Did Lions not get Matthew Stafford’s history-making ball?

Matthew Stafford made NFL history. But did the Lions not get the right football?
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Matthew Stafford has been one of the most prolific passers in the history of the NFL during his early career. It may not seem possible, but Stafford’s numbers don’t lie and this past weekend he became the fastest player to the 25,000-yard mark.

Naturally, the ball that was thrown for the history-making mark would be of value to the quarterback and the Detroit Lions organization. Maybe it ends up on his shelf or even in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

However, a report from the Detroit Free Press indicates that the ball saved by the Lions may not actually be the one Stafford set the record with after all.

Writer Dave Birkett was going over the All-22 film (because sports writers are dorks like that), and it appears that chaos ensued following Stafford’s record-breaking throw.

The record-breaking pass was a five-yard throw to Theo Riddick near the Rams’ sideline and the next play was a Golden Tate touchdown grab, after which Tate handed the ball to a fan in the stands.

According to Birkett, the FOX NFL crew reported that the organization got the ball back from the fan. However, the fan when contacted said he was asked for the ball back but never did give it back.

Ironically, that could be a good thing, because Birkett’s review of the film indicates that Tate’s touchdown ball wasn’t the one that Stafford threw for the record-breaking total. Instead, it appears Riddick threw his ball to the sideline and the ball boy switched out the football at that point.

From the Free Press story:

“First, TV replays appear to show head linesman Dana McKenzie either marking the ball on the sideline or tossing it out of play after Riddick’s catch – the broadcast cuts away to in-game highlights before McKenzie’s action is complete – and the coaches film of the game definitively shows a ball boy tossing a new ball onto the field for the Tate touchdown.”

Stafford has 25,123 passing yards, the most in Lions history, in 90 career games. The previous record belonged to Hall of Famer Dan Marino, who got to the 25,000-yard mark in 92 games.

Do the Lions have the right football for that history-making moment? Birkett reports a Lions spokesman is confident the team has the right football.

But if the Lions don’t have the Riddick touchdown ball and didn’t pull the ball from the ball boy as he switched out the football, how exactly is that possible? Maybe the team is paying a staffer to play a real-life game of “follow the football” that most fans play on the Jumbotron every weekend?

In that case, good luck getting the actual milestone ball back.

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