ALLEN PARK - Sunday's game was typical of NFC North contests in what used to be known as the "Black and Blue" division. A hard-hitting, hard fought contest that came down to the last play.
But several plays along the way could have tilted the outcome in favor of the Lions or the Bears. Give the officiating crew led by Bill Carollo credit, they were consistent, even if they didn't get it right. They made sure a referees call did not determine the outcome of the game.
The fumble that wasn't: Late in the game, Bears quarterback Kyle Orton hit running back Thomas Jones in the flat for what appeared to be a four-yard gain, but Jones was stripped of the ball by linebacker Boss Bailey and defensive end Cory Redding recovered and took the ball into the end zone. However the officials blew the play dead and called it an incomplete pass. The officials ruled that Jones had not demonstrated possession nor made a "football move". Despite the referees contention to the contrary, replay showed what looked clearly to be a fumble. The officials ruling cost Detroit six points.
The missed field goal: On the Lions first possession of the ball game, the team got an Eddie Drummond return to start their drive at their own 39-yard line. After Jeff Garcia connected with Scottie Vines for a 27 yard pass play, Detroit was in buisness at the Chicago 30-yard line. The drive stalled and Detroit set up for a routine 46-yard field goal from Jason Hanson, but the snap from center Don Muhlbach was slightly to holder Nick Harris' inside. Hanson missed the kick wide right. The three points might have been the margin of victory.
The shovel pass/ lateral play: With the game tied at 13 and the Lions inside their own 30 yard line in the fourth quarter, Garcia went back to pass and was pressured by the Bears' Alex Brown, Garcia attempted to shovel the ball ahead to fullback Cory Schlesinger but the ball fell nearly parallel to the quarterback. The Bears picked up the football and scored what appeared to be the go-ahead touchdown. However official Bill Carollo explained the officials thought process on the play.
``The quarterback from Detroit, Garcia, went back and under pressure he tossed the ball out to the flat," said Carolla. ``And that call - whether it is forwards or backwards - generally is with the line judge and the line judge did not rule incomplete. So we went with a lateral or backward pass at the time. The defensive player picked the ball up and ran in for a touchdown.
"After the discussion with the line judge, in talking about whether it was forwards or backwards, together we determined it was a forward pass. I threw a late flag for intentional grounding on No. 5 Garcia. With that we made that a call and we went over and told Detroit coach (Mariucci) what we had. He decided 'we're not challenging that."
It appeared that the officials made the right decision on this one, and not just because it favored Detroit. After reviewing the play, Garcia's pass barely was forward and although Carollo threw the flag very late, after the play was over, it still was the right call.
The GLI (Game Losing Interception): Garcia's throw across his body into the middle of the field violated the cardinal sin of football. All quarterbacks are taught, from an early age, never to make this kind of throw. A few quarterbacks named Favre, McNabb and Brady might be exempt from the rule, but Garcia decided to bend the rule, and it cost him.
Bears coach Lovie Smith said he expects those kinds of throws to be intercepted. ``[Garcia] had avoided our rush a few times and then he threw the ball across the field and when a quarterback throws the ball across the field, you have to pick a few of those off. Luckily, we were able to do that."