Setting aside for now (but not for long) how the most unfair rule in football gave possession of the ball to the Seahawks even though they never recovered the football fumbled by Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, the decision of Seattle linebacker K.J. Wright to bat the ball out of the end zone should have given possession back to the Lions.
As explained by ESPN rules analyst Gerry Austin after the game (and confirmed to ESPN by NFL V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino), Wright committed an illegal bat that should have given the ball back to the Lions at the spot where they lost possession, with the ball moved half the distance to the goal line.
Rule 12, Section 4, Article 1(b) applies the term “illegal bat” when “any player bats or punches a loose ball (that has touched the ground) in any direction, if it is in either end zone.”
So even though the rule that gives possession to the defense when the offense fumbles the ball in the field of play and it goes out of the end zone needs to be changed, a rule change wasn’t needed here. With Wright knocking the ball out of the end zone, the ball should have been given back to the Lions, on the fringe of the end zone.
Amazingly, the non-replacement officials missed the call, a little more than three years after replacement officials missed an offensive pass interference foul that allowed the Seahawks to steal a late win over the Packers on a Monday night.