NFL Blames Lions for Botched Call, Gamblers Blame NFL DraftKings Marriage

Written by:
Alejandro Botticelli
Published on:

The National Football League (NFL) rang in the new year by accusing the Detroit Lions of being too confusing in play design Saturday evening in their game against the Dallas Cowboys.  By Monday, the ensuing controversy was the top trending story on Gambling911.


Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio reports that the NFL has no plans to change the rules on players reporting as eligible after Saturday night’s fiasco and refuses to blame the refs.  The league views the situation as an effort by the Lions to engage in deception and gamesmanship that backfired, he writes.

Gamblers aren't buying it, especially those who had Detroit on the moneyline with the botched call resulting in a Lions 20-19 loss (Detroit spread winners came out on top with the number at +5).  Many were quick to point to the league's way-to-cozy relationship with sportsbooks such as DraftKings.

Here's how it all went down:

Dallas stopped the Detroit Lions on the third try of a 2-point conversion with 23 seconds remaining.

On the first conversion try after Jared Goff's 11-yard touchdown pass to Amon-Ra St. Brown, Goff completed a pass to lineman Taylor Decker, but the Lions were called for illegal touching.

The Lions went for 2 again from the 7-yard line and were stopped on an interception that didn't even reach the end zone, but the Cowboys were called for offsides.

On the final attempt, Goff's pass to Josh Reynolds was incomplete.

Our own Thomas Somach sided with Lions moneyline bettors, fans and the team itself.

"If the lineman properly reported to the referee as an eligible receiver he would’ve been covered by a defender and probably not made the catch," Somach said.

The league views the situation as an effort by the Lions to engage in deception and gamesmanship that backfired, Florio writes.

"Basically, the Lions wanted the Cowboys to think (Lions offensive linesman Dan) Skipper was reporting as eligible and that (tackle Taylor) Decker was not. Which would have caused the Cowboys to cover Skipper, not Decker, when the play unfolded. The problem is that, in trying to confuse the Cowboys, the Lions confused (referee Brad) Allen.

After the game, Lions coach Dan Campbell said that he explained the play to the officials before the game. The question becomes whether Campbell explained the play itself, or whether Campbell explained his plan to set the play up with an effort to confuse the Cowboys as to who was, and wasn’t, eligible."

Florio wasn't necessarily buying Campbell's claim either.

It’s hard to imagine Campbell being so candid about the trick that the Lions were trying to pull. Articulating it that way sounds a little off. It sounds a little wrong. It sounds a little like something a team probably shouldn’t be trying to do. Like something that is on the wrong side of the line of what is and isn’t fair.

Regardless, the only way the Lions could have properly prepared Allen for that moment would have been to get Allen in on the ruse. He clearly wasn’t. The Lions ran their plan so well that it confused Allen. And, frankly, it’s on the Lions to find the sweet spot between confusing the opponent and not confusing the officials.

By Saturday night, the term "Rigged" was top trending on Twitter, often accompanied by "NFL Rigged".  Right or wrong, gamblers see a situation where the league, refs and their partner sportsbook could potentially all be in cahoots.  There is no evidence of any conspiring but the optics are simply horrible no matter how you cut it, not to mention nearly everybody on the interwebs feel the NFL was in the wrong here.

One tweet read:

"@NFL  you’re losing the PR battle with this #DetroitLions travesty. Reverse the victory & give the win to the #Lions. Prove to us that you are not working for @DraftKings @BetMGM @ESPNBet & @FanDuel."

If you think gamblers got hosed, the Lions must have felt they were drowning after the Saturday night debacle.

With the Eagles losing to the Cardinals on Sunday, Saturday night’s outcome in the Detroit-Dallas game becomes even more significant, Florio noted.

The Eagles, 49ers and Cowboys all must lose in Week 18 for Detroit to be the NFL's No. 1 seed.  The odds of this happening seem pretty bleak.  The Lions, of course, must also win their final game against the Vikings. So essentially it's like betting a four-team parlay and going against three of the favorites. Probably not going to happen.

- Alejandro Botticelli, Senior Reporter

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