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Official who called ‘phantom facemask’ stands by call, refuses to clarify

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Detroit Lions fans still won’t get any closure from the Hail Mary game.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Lions lost to the Green Bay Packers almost eight months to the day. Unfortunately, Lions fans have been treated to reminders of that heart-breaking loss all offseason. The Hail Mary ended up winning Best Play at the ESPY’s. The NFL has been using that clip ad nauseam to promote the upcoming season.

The play before the Hail Mary ended with a controversial facemask penalty on Devin Taylor. The Lions would have won if the call had not been made, but a defensive penalty allowed Aaron Rodgers one more attempt. Here’s a look at the “facemask”:

One Detroit Lions reporter attempted to give Lions fans some closure on Friday. The official who made that call, Carl Cheffers, was at the Lions’ camp to help officiate, and beat reporters asked if he still believed in his call.

This is the first I’ve heard of calling the play a horsecollar tackle. If you look above, Taylor never gets his hand inside Rodgers’ jersey, so I don’t know where that’s coming from. Let’s overlook that for now. I get it, Cheffers is going to stand by his call. There’s nothing wrong with that.

But then Justin Rogers of the Detroit News pulled up video of the play and asked for clarification. Cheffers then got a little snippy:

For a league that has been struggling to bridge the gap between the rulebook and fan’s comprehension of said rules ever since they’ve butchered the Calvin Johnson rule, this is pretty arrogant behavior. It would have taken very little effort from Cheffers to point out where Rodgers’ head turns and explain how even a grazing of the facemask is a penalty if it jars a quarterback’s head. That may not be what everyone sees above, but it is certainly an acceptable explanation. Instead, Cheffers got testy and lost an opportunity to explain himself.

I guess Lions fans will have to wait a little longer for the chance to get some closure.