If there was one point in the game that sent the Detroit Lions spiraling, it was a personal foul foul penalty that was called against Danny Shelton on what would’ve been a third-down sack that forced a punt for the Colts.
Instead, officials threw a flag on Shelton, giving the Colts 15 yard and an automatic first down. Three plays later, the Philip Rivers connected with Jack Doyle for a 7-yard touchdown pass that gave the Colts a 14-7 lead that they would never relinquish.
There was mass confusion about the penalty in the aftermath, as the on-field officials did a poor job describing the infraction in real time. On the play, Shelton tied up Rivers and officials blew his forward progress dead. But in the heat of the moment, Shelton continued to tackle Rivers and throw him to the ground with a “helpful” shove from Da’Shawn Hand.
The confusing part came with the timing of the call. When Shelton made the tackle, no flag was immediately thrown. Instead, the tackle caused a scrum between both teams, and it was during that scrum—several seconds later—that the flag was thrown. That led many, myself included, to believe the flag was thrown on one of the players involved in the pushing and shoving.
The referee, Clay Martin, confirmed after the game that the flag was intended for Shelton and his late tackle.
Note: When Martin refers to 71, that’s Danny Shelton.
“I had blown the play dead for forward progress where I thought the quarterback was stopped,” Martin said per the official pool report after the game. “And then I felt that number 71 unnecessarily continued on with him. And at about the time I’m processing that, the scrum starts. So, my attention went immediately to breaking up the chaos, if you will, and I threw my flag late. But the flag was for number 71, unnecessary roughness after my whistle for forward progress.”
So there you have it. The official was simply too occupied to throw the flag right away. Are you buying it? Do you think it was a good call? Let’s hear it.