NFL officials erred when they called a second hands-to-the-face penalty against Detroit Lions defensive end Trey Flowers that set up the Green Bay Packers‘ game-winning field goal Monday night, NFL executive vice president Troy Vincent said.
Vincent was asked about the penalties during a news conference at the league’s fall meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Tuesday, a day after the Packers defeated the Lions 23-22.
Vincent said the two controversial hands-to-the face penalties — called against Flowers when he was rushing against the Packers’ David Bakhtiari in the fourth quarter — were a topic of discussion at a meeting with the competition committee on Tuesday.
“There was one that was clear that we support. And there was the other, when you look at it, when you review the play, not something that you want to see called in particular on the pass rush. One that you can support, but the other one, clearly after you review it, you’ve seen some slo-mos, the foul wasn’t there,” he said.
Vincent said he plans to talk to Lions owner Martha Ford at the meeting, which ends on Wednesday, and also will reach out to Lions general manager Bob Quinn.
Lions coach Matt Patricia said he had not seen Vincent’s comments at the time he was addressing reporters on Tuesday but that he wasn’t dwelling on calls by officials.
“If you go through a game and are relying on the officials to tell you whether or not you won, I don’t really think you’re going to turn out in a favorable manner more times than not,” he said. “For us, it’s about going out and [doing] the things that we can control to win the game and do that better. That’s really what we got to do. We got to control the game and give ourselves a chance to win through the efforts and the execution and the coaching that we do, more so than by what an official does.”
In his pool report, referee Clete Blakeman explained what the umpire who threw the flags, Jeff Rice, saw on the fouls.
“The umpire threw both of them. The last one was really the only one I’ve discussed with him,” Blakeman said. “Basically, it’s for illegal use of the hands, hands-to-the-face foul. To be a foul, we basically need some forceful contact that’s prolonged to the head and neck area. …
“So in his mind he had pinned him back, it was prolonged, and that’s what created the foul.”
Both of the penalties on Flowers came on third downs in the fourth quarter that would have ended drives but instead granted the Packers 5 yards and automatic first downs. The Packers scored on both drives, on an Aaron Rodgers touchdown pass to Allen Lazard with 9: 03 remaining and on Mason Crosby‘s decisive 23-yard field goal with no time remaining.
“I actually changed the position of my hand, because it was to the chest initially,” Flowers said after the game. “Which is right here. I was doing it all game. I didn’t know that was a flag to the chest, so I could change it to [motioning somewhere else on his chest]. They called it again.”
Bakhtiari said Monday night that he had alerted the officials earlier in the game that he thought Flowers was committing penalties against him.
“I went over to the ref, I said, ‘Hey, are we not calling hands to the face again? Because the past three plays, I’ve been staring at the sky.’ And he’s like, you know, he’s not looking at my side, but I at least made him aware,” Bakhtiari told reporters.
“I can definitely tell you, for a good portion of the game, I was getting my throat punched in, and I was looking up at the sky a fair amount. If you think about it, if your hand is in my throat, you’re probably hitting my face mask, which is pushing my head up in the sky.”
Patricia was asked by reporters Tuesday if he will instruct Flowers to tweak his pass-rush move.
“We’ll make sure we’re coaching it the right way and make sure everything is in the proper placement and go from there,” he said.
ESPN’s Michael Rothstein contributed to this report.