NFL admits error on Trey Flowers penalty vs. Packers: ‘The foul wasn’t there’

The NFL admitted officials erred in flagging Detroit Lions defensive end Trey Flowers on one of the two hands-to-the-face penalties he was called for in the fourth quarter of Monday night’s 23-22 loss to the Green Bay Packers.

NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent told reporters at the league’s fall meeting Tuesday that there should not have been an infraction called on the second of Flowers’ two penalties.

“There was one (earlier in the fourth quarter) that was clear that we support,” Vincent said, via Newsday NFL writer Bob Glauber. “There was another that, when you review the play, that’s not something that you want to be called. After you review it, the foul wasn’t there.”

Flowers was called for two drive-extending penalties with the Lions clinging to a late lead in Monday’s fourth quarter.

The first foul came on third-and-10 with just over 10 minutes to play and nullified a sack that would have forced a Packers punt. The 5-yard penalty gave Green Bay an automatic first down, and three plays later Aaron Rodgers hit Allen Lazard for a 35-yard touchdown that cut the Lions’ lead to 22-20.

The Packers forced a punt on the ensuing drive, then ran the final 6:46 off the clock with the help of another Flowers penalty.

On third-and-4 from the Lions’ 16-yard line with 1:45 to play, Flowers was flagged for illegal use of hands on Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari.

The Packers would have been forced to kick the go-ahead field goal with 1:36 to play if not for the penalty, leaving the Lions with enough time for one final possession. Instead, with the Lions out of timeouts, the Packers ran the clock down to 2 seconds before sending Mason Crosby on for the final kick.

“For me, obviously there was some calls in the game that everyone’s focused on right now,” Lions coach Matt Patricia said in a conference call with Detroit reporters Tuesday. “I’m focused on the ones that we’ve got to do right out on the field through execution in coaching and playing. I think if you go through a game and you’re relying on the officials to tell you whether or not you won, I don’t really think that you’re going to turn out in a favorable manner more times than not.

“So for us, it’s about trying to go out and doing the things that we can control to win the game and do that better. That’s certainly what we’ve got to do, we’ve got to control the game and give ourselves a chance to win through the efforts and the execution, the coaching that we do more so than by what an official does.”

Flowers said after the game that he did not believe either penalty warranted a flag, and that he was simply using a pass-rushing technique he’s used for much of his career.

“I didn’t think hands to the chest was a penalty,” he said as he sat in the Lions’ locker room with his pads still on. “I thought hands to the face, but I had him right here in the chest. The second time I changed it to right here (another spot on the chest). That’s part of a move that I do and, yeah. So, nah, I don’t think that was a penalty, but they did, so … “

Patricia, who said in his conference call that he had neither heard from the league nor seen Vincent’s comments, said players use different ways to attack the chest and breastplate of their blocker without contacting the head or neck area, which would result in a penalty.

Neither he nor defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni said they would alter their teaching techniques as a result of the called penalties.

“Whether it was two hands or one hand or kind of different leverage angles that you can press into the offensive player to, whether it’s open up his hips or get him to turn a different way, whatever it might be,” Patricia said. “Sometimes you apply pressure, sometimes you let pressure go and see if their balance is in check. Just different things like that. But certainly, for us, we’ll make sure we’re coaching it the right way and make sure everything is in the proper placement, and we’ll go from there.”

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