Disclaimer: If you’re here, you made a very conscious decision to do so. So don’t be mad at me, be mad at yourself for choosing this life you’re leading where you click on things that are maddening and bring on feelings of anguish and despair.
Even though the NFL season is so very far away—it gets closer every time I say this, so it’s working, it’s working!—the mailbag for the Pride of Detroit PODcast has people constantly asking us for season predictions, and whether or not the Lions are going to make the playoffs. Thinking about the playoffs, it naturally took me to a very dark corner of Lions history no one likes to visit, but I have to be brave, and I have to venture back to January 4, 2015 for today’s Question of the Day...
If you could change one play in Lions history, what would it be?
It’s third-and-1 from the Dallas Cowboys’ 46-yard line. With less than nine minutes left in this NFC Wild Card matchup, the Detroit Lions find themselves up three points with the opportunity to move into field goal range—or better. Matthew Stafford drops back to pass, sees tight end Brandon Pettigrew gaining separation from Cowboys linebacker Anthony Hitchens up the seam, and sends an underthrown pass his way.
A flag is thrown from the deep middle of the defensive backfield, and it looks like the Lions are going to be in control of the ball with a new set of downs. Head Official Pete Morelli announces pass interference on Hitchens, but after a chorus of boos rain down onto the field, and Dez Bryant enters the field of play in protest, Morelli picks up his flag and announces there’s actually no penalty on the play. No explanation. No reasoning. No anything.
The rest, as they say, is history. But if there’s one play in Lions history that could have pulled this franchise out of the depths of irrelevance its been so firmly submerged in for over two decades, it’s this call right here.
Sure, Sam Martin could have punted the ball further than 10 yards after that play. Detroit’s top-ranking defense could have stopped the Cowboys on any of the three third-and-longs they forced them into on that next drive—or the fourth-and-6 that saw milquetoast Jason Witten catch and run for 20-some yards. The Lions offense even had a chance to mount a comeback, in possession of the football with 2:32 left and two timeouts, but they fumbled away their final opportunity in a far too fitting fashion to end this game.
But none of the above happens if not for that flag getting picked up. That’s just how causality works. I would know, I’ve seen Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.
Your turn—if you’re into this kind of thing.