Late in the game Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers, momentum was changing. The Lions had cut the 30-13 deficit to 30-27, and the defense was facing a third-and-2 with 2:23 left in the fourth quarter. The scene had all the makings of another signature Matthew Stafford comeback.
Niners quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo dropped back to pass and threw a pass left, only to be picked off by rookie safety Tracy Walker and returned deep into San Francisco territory. A late flag negated the play and gave San Francisco an automatic first down, with Quandre Diggs called for a hold on tight end George Kittle.
The call threw Lions fans into a frenzy and prompted many to blame the eventual loss on the referees. Head coach Matt Patricia submitted the play for review by the league office.
NFL Senior Vice President of Officiating Al Riveron reviews these calls, and in this week’s film session he confirmed that it was the right call.
“[Kittle]’s being pulled, and then he’s being wrapped on the other side,” Riveron explained. “It doesn’t matter where [Garoppolo]’s looking... as long as the quarterback has the ball, we have a foul if we have holding downfield.”
Diggs’ late hold just about summed his rough day of trying to cover the bulky tight end. We’ll see if the Lions opt to put Diggs on New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski Sunday night, and if so, whether Diggs fares any better in this week’s matchup.