Skip navigation
Sign up to follow your favorites on all your devices.
Sign up

Golden Tate: We can’t leave it up to the officials

Lions Cowboys Football

Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker Anthony Hitchens (59) gets hit in the back by a pass intended for Detroit Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew (87) during the fourth quarter of an NFL wildcard playoff football game, Sunday, Jan. 4, 2015, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Richard W. Rodriguez) MAGS OUT; (FORT WORTH WEEKLY, 360 WEST); INTERNET OUT


Sunday’s game between the Cowboys and Lions took a turn for the bizarre in the fourth quarter when a penalty on Cowboys linebacker Anthony Hitchens for interfering with tight end Brandon Pettigrew was wiped out by officials with zero explanation on the field for their change of heart.

Lions coach Jim Caldwell said that referee Pete Morelli’s explanation directly to him, presumably the same one he eventually gave to a pool reporter when the game was over about face guarding not being a foul, was “not good enough” and tight end Brandon Pettigrew said it was “obvious” that Hitchens committed a foul.

Some members of the Cowboys, including owner Jerry Jones, thought the second call was the right one. Safety Barry Church was happy about the change, but less convinced it was the right thing.

“We definitely got a break right there,” Church said, via the New York Daily News. “I would have called it if I was the ref, because he was kind of shielding the offensive player. But I’m not the ref, I’m not out there. We definitely got a break on that one.”

Despite having the ball in Dallas territory on fourth-and-1 after the flag switch, the Lions chose to punt the ball away and Sam Martin’s shank meant the Cowboys had the ball near midfield down 20-17. They’d get the go-ahead touchdown a few minutes later and Lions wide receiver Golden Tate would say after the game that the baffling call was a reminder to the Lions that they need to take care of the things they can control to keep the randomness of referees from hurting them.

“I was unaware that you could have an unofficial review by looking at the Jumbotron a few times, and then go back, take the ball all the way back, and overturn it and make it fourth-and-1. That’s a crucial part of the game, but however, I do not blame that on the deciding factor of us winning and losing,” Tate said, via the Detroit Free Press. “I think we got to do a job. We can’t leave it up to the officials or them having home-field advantage. We can control that, we can control it if we just go out and get the first down so there’s no questions asked. Run the ball, catch the ball, whatever we need to do, so don’t leave it up to outside resources, leave it up to us because we can control that.”

Morelli said after the game that the officials should have gathered to discuss the call before announcing a penalty of any kind, something that’s certainly true if there’s any doubt about whether or not the call should be made in the first place. It also would be a good idea for the league to make all calls subject to review so that there can be an official second look at calls that carry such tremendous weight.