FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — NFL vice president of operations Troy Vincent acknowledged Tuesday that officials incorrectly called a penalty on Lions defensive lineman Trey Flowers near the end of Monday night’s 23-22 loss to the Packers at Lambeau Field. The illegal-hands-to-the-face penalty gave the Packers a first down and allowed them to run out the clock before attempting the game-winning field goal, thus preventing the Lions from getting another possession.
“There was one [earlier in the fourth quarter] that was clear that we support,” Vincent said of another hands-to-the-face call against Flowers. “There was another that, when you review the play, that’s not something that you want to be called. After you review it, the foul wasn’t there.”
Lions players were furious after the game about the calls, particularly the second one that allowed the Packers to run off nearly all the remaining time in the game before Mason Crosby kicked a game-winning 23-yard field goal with two seconds left. The Packers would have been forced to kick the go-ahead field goal with 1:36 to play if the penalty hadn’t been called. Flowers was flagged after he pushed Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari back with one hand, but replays showed he contacted Bakhtiari’s upper chest and not the facemask or neck area, which is prohibited.
“I didn’t think hands to the chest was a penalty,” Flowers said. “I don’t think it was a penalty.”
Flowers was called for the same penalty on a third-and-10 with just more than 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter. That call nullified a sack and would have forced the Packers to punt. Three plays later, Rogers hit Allen Lazard for a 35-yard touchdown to help cut Detroit’s lead to 22-20.
Vincent and NFL competition committee chairman Rich McKay acknowledged at a news briefing at the league’s October owners meetings that reviews of pass interference challenges remain an ongoing process and that a final determination on the efficacy of the system won’t be made until after the season.
Coaches challenges have resulted in very few replay reversals of pass interference calls and non-calls, leading many fans and some coaches critical of the newly introduced rule allowing for challenges.
Going into the Week 6 games, just seven of 39 coaches challenges resulted in interference or non-interference calls being reversed, including one of the previous 21.
“Let’s let the season play out,” McKay said. “Just like the use of the helmet [to initiate contact with opposing players] last year, we waited until the end of the year. This is a brand new rule, one that our coaches are getting used to and fans and officials. I think we’re going to reserve judgment until the season’s over, see the full season and get an opportunity to look at all the tape.”
McKay stressed that the new challenge rules are limited in scope.
“The rule was put in place to get the egregious ones overturned,” he said. “It’s got to be an obvious error and have to result in a substantial hindrance.”
Said Vincent: “We knew going in that standard is a higher standard. We have to keep reminding the coaches that the bar is higher than the normal review.”
No increase in concussions. Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, said the number of concussions suffered by NFL teams during training camp was the same this year as last year— 79. However, the league saw a decrease of concussions during training camp practice — from 45 in 2018 to 30 this year — although in-game concussions increased from 34 in 2018 to 49 in 2019.