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Unsung hero of the week: Why the referees have been the Lions’ biggest asset this preseason

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Matt Patricia made it clear he wanted to test the boundaries of the new PI challenges, and he got what he desired.

Detroit Lions v Cleveland Browns Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

“Detroit vs. Everybody,” you read on your social media timeline. “Lions vs. the refs,” you see someone respond to a tweet asking what the greatest rivalry in sports is. That’s right, we wouldn’t be Lions fans if we didn’t blame the refs. The Calvin Johnson rule brings back painful memories; the picked up pass interference flag and resulting playoff loss to the Cowboys even more. Let’s not even talk about batted balls and phantom facemask penalties.

Is this the season the refs stop screwing the Lions over? Probably not. Throughout the preseason, however, they’ve done Matt Patricia and his staff a large favor.

Unsung hero of the week: The preseason officiating crews

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ready to put the officials’ wrongdoings towards the Lions behind me—not even close. This offseason, however, Matt Patricia was very vocal about his desire to test out the new pass interference challenges.

It was a smart move on his part, as an overturned pass interference call can be a literal game changer once the regular season rolls around. Patricia ended up with several opportunities to test it out throughout the four games, and even had it tested against him on a failed attempt by the Cleveland Browns’ Freddie Kitchens to get Travis Fulgham for an offensive pass interference push off on Thursday night.

The officials are the unsung heroes because the rule itself is blasphemous—you could argue for or against pass interference on the majority of throws in the NFL. They’ve done a tremendous job, however, calling the penalties (or lack thereof) consistently.

While there’s always week-to-week variation between officiating crews, with some being adamant about flagging contact and others “letting them play,” we’ve seen numerous challenges attempted and the rulings have been consistent across the board thus far.

Knowing that it won’t be a hot mess on Sundays is really comforting considering the ambiguity and variability of the rule. It should give Matt Patricia some peace of mind, and Lions fans even more peace of mind, knowing that the Lions are just a tad less likely to be harmed by the questionable officials’ judgements this upcoming season.