Officials flagged Lions for lining up with 12, didn’t flag Packers for 13

Michael David Smith

It’s been overlooked in the slew of criticism the officials have received for other blown calls, but a key penalty that was called on the Lions early in Monday night’s game was later not called on the Packers.

With the Lions leading 13-0 in the second quarter, the Packers faced fourth-and-5 and sent their field goal team on the field. The Lions, however, had 12 players on the field as the Packers lined up, and the officials immediately blew the whistle, giving the Packers five yards and a first down.

That was the right call: Under NFL rules, lining up with more than 11 players in the defensive formation is a penalty. The officials are supposed to shut down the play before the snap, and that’s what they did. It turned out to be incredibly costly for the Lions, as the Packers scored a touchdown two plays later.

But on the very next possession, the Packers committed the exact same penalty. Only it should have been even more obvious to the officials, because the Packers, in their confusion to make a defensive substitution while the Lions were in no-huddle, actually lined up 13 players on defense. Instead of shutting the play down and giving the Lions five yards, the officials allowed the Packers to call timeout to get the right personnel on the field.

That turned out to be incredibly costly for the Lions as well: Matthew Stafford was sacked after the Packers got the right personnel on the field following the timeout, and the Lions had to punt.

The officiating on Monday night was inexcusable, and most of the mistakes went against the Lions. When a lot of officiating mistakes go against you and you lose by one point, it’s hard to come to any conclusion other than that you got robbed.