It’s not a happy Thanksgiving in Detroit. And Lions fans are particularly unhappy with the officials.
In a game the Lions led most of the way, the Texans came back to tie the game 31-31 late in the fourth quarter, then won 34-31 in overtime, thanks in large part to terrible officiating.
The game featured a blown call by the officials that was as bad as anything we saw from the replacement refs while the regular officials were locked out during the first three weeks of the season: Texans running back Justin Forsett was allowed to get up and run for an 81-yard touchdown even though he had clearly been tackled after eight yards. The Lions can also blame a stupid challenge from coach Jim Schwartz, and a stupid NFL rule that says the challenge negates the referee’s ability to review the play.
There were also missed calls on hits to both quarterbacks, including J.J. Watt using the crown of his helmet to hit Matthew Stafford in the chin on the Lions’ final drive of the fourth quarter, a penalty that would have moved Detroit into field goal range if it had been called. (Watt’s hit was clearly illegal, and a nearly identical hit by Nick Perry of the Packers was correctly called earlier this season.)
We then had a back-and-forth overtime session featuring missed field goals from both teams and a costly fumble from Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew. In the end, a Texans field goal sealed the deal.
Lions receiver Calvin Johnson had a great game, and Lions receiver Ryan Broyles had his first career start and responded with a 100-yard game. But that wasn’t enough. For the Texans, Watt had three sacks, one on the first play of the game and two more late in the game, both of which came on third downs and both of which took the Lions out of field goal range. But while Watt is a huge presence as a pass rusher, the lack of depth in the secondary is a major concern for the Texans. With Johnathan Joseph out, Houston simply had no answer for Detroit’s passing game on the plays when Stafford had enough time to throw.
In the end, however, the Texans (10-1), who got a tremendous performance from receiver Andre Johnson, were able to overcome their defensive liabilities and put 34 points on the board. The Lions (4-7) have to put a lot of blame on their defense, and on their mistakes in overtime. But in the wake of this game, the mistakes from the officials will take center stage.