Another Monday night game in Seattle, another controversial call to end the game. Or, in this case, a controversial no-call. For those of you that were fast asleep when Seattle and Detroit were finishing their game on Monday night, here’s what happened.

  1. Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson catches a pass from Matthew Stafford and leaps for the goal line to score and give the Lions the lead with 1:51 remaining in the game.
  2. Safety Kam Chancellor makes an incredible play to knock the ball out of Johnson’s hands and it bounces into the end zone BEFORE Johnson breaks the plane of the goal line, meaning it’s a fumble
  3. Linebacker K.J, Wright bats the ball out of the back of the end zone, seemingly resulting in a touchback, or a turnover, meaning it’s Seattle ball, 1st and 10, on the 20 yard line.

Unfortunately, the officials missed a key call that seemingly cost the Lions another shot at scoring. Here’s the rule that they missed:

Rule 12, Section 1, Article 8

It is an illegal bat if: a player of either team bats or punches a loose ball (that has touched the ground) in any direction, if it is in either end zone.

Penalty: Loss of 10 yards. 

When K.J. Wright punched the ball out of the end zone, seemingly winning the game for Seattle, he committed an illegal batting penalty. The referee, who had a clear view of the play, should have called the penalty and it would have been a 10-yard penalty on the defense, resulting in Detroit ball on the ½ yard line.

But the official didn’t make the correct call and Seattle was awarded the ball at the 20-yard line and they proceeded to run out the clock and win the game 13-10. No one knew that this was a penalty until after the game had ended and Monday Night Football spent a considerable amount of time debating it after the game. Both Steve Young and Ray Lewis didn’t even know this was a penalty until an official informed them. In fact, the Seahawks players didn’t know it was a penalty until well after the game when members of the media told them.

This penalty occurred in the same end zone as the famous Fail Mary and it will definitely spark controversy for the rest of Seattle’s season. However, there is a reason why the official might have not called the penalty. If you look closely at the video, you might see that the official seems to be reaching for his flag as soon as Wright bats the ball out of the end zone, but thinks twice and just signals touchback.

If Wright had made no movement towards the ball and had not batted it out of the end zone, the ball still would have gone out of bounds, resulting in a Seattle turnover. It’s not as if the ball would have come to a stop in the end zone as it was clearly hit with enough force by Kam Chancellor to knock it out of the back. It’s not as if Wright’s actions affected the game in some meaningful way as the play would have still resulted in a touchback regardless of whether or not he batted it out of the end zone. In this way, the official was somewhat justified in not calling the penalty because the play would have resulted in Seattle ball regardless of Wright’s actions.

With the play happening as fast as it did, there were several factors that definitely affected why the penalty was not called by the referee. First and foremost, Calvin Johnson was stretching for the goal line with the ball with several Seahawks defenders draped over him when Kam Chancellor comes in and knocks the ball out. The line judge determined that the ball was knocked out at the one-yard line and was a loose ball in the end zone rather than a touchdown. By the time Wright bats the ball out of the end zone, the announcers, coaches and officials are more preoccupied with making sure the call on the field is right rather than a missed penalty. If Megatron had broke the plane with the ball BEFORE Chancellor punched the ball out, it would have been a touchdown awarded to the Lions.

A touchdown definitely comes first and foremost over a missed penalty. With the game on the line like it was, the officials were more preoccupied with making sure the call on the field was right before realizing the missed penalty. In fact, I’m not even sure the other officials were aware of the missed penalty because they were busy discussing the play to determine that they had made the right call. The play went under video review and everyone was more concerned with whether or not the ball broke the plane of the goal line.

It wasn’t until after the game had ended that the announcers were made aware that this was a penalty. In fact, most of the nation had no idea this was a penalty. I, for one, had no idea this was a penalty.

In the end, yes the penalty was incorrectly enforced and should have resulted in a first down for the Lions, but the official was somewhat justified in not calling it because the play would have resulted in a touchback regardless of Wright’s actions. But, because this play happened in the same end zone that the Fail Mary occurred in, it will be much debated and you’ll no doubt hear about it for the remainder of the season.

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