The Detroit Lions were the victim of a controversial call on an apparent Calvin Johnson touchdown catch on Sunday. The Calvin Johnson catch, which was initially called an incompletion, was reviewed for several minutes before officials let the play stand as called. If you look at the Calvin Johnson catch video, the call the referees made goes against football logic. The Detroit Lions have every reason to be angry after watching the replay of the Johnson touchdown catch. Whether it was a horrible call, horrible interpretation of the rules or just an NFL rule that needs to be addressed-it was a painfully obvious touchdown. The Lions found out the hard way that they are the victims of that controversial call during the season opening 19-14 loss to the Chicago Bears.
What happened during the Calvin Johnson touchdown catch controversy? Johnson had the ball in his hands under control for what appeared to be at least a second. That seemed like an eternity in football terms. Detroit Lions fans have to feel as if they have been robbed. Absolutely robbed. Trailing the Chicago Bears 19-14 in the season opener for both teams, Detroit was moving down the field for the apparent go ahead touchdown. Shaun Hill, who was playing quarterback for an injured Matthew Stafford, tossed up a pass toward the end-zone and Calvin Johnson twisted and appeared to catch the ball for a touchdown. When Johnson hit the ground the ball popped loose-but it was long after he had illustrated control of the ball. He was actually palming the ball as it hit the ground. He was palming the ball for crying out loud! If that doesn’t illustrate control I am not sure what NFL officials want. If there ever was an instance where someone had control of the ball before hitting the ground, Johnson certainly provided enough proof that he had the ball in his hands and his grip.
Maybe Johnson was fully intending to spike the ball in celebration. It was one of the easiest calls the refs could have made. Yet, the officials decided it was not a touchdown for the Lions. Instead of leading by a couple of points, Detroit was forced to try two more unsuccessful attempts at the end zone to no avail. What happened? The Lions failed to get a score or first down and the Bears ran the clock out after taking over possession. Let the Detroit Lions controversy begin full throttle!
The announcers went over some mambo jambo about the catch in the end zone needing to be one long procedure. Yet, oddly enough, players who dive for the end-zone and cross diagonally over the pylon get credited for touchdowns. A player can catch a ball momentarily and tip toe his feet in and get credit for a touchdown. Yet the Calvin Johnson catch was disallowed. I hate to see a call determine the outcome of the game. This was a brutal example of how officials can dictate what happens during crucial moments of an NFL contest. The human element will always provide moments where controversy seems to follow. This situation could and should have been avoided by use of an instant replay and full review. Yet the officials returned and let the play stand as it was called on the field much to the dismay of Lions fans everywhere. It must have been crushing to feel your favorite team deserved a win but instead felt the agony of defeat because of a person who is supposed to moderate the game-not dictate the outcome.
It’s very true the Bears might have had time to go down and kick a field goal—so who knows what would have transpired if the touchdown was ruled correctly. But that was one of the absolute worst calls I have ever seen dictate the end of a football game. The Detroit Lions certainly deserved a better fate. Maybe the rule should be interpreted by the refs exactly as it was on the field during this season opener. If that’s the case, the rule needs to be changed. The Calvin Johnson catch video will be replayed over and over again for months and months. I can even see the NFL issuing an apology for not allowing the touchdown. It was plain and clear–touchdown for the Lions. The announcers were even in dismay. Calvin Johnson was as shocked and confused as anyone that it wasn’t even initially ruled a touchdown.
Commentators on rival network CBS also seemed shocked after watching the Calvin Johnson catch video. If it was that shocking to so many people, how could the catch not be viewed as a touchdown by officials who had time to review the play? They had time to make a basic interpretation of the rules and do the right thing and avoid controversy. Bears fans could not have even felt the right to gripe if the catch was allowed. It was an amazingly athletic play by a gifted player who has seemed to underachieve thus far in his NFL career. That play was stripped and now we are left with controversy over a touchdown that clearly should have counted.
Johnson made an incredibly athletic play on the ball and he deserved better. It’s sad the Lions have to catch the brunt of such a bad call-considering how much they have struggled the past few years. The Bears were extremely fortunate to walk away with a victory considering the outcome of the review by the officials. It will be interesting to see what happens over the course of the next couple of days concerning that Calvin Johnson catch video. The refs may have not actually dropped the ball in this case if they managed to adhere to the official rules. In that situation, the rule needs to be overhauled for a particular instance like this. Johnson should have been awarded that touchdown. Instead, the Johnson touchdown catch against the Bears may go down as a single reminder of how not to review or interpret rules by NFL officials.
What seemed so obvious to fans watching at home was simply not addressed correctly by the refs on the field. When it comes down to it, the guy absolutely caught the ball. Whatever happened to the ground can’t cause a fumble rule? Does that not apply in this situation? The Calvin Johnson catch video will be the most talked about incident for week one of the NFL season. It seems unlikely that the Lions will be a playoff contender-but can you imagine if they somehow fall one win short of the playoffs? Or the Bears make the playoffs by just one game and another team gets left out? That’s how big of an impact this one call could have and resonate for the remainder of the season. If the rules actually specify what the refs illustrated on the field–then perhaps their hands are tied and the rule needs to be altered. Either way it was a horrible way to start the NFL season. The Lions certainly deserved better.