The Lions, despite losing Matthew Stafford to injury at the end of the second quarter and not being able to do anything on offense for all but one drive of the second half, should have beaten the Bears today. I say that they should have beaten the Bears because the referees made an absolutely atrocious call at the end of the game, taking away what would have been the go-ahead touchdown for the Lions.
Calvin Johnson went up and made a great catch in the end zone with less than 30 seconds left, appearing to give the Lions a 20-19 lead. Everybody was celebrating as if it was a touchdown and the referee closest to the play called it a TD. He was overruled, however, because Johnson lost control of the ball as he was getting up off the ground.
Johnson made the catch, got both feet down, fell to the ground and put the ball down as he was getting up. In the process of getting up, he lost control of the ball, and apparently that means the pass was incomplete. I understand that a player has to go to the ground without losing control, as it's all part of a process, but my beef is that Johnson did just that. To me it was a completely different act when he was getting up, which is when he lost the ball. The officials interpreted things differently, though, and this asinine rule cost the Lions a win.
While the controversial call at the end of the game will grab all of the headlines, perhaps the biggest loss for the Lions today was Matthew Stafford injuring his throwing shoulder. He was hit from behind by Julius Peppers toward the end of the first half and landed awkwardly on his shoulder. Immediately he appeared to be in pain, and when he came out of the locker room shortly after the beginning of the second half, he had his arm wrapped and in a sling. Needless to say, his day was done and there is great concern over his health going forward, as the last thing a QB needs is a serious shoulder injury to his throwing arm.
Had Shaun Hill played as well as he did on the last drive, there wouldn't be quite as much concern about Stafford's health, but the offense without Stafford looked atrocious. Granted, it didn't look all that great even with Stafford, but the Lions couldn't even move the ball with Hill at the helm. Part of that was the inability to run the ball and the awful play calling, but it was reminiscent of watching Daunte Culpepper lead the offense last season.
The defense was a bright spot, playing with a bend but don't break attitude that was fairly effective up until the very end of the game. The D forced four turnovers, allowing them to get away with giving up 463 total yards. The secondary provided some concern for sure (as evidenced by Jay Cutler passing for 362 yards), but the defensive line played extremely well, especially when the Lions made a goal line stand in the fourth quarter to hang onto the lead for a few more minutes.
Going forward, the next week will prove to be interesting in the lead-up to the home opener next week against Philadelphia. There will be plenty of talk about the crappy call that cost the Lions a win, just as there will be plenty of talk about the health of Matthew Stafford. If he's out for an extended period of time, it could be a long, long season for the Lions if today's play by Shaun Hill and company was any indication. It was encouraging to see Jahvid Best score two touchdowns in the first half, but that was about all the offense did today.* All I can say is I hope Stafford is all right and I hope the NFL takes a hard look at the BS rule that prevented Detroit from ending their road losing streak and opening the season with a win.
*All that counted, that is. If not for that call at the end, all of the offense's struggles would have been forgotten, as they would have been made irrelevant with a win.