When Aaron Rodgers pulled himself up off the turf, his chin strap covered his mouth. His helmet was crooked. His arms were raised, asking for the penalty flag.
The Green Bay Packers quarterback got it.
On what could have been the final play of Thursday night’s wild game, Detroit Lions defensive end Devin Taylor was called for a 15-yard facemask penalty. It offered the Packers 15 yards and one, untimed down from their own 39, which made all the difference in what became a 27-23 win.
Only one problem: Taylor didn’t appear grab Rodgers’ facemask. If he did, he certainly didn’t hold onto it for any length of time. With the game on the line, the Lions did not appreciate the call.
“Didn’t think it was (a penalty),” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said.
Video replay shows Taylor’s right thumb smack Rodgers’ facemask, just in front of his chin. He did not grab it. Taylor grabbed hold of Rodgers’ right shoulder and spun him to the ground.
When Taylor pulled himself up from the turf, he saw the flag. At first, Taylor said, he was confused.
“I knew I grabbed his collarbone, shoulder pad,” Taylor said. “Whatever the ref saw, he called facemask. There’s nothing I could do about it, just keep playing until the next down.”
On Twitter, NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino said a facemask would be called on that play in most situations. In this case, it allowed the Packers to toss a 61-yard Hail Mary, which tight end Richard Rodgers caught in the end zone. That one extra play – and the penalty that allowed it – became the difference between winning and losing.
Blandino explained why it was a penalty late Thursday night.
“Hand up to the mask,” Blandino tweeted, “quick grab with finger and head gets turned. At full speed official is going to make that call almost every time.”
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