Lions, Cowboys And The Case Of The Flag That Never Was

 The Cowboys comeback win over the Lions has been mired in controversy over a picked up flag and missed calls in the fourth quarter.  

With approximately eight minutes left in the game, a flag for pass interference was thrown against Cowboys' linebacker Anthony Hitchens who was covering Lions tight end Brand Pettigrew. Yet moments after the penalty was announced, the flag was picked up, the penalty rescinded and the Lions faced a 4th and 1 instead of first down. Some have argued that it wasn't pass interference, others stated it should have been a holding penalty on Hitchens, including NFL head of officiating Dean Blandino who said it was a "judgment call that could have gone either way." But, according to ESPN, he saw a "jersey grab by Hitchens that should have resulted in a defensive holding call that should have been called."

The officiating crew missed another potential penalty during the same play as Dez Bryant ran onto the field without his helmet to protest the original pass interference call. Blandino stated that that play wasn't an automatic penalty because players removing their helmets only applies to players who are currently in the game at that time. He went on to say it was the official's discretion to call a penalty on Bryant.

Reactions from across the league, and from fans, varied:




The Officials Reaction

Head official for the game yesterday Pete Morelli stated: 

"we got other information from another official from a different angle that thought the contact was minimal and didn't warrant pass interference, he thought it was face guarding. The information came and then the officials got together a little bit after it was given to me, the first information," Morelli said "It probably would've been smoother if we got together." 


Rules expert for ESPN and former NFL Official Gerry Austin said: 

The one thing that I would say that makes that not a foul is that the receiver is still going away from the ball”. “So that makes the contact basically incidental. I don't think the flag should have been put on the ground. Once the flag was on the ground, I think it should have stayed."



The Lions Reaction

Jim Caldwell stated yesterday: 

"I'm not going to sit up here and act like that was the play that made a difference in the game. We still had our chances."


Matt Stafford:

"I was told he did not make contact. It was a big play in the game, no doubt about it. But there where a lot of plays here and there along the way. If we just execute a little bit better in all phases we come away with a win.”



NFL legend Terrell Davis stated on NFL AM 

"The more I watch it the more it doesn't look like PI." 


Cowboys Response

Anthony Hitchens:

"I was just trying to play defense and I felt like it was the right call."


Jerry Jones stated

"I've never seen one get that far into the next play and ready to go again and have it reversed, but I think that's a good thing," Jones said. "If we're going to stop action and we're going to have replay and we're going to have interpretation from New York — which I'm all for — and we're going to do all that, then we might as well get 'em all right. And, again, I think they made the right call in terms of not calling it. That's why they picked it up. It's not supposed to be."