If you were hoping for a full-fledged apology from the NFL for the fiasco that was the end of the Detroit Lions vs. Dallas Cowboys game, I’m going to need you to sit down for a moment. Because the NFL is going in the exact opposite direction.
Per Pro Football Talk, the NFL has no intention of changing the process of players reporting as eligible. The reasoning why? They’re essentially blaming the Lions for confusing the officials. Mike Florio has more:
“Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the NFL does not plan to change the procedure for players reporting as eligible. The league views the situation as an effort by the Lions to engage in deception and gamesmanship that backfired.”
That’s right. The NFL is going full heel and blaming the Lions for the clear officiating error.
Their argument is, essentially, that by sending three offensive linemen towards the ref—in an effort to mask their intentions from the Cowboys—they set up head official Brad Allen to fail in a loud and chaotic environment. After the game, Allen was insistent that it was Dan Skipper (referred to as No. 70) who reported as eligible, not Taylor Decker (No. 68).
“On this particular play, No. 70, who had reported during the game a couple of times, reported to me as eligible,” Allen said per the post-game pool report. “Then he lined up at the tackle position. So, actually, he didn’t have to report at all. No. 68, who ended up going downfield and touching the pass, did not report. Therefore, he is an ineligible touching a pass that goes beyond the line, which makes it a foul. So, the issue is No. 70 did report, No. 68 did not.”
Both Skipper and Decker refute Allen’s recollection of the events. Skipper was adamant both in the moment and in the locker room that he didn’t say a single word to Allen. While Decker said he did. Video certainly does show Decker approaching and talking to Allen, while Skipper was running onto the field late and was unable to approach the official—though he had been the one commonly reporting as eligible in this game.
Every play needs to be reviewed. Decker reported, ARSB was off the line, Sewell is on, JR is off. Skipper runs in ad the ref already left. There's no way he reported.....the ref points at him as he runs in but that's to signal he's coming in. pic.twitter.com/ND0iWkw8si— Timothy Ray Brandon (@TBrandon84) December 31, 2023
As for the “deception” that the league is now blaming for the incident, Lions fullback Jason Cabinda explained on Twitter how that kind of procedure from the Lions is both commonplace and essential for the play’s success:
Gotta be one of the laziest takes I’ve seen. Anyone who really knows football and knows about plays like this knows that sending only one OL to the referee for a 2 pt conversion where the defense is stagnant and can see everything going on is like telling on yourself pre-snap. https://t.co/l0TVAmBknY— Jason Cabinda (@jasoncabinda) January 1, 2024
Additionally, the Lions took an extra step to avoid confusing the ref by letting Allen’s crew know about the play prior to the game.
“I explained everything pre-game to a tee,” Campbell said. “I did that.”
Regardless, it’s not surprising to see the NFL failing to take ownership of a clear mistake by officials. They’ve got a shield to protect. That said, per Adam Schefter, Allen’s crew is expected to get downgraded for their performance on Saturday night and they aren’t likely to officiate in the postseason either.
In my opinion, Jason McCourty absolutely nails the whole situation here: