The Detroit Lions had a two-point lead with the Green Bay Packers out of time outs and pinned on their own 21-yard-line.
In solid shape, the Lions played a prevent defense and forced the Packers into a hooks and ladders play – a desperation situation that almost always immediately segues to the end of game, with the team on offense suffering the loss.
On this particular play, the ball ended up where it started – back in quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ hands. He was wrestled down by defensive end Devin Taylor.
The clock read zero. The scoreboard read 23-21, Lions.
The game would have been over if not for the yellow flag on the field.
“Not really sure what it was for at the time,” said Taylor. “Then I saw the ref go ‘facemask, 98’.”
Taylor, of course, wears the number 98 jersey for the Lions. His hand may have made its way towards Rodgers’ facemask but the call was certainly a controversial one.
“I didn’t think it was (a facemask),” said head coach Jim Caldwell. “because you don’t think it was or I don’t think it was, it was called so therefore it was.”
The play moved the ball up 15 yards and – since a game cannot end on a defensive penalty – it gave the Packers a final shot with no time on the clock.
“I know (Rodgers) tried to come to my side, then he saw me, so he started scrambling to the other side,” said Taylor. “I’m not sure what happened after that.”
What happened was Rodgers rolled to his right, had the time he needed to step into a throw and launch the ball to the front of the end zone – into the waiting arms of an open Richard Rodgers.
61-yard touchdown. Game Over. Lions lose.
“Is it possible to be emotionless,” asked Taylor, leaning back in a chair at his locker with a level of calmness akin to someone in shock. “Yeah, I’d say that, because I’m not really sure what I’m supposed to feel right now. I’ve never been in this situation, it still hasn’t settled and hit me yet.”
Taylor said there wasn’t much said to him by his teammates after. Caldwell described the locker room as quiet, which is understandable considering how the game had ended only minutes prior.
In a game that was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster, Taylor might have had the biggest swing going from making the would-be, game-winning tackle to being flagged for a penalty that ultimately cost the team the game.
“From what I thought I did, was just a normal tackle, no facemask," said Taylor. "The refs called what they called, from whatever angle he saw. There’s nothing I could do about it.”
Despite being on the wrong end of this big play, Taylor is far from a goat. The fact that the call was controversial is only part of it. Taylor actually was a standout performer in this contest, registering 2 sacks and a tackle for loss.
“It would appear that he was a force out there for an extended period of time and did a nice job in a number of different areas,” said Caldwell.
Taylor has played well in the second half of the season and has 3.5 sacks and three tackles for loss since Week 8.
“Just taking what I do at practice and then converting it to the field,” said Taylor of his personal progress. “Working, using my length and actually taking it to using it as an advantage.”