The Detroit Lions have seen everything in terms of oddities in the NFL. They’ve blown impossible leads, lost countless games thanks to bizarre rules interpretations and seen plenty of epic plays doom them through the years.
They’ve still likely never seen the league rub their nose in something like they are heading into Week 2, however. This week, it was revealed that referee Clete Blakeman would be assigned to preside over Detroit’s matchup at Lambeau Field against the Green Bay Packers.
Blakeman, of course, was the very same referee who presided over Detroit’s frustrating defeat against the Packers on Monday Night Football back in 2019.
Clete Blakeman, who officiated last year's controversial Lions-Packers Monday night game, has this weekend's Lions-Packers game. https://t.co/agZ7HDvU3f
— Chris Burke (@ChrisBurkeNFL) September 15, 2020
For anyone that needs a refresher, the Lions controlled most of that game on offense and defense. The pendulum swung violently in the fourth quarter after a controversial illegal contact call on Trey Flowers. The first call bailed the Packers out of a 3rd and 10 situation and allowed them to continue the comeback. Flowers would be flagged again in the late stages on the deciding drive for the same penalty, allowing the Packers to kick the game winning field goal and complete said comeback.
Obviously, the Lions and their fans will not be thrilled to see Blakeman getting to call a game against the Packers that Detroit has to play on the road against Green Bay. Given what happened, many will likely point to some type of conspiracy theory after seeing this announcement from the league. Detroit fans do love a good referee conspiracy, and this one might be bigger than many of their minds can handle.
Referee assignments are pretty random things, but good luck convincing Lions fans of that heading into this contest. As a result, it will be another obstacle the Lions have to fight through in order to get back to 1-1 on the young 2020 season.
Clete Blakeman’s History With Lions
Ironically enough, prior to this debacle, Blakeman had called plenty of Lions games in the past few seasons without incident. Prior to the call, not only had the Lions not been doomed by a strange call or an odd rule interpretation by Blakeman’s crew, they had also won the games that he called with relative ease.
In each of the last four years, Blakeman’s crew has called a Detroit game, and the Lions have won. That includes 2018, where he was on the call for the Lions’ dominating win over the New England Patriots. Blakeman also called Detroit’s battle in 2017 with the Packers at Lambeau Field on Monday Night Football, which was a very decisive win by the Lions. Ironically, in some of the wins, the Lions haven’t just won, but have blown out the competition.
Those good feelings are gone now, however, and Blakeman will likely be public enemy No. 1 with the fanbase prior to kickoff this time around.
Barry Sanders Blasted Clete Blakeman This Offseason
It seemed that everyone was upset about these calls, from the guilty party Trey Flowers to pundits in the media like Skip Bayless. Most felt the Lions got screwed again by the officials.
Naturally, most of the outrage has subsided in the months since, but Barry Sanders is one person who simply can’t let things go. Speaking during the lead into the Super Bowl, Sanders continued to unleash on the fact that the team was jobbed by the referees in the game.
Here’s a look at what Sanders had to say:
Barry Sanders with some strong words about the controversial penalties against Trey Flowers in Green Bay: “I feel like they stole that from us. I feel like they stole that from us. … I was shocked, man. I was shocked that that could happen. Twice.”
— kyle meinke (@kmeinke) January 28, 2020
Stolen and shocked are great words to use for the game and its outcome, as the Packers would use the penalties to march down the field and forge their comeback to the dismay of the Lions and their fans. Most people feel as if the team fell apart after that point in time.
Seeing Sanders reference the game again with frustration is interesting. Classy to a fault, Sanders is a guy who rarely makes waves with his opinion on matters. It’s clear he is still quite frustrated with what went down.
It would be interesting to hear his opinion at Blakeman getting another crack at Lions-Packers.
Barry Sanders Unloaded on Packers-Lions Referees
In the moments during the call and after, Sanders was furious with Blakeman’s crew as he agreed with those who thought they had made a poor call.
After the play, Sanders took to Twitter to share his frustration with the world, and as he said, he feels as if the Lions were robbed on the play. Here’s a look at what Sanders wrote in the moment:
— Barry Sanders (@BarrySanders) October 15, 2019
Trey Flowers was called for the penalty, and instead of a punt, the Packers were gifted a free first down. They ended up getting into the end zone a few plays later when Aaron Rodgers fired a score to the corner of the end zone to pull Green Bay within 22-20.
The play was a big one in the fourth quarter and it ended up helping the Packers cut into what was a sizable Detroit lead and flip momentum in a close game. Many folks agreed with Sanders that the call was a mistake, and even called out Blakeman’s crew for their mistakes.
Another similar play happened later on to Flowers which cost the Lions even more dearly in the end on a critical third down and Sanders was just as mad.
That is sickening… the @NFL needs to look at a way to prevent that from happening. Two phantom hands to the face calls really hurts us tonight. Yes, we could have scored TDs, but @Lions played too well to have the game end this way. #DETvsGB @espn
— Barry Sanders (@BarrySanders) October 15, 2019
Now, the Lions will have to deal with this same crew for the same matchup in Week 2 of the 2020 season. It’s another fickle twist of fate for a team that might not have any luck if not for bad luck.