Seahawks beat Lions, but refs blow call on game-saving play
The Seattle Seahawks’ game-saving play should have been flagged and the Detroit Lions given the ball back. But once again, a Monday night in Seattle ended in controversy, instead.
Trailing 13-10 with less than two minutes to play, the Lions were on the move and in the red zone. On third-and-1 from the Seattle 11 with 1:51 left in regulation, Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford hit receiver Calvin Johnson on the left hash.
As Johnson lunged toward the end zone Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor knocked the ball out of Johnson’s hands, coming out inside the 1, just before Johnson crossed into the end zone.
The ball bounced around toward the back of the end zone before linebacker K.J. Wright batted it out of the back of the end zone to create what appeared to be a touchback. Indeed, that is what the officials ruled on the field: touchback, Seattle ball on its own 20, with a chance to run out the clock — which the Seahawks did, ultimately winning by that 13-10 score.
However, the play should’ve been flagged for illegal batting and the ball given back to the Lions inside the 1, a first and goal from the spot of the fumble.
Rule 12, Section 4, Article 1(b) applies the term "illegal bat" when "any player bats or punches a loose ball (that has touched the ground) in any direction, if it is in either end zone."
The play is not reviewable, FOX Sports 1’s NFL rules analyst Mike Pereira told FOX Sports Live after the game, in a video you can see above.
The NFL’s head of officiating spoke on ESPN’s "Monday Night Football" after the game and confirmed what Pereira stated. According to Dean Blandino, while the play was a turnover and thus subject to review, the part of the play where the ball was batted is not reviewable.
"The back judge was on the play and in his judgment he didn’t feel it was an overt act so he didn’t throw the flag,” Blandino said, according to ESPN.com. "In looking at the replays it looked like a bat so the enforcement would be basically we would go back to the spot of the fumble and Detroit would keep the football.”
For his part, Lions head coach Jim Caldwell deflected questions about the call in his postgame news conference.
"What can you do? You’re not going to cry about it that’s for sure," he told the media in Seattle. "I’m not going to even go there. Talk to Blandino and the rest of the guys, they’ll explain."
Wright told reporters after the game that he indeed batted the ball out of the end zone intentionally, admitting he was unaware of the rule.
"That was definitely the thought process just to get the ball out of bounds and not try to catch it and fumble it and hit my foot and the Lions recover it," Wright said.
"Now that you look at it, we were fortunate," Seattle coach Pete Carroll said.
Monday’s game was played at CenturyLink Field, sight of another infamous Monday night referee blunder, the “Fail Mary” call from 2012. In that play, replacement official Lance Easley ruled a Seahawks receiver Golden Tate caught Russell Wilson’s final-play Hail Mary while another official ruled — and most people observing the play agreed — that the pass was actually intercepted by the Packers’ M.D. Jennings before Tate got his hands on the ball.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report