Referees pick up flag in Lions-Cowboys game, set off uproar

Update (10 p.m. ET): The final whistle blew in Dallas more than two hours ago, but the dust is far from settled, the controversy far from over.

Of course we’re talking about the pass interference that wasn’t in the fourth quarter of the Cowboys’ 24-20 win over the Lions in Sunday’s wild-card game in Arlington, Texas. Long story short, holding a 20-17 lead with less than 9 minutes to play in the game, the Lions faced third-and-1 from the Dallas 46.

Lions QB Matthew Stafford threw incomplete to tight end Brandon Pettigrew, but Cowboys LB Anthony Hitchens was flagged for pass interference . . . until the officials picked up the flag and took away the penalty which would have given Detroit a first down well into Dallas territory.

First, FOX NFL officiating guru Mike Pereira called b.s. on the officials — you can watch him break the play down and give his thoughts in the video at the top of the page.

Then head referee Pete Morelli gave his side of the story to pool reporter Todd Archer after the game.

As for the players involved in the play:

Lions DT Ndamukong Suh: "I’m speechless. … I didn’t expect this outcome."

Lions head coach Jim Caldwell on the explanation he received from officials: "Not a good enough one. … I don’t ever think it comes down to one call, but calls are crucial during games like this … to have something so questionable that occurs, that’s concerning."

Pettigrew: "I thought it was ridiculous, to be honest. He ran through me, pretty much, trying to get back to the ball. To me, it was obvious."



Oh, boy. This one will be talked about for a while.

The Detroit Lions were holding a slim lead and were facing a third down in the fourth quarter of their NFC wild-card game against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. Quarterback Matthew Stafford threw a pass to tight end Brandon Pettigrew that bounced off the back of linebacker Anthony Hitchens.

A flag came down and Dez Bryant went nuts! The referee called pass interference on Hitchens, giving the Lions a first down. FOX NFL rules expert Mike Pereira agreed with the call.

But, wait! Suddenly, the referees reversed themselves and picked up the flag. The Lions went from first down well inside Cowboys territory to being forced to punt.

As you can probably tell, the reaction on social media was instant … and entertaining.

Again, this play will be talked about for some time. By the way, the Cowboys went on to win 24-20.

Carry on.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report