Lions’ game-winning touchdown overshadowed bad spot that preceded it

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The Lions scored on an 11-yard touchdown pass as time expired to beat the Falcons on Sunday. If the Lions had gained nine or 10 yards on the play, it would have turned into a huge controversy.

That’s because the ball should have been spotted at the 8-yard line before the final play, not the 11-yard line. The officials screwed up the spot.

There was a lot of confusion before the Lions’ game-winning touchdown. With 19 seconds left and the Lions at the 40-yard line, Matthew Stafford threw a pass that Kenny Golladay caught at the 8-yard line, where he was immediately tackled. The Lions were out of timeouts, so they rushed down the field to spike the ball, which they did with three seconds left.

But there was confusion: A Falcons player ran into a Lions player as the two teams scrambled to get set before the spike. Were the Lions set? Had the Falcons committed a penalty? Would there be a 10-second runoff? No one seemed to know.

Eventually the officials ruled that Stafford’s pass to Golladay needed to be reviewed. The officials confirmed that Golladay had caught the pass and that the clock would start with three seconds left. But they spotted the ball at the 11-yard line, not the 8-yard line, when they wound the clock.

It’s not clear if the Lions didn’t notice they had been deprived of three yards, or if they just didn’t have any time to argue about it because there were only three seconds left in the game and the clock was about to start running, but Detroit spiked the ball at the 11-yard line and then ran the next play from the 11 as well. That play was an 11-yard touchdown pass from Stafford to T.J. Hockenson, so all was well for the Lions.

But make no mistake: The officials took three yards away from the Lions. Former NFL head of officiating Mike Pereira reviewed the situation and wrote on Twitter, “I have no explanation.”

There is no explanation. It was just a mistake by the officials, one that could have been huge if the Lions had been stopped a yard or two short of the goal line, but that ended up being minor because the Lions scored anyway.