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How One Misremembered Number Changed The Landscape Of The NFC Playoffs

The Detroit Lions went into AT&T Stadium on Saturday night in Dallas and lost a football game that they had seemingly already won. 

This game was vital for both teams as the Lions were fighting for a chance at the one or two-seed in the NFC, while the Cowboys were fighting for the NFC East. The Cowboys led 20-13 with 1:41 left in the game when the Lions drove down and scored a touchdown with less than 30 seconds on the clock.

Dan Campbell, head coach of the Lions, is known as the most aggressive coach in football and was undoubtedly going to go for two to win the football game. This is when all hell broke loose.

The Lions' two-point attempt was successful on a pass to left tackle Taylor Decker and the Lions took the lead 21-20. After the play, the officials gathered around and decided to throw a flag on the play for illegal touching on Decker. 

If an offensive lineman lines up and goes out for a pass, they must report as an ‘eligible receiver’ to the head referee before the play. Head referee Brad Allen claims that number 70, tackle Dan Skipper, was reported as eligible, not Decker.

The Lions would go on to get two more chances at the two-point conversion, but failed on both attempts and lost the football game. But, what came after for Brad Allen and his crew ended up being bigger than the game itself.

Immediately following the game on ESPN they had the video to prove that Decker was reporting to the official before the play, and Skipper, who Allen claimed reported as eligible, was on the other side of the field. This led to outrage from not just Lions fans, but NFL fans as a whole.

This was a Saturday night primetime game in Dallas for Jimmy Johnson’s Ring of Honor ceremony, so everyone was watching this game and everyone saw a team get a win stolen from them. 

After the game, Coach Campbell was as angry and as frustrated as he has been in his three seasons in Detroit. Campbell, as all head coaches do, was said to have explained all of the Lions' trick plays and eligibility situations to Allen and his crew before the game, and Allen still messed it up.

“I don’t wanna talk about it man,” said Campbell after being asked about the fiasco and crumbling up the piece of paper that was just handed to him. “I explained everything pregame, to a ‘T’, I did that.”

Brad Allen was required to comment on the game and was asked about the controversial call. Despite there being multiple videos and angles of Decker (68) reporting and quarterback Jared Goff telling him to report, Allen still stuck with his story.

“Number 68, who ended up going downfield and touching the pass, did not report,” said Allen. “Therefore he is ineligible to touch a pass that goes beyond the line, which makes it a foul, number 70 did report, number 68 did not.”

Taylor Decker disagreed with Allen and said that he did everything he was required to do.

“I did exactly what coach told me to do,” said Decker. “I went to the ref and said report.”

These comments led to outrage from fans as videos kept surfacing showing that the Lions did what they were supposed to do and scored the go-ahead two-point conversion legally. But this isn’t even the first time this season that Brad Allen’s crew has made a game-costing mistake.

Earlier this year, Brad Allen’s crew was in charge of the Kansas City vs Green Bay game, where Packers defensive back Carrington Valentine committed a blatant pass interference on Kansas City wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling and it was not called. This was viewed as the worst officiated moment of the season by many, until this past Saturday. 

Allen’s crew was also in charge of the Eagles and Dolphins game this season, where the Eagles had zero penalties to the Dolphins 10.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, Brad Allen’s crew will mostly be downgraded and not be allowed to officiate playoff games this season, following the actions at the end of Saturday night’s game in Dallas.

Rex Ryan, long-time NFL Head Coach for the Bills and the Jets, works as an analyst on ESPN and went ballistic on Allen Sunday morning following the game.

“You lose all credibility when you start blaming the players when all the players did was everything they were supposed to do,” said Ryan. “We know Dan Campbell did as well, getting with the officials before the game.”

Looking at how this result affects the NFC as a whole, it is hard to say that this game won’t have a significant impact on how the NFC playoffs play out.

First of all, the Lions are almost certainly going to have the three-seed in the NFC. With the Eagles losing to the Cardinals on Sunday, the Lions would have clinched themselves at least the two-seed, had the call at the end of Lions-Cowboys not been botched. The Lions would now need to win and have Dallas and Philadelphia both lose on Sunday to get the two-seed.

Being the three-seed vs the two-seed in the NFC is a big difference, although it may not seem like it, because instead of having to play a potential second-round game at home against the NFC East winner, they would now have to go to Dallas or Philadelphia in that game. The Lions showed they could win a road game in that scenario, but it is much more difficult than being in Detroit for that game.

With the Eagles and Lions both losing in week 17, the 49ers have now clinched the NFC with one game remaining. Had the Lions' two-point conversion not been called back, the 49ers would not have clinched and they would have to win on Sunday to secure the first-round bye.

Regardless, the Lions proved to the world that they are a contender on Saturday night. Despite the controversy, there is no way to overturn the result of the game and the Lions now have a chip on their shoulder going into the playoffs, trying to make a run.




Image 1 Credit: Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK


Image 2 Credit: Junfu Han, Detroit Free Press


Image 3 Credit: Getty Images


Image 4 Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports


Edited by: Victoria Muzio

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