Let's get this on the table prior to negotiations: The Detroit Lions did not deserve to win the football game Monday night against the Baltimore Ravens.
They were afforded chance after chance, and they responded with a smorgasbord of pre-snap penalties, mental mistakes, dropped passes, Matthew Stafford interceptions and unused timeouts (seriously, Jim Schwartz, what's the deal?).
But they also were shafted by a bad non-call on pass interference. As many teams seem to be this season, of all seasons. Monday's crew, headed by Carl Cheffers, seemed to indiscriminately throw yellow hankies on long passes based purely on whimsy.
And yet none was thrown on this clear violation by Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb against Lions receiver Kris Durham in the end zone. It was a well-thrown ball by Stafford, Durham beat Webb to the spot, and yet his left arm was clearly held back as the ball arrived. It was clear as day, and the back judge should have had a direct sight line at the play (unless the Ravens safety somehow obstructed him).
Replay made this obvious to millions of viewers, plus everyone in the stands. Schwartz might not have a great history with the challenge flag, but even he knows that he can't do a darned thing about that play. He just has to sit and stew and send out his field-goal kicker on the next play.
Here was the setup: It was 12-7 Ravens before the play and 12-10 after the made field goal. Let's say the proper call is made, and let's have fun as say the Lions score from the 1-yard line, which is where the ball would have been placed following Webb's PI call. That makes it either 13-12 or 15-12 Lions — Schwartz would have gone for two, we think — and changed the landscape of the game.
Would it have mattered in the end? We can't say for sure, but it would have mattered in some way. And in this season of shaky officiating from sea to shiny sea, why are we not taking the Bill Belichick suggestion of making everything up for challenge. Belichick's assertion from a few weeks ago, if you missed it, per ESPN Boston:
"There is a lot of gray area there as well as some sticky things on what is reviewable and what isn't, what can be changed and what couldn't," Belichick said. "That's probably a question for another day, but it certainly brings up a lot of other questions."
"When you have two challenges, I don't see anything wrong with the concept of 'you can challenge any two plays that you want.' I understand that judgment calls are judgment calls, but to say that an important play can't be reviewed, I don't think that's really in the spirit of trying to get everything right and making sure the most important plays are officiated properly."
Pass interference most certainly is a judgment call. But why can't said call be made up from the booth, or if the NFL's recently stated intentions are made good, from an office in New York City? Does the person have to be there?
The slippery-slope factor is high on this one, and we don't want the 2026 NFL season officiated by Hal 9000, no. But we also want to get the calls right. The Webb call was blown; many others have been done so as well this season, and in seasons before this one. Shouldn't the aim be to get it right?
Pass interference, and its sister calls (defensive holding, illegal contact, etc.) are extremely tricky, judgmental calls that require razor-sharp determination — the kinds of things that replay can help solve. It's not a perfect solution, no, not with games stretching out to the 3.5-hour mark, but it's better than needless controversy.
What say you on the matter?
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