assumption is that the ball carrier is down in the field of play until a signal has been given. Once the referee's arms went up the clock was stopped and there was no way enough time would remain to avoid the end of the game via runoff.
"The Lions covered 27 yards in 7 seconds in Minnesota one time, they totally could have gotten that snap off"
This one isn't even solely a fan
excuse complaint--the Lions official twitter account put it out there.
What the Lions Twitter handler doesn't realize is running down the field to a snap and setting up in tight quarters for a snap are two vastly different animals.
When Detroit was running down the field there was no confusion on if the player had scored or not, and there was not massive chaos around the site of the ball. This makes the quick snap a lot easier with less chaos around the player trying to give the ball back to the referee. Also, remember that the next play in the game with Atlanta was going to be 4th down and goal. So this is talking about getting set up for a non-spike play in that short window.
If the referees called Tate down correctly on the field, the refs then have to go through their mechanics of placing, spotting and whistling the ball into play. Additionally, they would likely have to pull a defender off of Golden Tate because a heads up defender would try to waste some time there. This also assumes that all 11 Lions players do not think a touchdown was scored which is preposterous to assume given how close the play was. Getting even one player back down to earth in time to get set for a non-spike snap combined with all those other factors lets eight seconds easily run off the clock.
"The refs stopped the clock--they should not be allowed to change it to running time like that"
I've got nothing for this one except learn the rules. Ball was ruled a scoring play, clock does not run on those. Ruling was overturned, of course the clock's state is going to change reflective of the new call.
"It's not the Lions' fault the refs ruled a touchdown"
No it's not, but it is the Lions fault that they did not actually score a touchdown. Again, the play was so quick and so close and with the way Tate was shielding the ball from the nearest line judge you could understand a touchdown call there. But this is why the NFL and sports in general have replay, to get these things right.
Here's an idea, instead of complaining about the third down play, why aren't Lions fans more upset that the first and second down plays were terrible plays? Stafford had to overthrow his receivers because no one was open and Kenny Golladay might be big but he's not catching a ball four feet over his head.
"That's a dumb rule! The refs basically ended the game by screwing up! Don't end the game on an officiating mistake"
No, the rulebook ended the game. I don't want to repeat the whole competition committee and Dean Blandino point from earlier above so I'll add this here. Matthew Stafford, Golden Tate and every other player on that field is not eight years old. This is not school yard football with no referees and if you don't know what happened on a play you just redo it. A play happened, it was short and by rule the game was over.
"Atlanta did not have to make a final stop, the game was gifted to them"
No, they made a final stop, stopping Tate 18 inches short of the goal line. Trying to assert the fact that the Lions were owed the fourth down play despite all that has come out about how rules and mechanics work in the NFL is not only blatant homerism but apparently also says that some fans have never seen a football game end on a third down play before. Just because it was coming to some finality with a 4th and goal play does not mean the Lions were "owed" it by anybody. You want a 4th and goal play t end the game, watch a sports movie where you can script it that way.
"Because of the Calvin Johnson rule, Golden Tate did not complete the process of the catch until after he was touched and broke the plane, therefore, touchdown Lions"
Wow, we've accelerated into advanced excuse making, I would guess a 400-level class or something near it.
Here's the Twitter user who brought this into the fold.
A few problems with that. First, the ball is not moving while Tate is possessing it. Second, even if it were to pop out but he regains control in the end zone the NFL does not award momentum in this regard. If you scroll up to the screenshot above with the circles it shows that Tate was touched and down while having the ball. If it was juggled and caught it likely would have been put right back at the half yard line upon review and we would have to restart this whole article again with the excuse making and ref complaining.
Ask yourself this, does a referee always place the ball where a runner stops moving/sliding/diving? No, he places it where the ball was when the player was considered down, same scenario here.
Though here's an interesting thought: anytime the "Calvin Johnson rule" has been cited it has been on an incomplete pass. Maybe the Lions are saving that concept for a heartbreaker in the future.
In closing, as a Lions fan you should be mad at the play calling, you should be mad at Stafford for not making a play on first and second down or mad at Tate for not getting into the end zone before going to the ground. You can even be slightly mad you didn't get the "hometown clock operator" treatment when apparently he should have stopped it at 11 seconds but correctly did not. Heck, you can even be mad at the Detroit Lions management for signing a guy like Tate who clearly had some football karma coming his way.
All those things you can be mad at, but you cannot be mad at the refs for a human error on an impossibly close play to rule on accurately without guessing, and you can not be mad at a rule that was negotiated by the competition committee and deemed a fair trade off for what would have happened if the play were called correctly.
After all that, who knows what will be on tap for an encore in Minnesota next week.