The blown call overshadowing a great play

Photo courtesy of twitter.com/SBNation

Photo courtesy of twitter.com/SBNation

The Seattle Seahawks beat the Detroit Lions last night on Monday Night Football, 13-10. The play dominating the conversation today is the missed call in the end zone, and unfortunately not the player who started that crazy chain of events.

We have all seen and heard about the play by now: Kam Chancellor punched the ball out of Calvin Johnson’s arm near the goal line, and as the ball bounced towards the back of the end zone K.J. Wright gently taps the ball out of bounds.

The Seahawks were awarded the football when in fact, as we found out after the game, the Lions should have been awarded possession on the 6-inch line after the ball was intentionally batted out of bounds in the end zone. There were many things that came to mind as I watched the play and then heard the conversations after the game on ESPN.

Initially I could not believe that Lions Head Coach Jim Caldwell did not know the rule, or find out the rule from someone on his staff right after it happened. He was also so nonchalant about the entire situation during his post game presser, which made it even weirder.

While it is impossible to know if Detroit would have scored from the 6-inch line, or if Seattle would have then drove down the field and scored themselves, this call did greatly alter the outcome of the game. That brings me to my next head-scratching moment.

What do you mean that part of the play cannot be reviewed? Forget about the batted ball rule; the rule about what can and cannot be reviewed should be changed immediately. I get it, the NFL does not want every play to be reviewed, but common sense screams for a play like this one to be reviewable.

At this point, it is has to be about getting game-deciding calls at crucial points in the game correct. The league released a statement on the call last night and called the play “illegal”, basically saying the referees got it wrong.

“I have spoken to the referee [Tony Corrente],” NFL Vice President of Officiating Dean Blandino said. “He did not see that part of the play because that is not his area. The back judge [Greg Wilson] felt it was not an intentional act, that it was inadvertent.”

The explanation attempted to bring clarity to the situation, but I think only made the league and its officials look worse. The former vice president of officiating for the NFL made an observation that confirms what the league said in that statement.

So a human referee missed a call, and it just happened to be at a crucial juncture of the game. It happens, but I did enjoy Ray Lewis after the game continuously asking what happens to the referee who got it wrong? Lewis pointed out there is punishment for players and coaches who do things wrong and cost their team a game – whether it be loss of playing time or criticism in the media for weeks. Of course, there was no concrete answer to Lewis’ question and that part of the story is barely being talked about now.

As I said, officials miss calls. They are human. I found this possible explanation by ESPN’s Skip Bayless an interesting one, though.

Home field advantage is a real thing, whether people want to admit it or not. Everyone is well aware of the 12th Man in Seattle, and maybe that played a role. While that can never be truly determined, one thing that can be calculated is how much this game changed when that penalty was not called.

  • “A Detroit touchdown leaves Seattle down by four with 1:45 to play giving the Seahawks a 15.7 percent chance of winning.” (ESPN)
  • “Chancellor’s play keeps the Seahawks up by three, giving them an 89.5 percent chance of winning.” (ESPN)
  • “Had the Seahawks been penalized for illegal batting, Detroit would have had a first-and-goal inside the 1 with 1:45 to play, giving them an 80.7 percent chance of winning.” (ESPN)

Courtesy of this ESPN article, the difference between the 80.7 percent chance following the batted ball penalty and the Lion’s 10.5 percent chance to win following the touchback makes that missed call a 70.2 percent error.

It is easy to see how big of a call this was, and how much it impacted the outcome of a regular season game that could have enormous implications later in the season. Imagine the Seahawks falling to 1-2 if they did in fact lose this game, and imagine the Lions getting their first win of the season instead of falling to 0-4.

The worst part of this entire thing is how people are talking about this instead of the player who made the play. Safety Kam Chancellor deserves recognition for making a play that not many players in the entire league would be in position to make.

Chancellor’s impact on this one play is obvious, but his impact on the entire defense is something else that is also getting overlooked. Seattle has not allowed an offensive touchdown in two games since Chancellor returned from his holdout. The Legion of Boom has only allowed three points in that span.

Chancellor’s presence on the field has definitely turned the Seahawks season around – they also have not lost a game since he has returned after dropping their first two. Unfortunately, it seems everyone is too busy focusing on that missed call to acknowledge what Chancellor means to this team. Don’t worry – teammate Michael Bennett made sure the whole word recognized one of the best safeties in the game.

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