The referees blew it.
There wasn't a playoff berth at stake, fortunately, only a head coach's steadily eroding sanity.
The NFL's eye in the sky bestowed a little holiday mercy on Steve Mariucci and his team, coming up with a feeble rationalization for why a receiver with possession and two feet inbounds doesn't add up to a potentially game-stealing touchdown.
It's that funky Lions math. It's that same illogical equation in which an entire game, in their minds, consists only of the first two quarters.
And it's a good thing there was no joyous sense of accomplishment in the Lions' locker room after their 19-13 win over Chicago. Such a reaction would have been blasphemous. There is no balancing this larceny against the late breaks that have gone against the Lions numerous times this season.
The Lions didn't deserve to win this one -- and they knew it.
There wasn't one man in that Lions locker room who thought that Bears receiver Bernard Berrian hadn't come down with a soul-numbing, 43-yard touchdown with around a minute and a half remaining in the fourth quarter.
They saw the replays. They knew the consequences.
"Merry Christmas, right?" Joey Harrington said of the unwarranted charity.
As the officials reviewed the play, Mariucci huddled with Harrington on the sideline, talking over their two-minute drill plans with no time-outs left. He figured the officials would overturn the call and give the Bears a go-ahead touchdown.
"It doesn't matter what I thought it was or wasn't," defensive end James Hall said. "It's the officials who make the call, and they made it."
But was it the right call?
"The right call is whatever they make," Hall said.
These were the Bears, owners of a far worse quarterback situation than the Lions. They stop the game to honor the offense when it crosses midfield. And the Lions allowed the Bears back into the game because of their continued inability to put away teams braced for a quick and merciful execution.
"It was quiet for a win," Mariucci said of the postgame climate. "I didn't see any jumping around and champagne or any of that sort of thing. ... I am happy that our team is not elated and celebrating because our expectations and what we are working for is better than that. It is a higher standard than that."
The Lions have six wins, the most of the Matt Millen era, but are they honestly improving?
This season will rank as the biggest disappointment of Millen's four seasons because a 4-2 start within the pathetic NFC made the Lions a legitimate, though ill-prepared, playoff contender. That start changed expectations, and the Lions crumbled under the pressure.
There's one game remaining in the season, and nobody is highly confident that Harrington is indeed The Guy.
Note to the Joey apologists: If you're adamant that you can't blame him for the dropped passes, then you can't give him credit when the passes are caught with more regularity, can you?
There's one game left in the season, and nobody knows if Roy Williams is truly a big-play receiver or just someone who rises to the occasion when the mood hits. He had three inexplicable drops Sunday.
"We know we should have finished them off," Harrington said. "We moved the ball, did some good things, and then we kind of slipped into a comfort zone. We just don't quite have that killer instinct."
The best retail values come the day after Christmas, but when you're once again shopping for respect, a drastically marked down, end-of-the-year bargain isn't exactly a meaningful purchase.
Dueling 5-9 derelicts mining for justification to finish disappointing seasons isn't compelling entertainment because excelling in darkness won't help when the spotlight heats up next season.
And the Lions usually fare well in meaningless end-of-season scenarios.
If you want an explanation for another train wreck of a season, you need look no further than safety Brock Marion.
He was one of the Lions' key free-agent acquisitions last winter, signed as a stabilizing defensive force. He had his best game as a Lion on Sunday; he was seemingly everywhere, sniffing out the play, driving himself into ballcarriers hard and stopping them in their tracks.
So where was this performance when it really mattered the previous two months?
That's Lions football in a nutshell. Where are they when it counts?
"The way things have been going for us the last few weeks," Dre' Bly said, "basically all year in our losses, we've had opportunities to win the game, and it seems like on one play we lose the game. ... This time, it worked in our favor."
It's been a crazy year, and an official's blind eye kept it from getting any crazier.
This time, the Detroit Lions were on the
winning side of a late play.
The Lions got a break when the officials ruled a 43-yard pass
from Chicago's Chad Hutchinson to rookie Bernard Berrian in the
end zone was not a touchdown, preserving a 19-13 victory over
the Bears in a battle of NFC North rivals.
Detroit has lost five games by seven points or less, including
last week's defeat against the Minnesota Vikings, when the Lions
botched a game-tying extra point attempt because of an errant
On first down from the Detroit 43 with 1:33 left, Hutchinson
connected on a long play with Berrian, but the official in the
end zone ruled the pass incomplete. Since it was after the
two-minute warning, the officials in the booth called for a
"After review, as the receiver was going to the ground on his
own, the ball moved when he hit the ground," referee Terry
McAulay said. "It is an incomplete pass as ruled on the field.
The other officials corrected him, because it was actually
second down. But the Lions' defense held after dodging the
"I caught the ball, got two feet in, hit the ground," Berrian
said. "That was it. Yeah, that was a touchdown. No doubt at
"When you cross the end zone, all you need is two feet in and
ball in your possession," Hutchinson said. "He had it. There's
nothing to say, 'Oh, the ball moved.' You don't have to hold
it still. That's not a call."
Even Lions cornerback Andre Goodman thought the Bears had
"I didn't see him bobble it," Goodman said. "I actually thought
he caught it fair. I thought he had it and had it the whole
Despite the win, the Lions weren't thrilled with the way they
finished the game.
"We know we should have finished that off," Lions quarterback
Joey Harrington said. "We just don't quite have that killer
Detroit rookie Kevin Jones rushed for 123 yards and a touchdown
on 25 carries, reaching 1,061 yards for the season, the most by
a rookie this year.
"I'm happy," Jones said. "It is a big achievement to do it as a
rookie. I am proud of myself for that."
A first-round pick from Virginia Tech, Jones became the first
Detroit rookie since Barry Sanders in 1989 to top 1,000 yards.
He has compiled 834 of those yards in his last seven contests.
Billy Sims was the only other Lion to run for more than 1,000
yards in his rookie season.
"They are two of the best ever," Jones said "So for me to be
mentioned with them as a rookie is a great honor."
The Lions (6-9), who ended their 24-game road losing streak by
beating the Bears on September 12, surpassed their victory total
from last year (5-11) under coach Steve Mariucci. But with
Atlanta's loss to New Orleans, Detroit was eliminated from
Harrington was 15-of-30 for 166 yards and Jason Hanson kicked
four field goals for Detroit, which won for just the second time
in nine games and will face the Tennessee Titans in the regular
The Lions are 16-2 when Hanson kicks four or more field goals in
Lions defensive coordinator Dick Jauron, who coached Chicago for
five years before he was fired at the end of last season, put
together a defensive scheme that held the Bears to 60 yards of
total offense in the first half.
It took Chicago's defense to get the team on the scoreboard in
the third quarter when linebacker Lance Briggs intercepted
Harrington and returned it 38 yards to cut the Lions' lead to
16-6. A two-point conversion attempt failed.
The Bears, who began Sunday with the league's worst offense,
scored an offensive touchdown for the first time in 11-plus
quarters when Hutchinson hit fullback Jason McKie with a
15-yard touchdown midway through the fourth quarter, making
the score 19-13.
Thomas Jones accounted for 64 of the 90 yards in the scoring
drive and finished with 109 yards rushing on 22 carries to top
the century mark for the third time this season.
Hutchinson, who had just 21 yards passing in the first half,
finished 20-of-31 for 114 yards for the Bears, who were also
eliminated from postseason contention.
"We shouldn't have let it come down to the fourth quarter on a
play like that to decide it," Hutchinson said. "We should have
played better. I will take that on my shoulders. There's a lot
of things that we can do where it doesn't end up in a situation
on a call like that."
Scott's Game Commentary:The honolulu blue and silver can thank their lucky stars for beating the Bears. There was no question that the Bears got a potential go ahead touchdown with less than two minutes left. But, the ref said the ball hit the ground. I saw the replay countless times and the ball never hit the ground. What hurts the most is this win could end up costing the Lions dearly in the draft. With the playoffs out of the equasion, wins do nothing but hurt the chance to get a player in the draft that can make a difference next season. Joey Harrington reverted back to his pathetic play. The Offense managed one touchdown the entire day and setup four field goals for Jason Hanson. How many times this year has the Offense failed to get a touchdown? Chicago got their first touchdown of the game thanks to a terrible decision by Harrington to throw the ball into coverage instead of taking a sack. That brought the Bears back into the game. The Defense played a good game, but was going up against by far the worst Offense in the NFL. The Bears are last in just about every offensive category. But, the Bears had a golden chance to take the lead late in the game and if it wasn't for some blind refs, they would have. All in all, it was a dull boring game against two teams that are waiting for the season to come to a conclusion.
Offense: --- C. The Offense scored one touchdown the entire game and for the sixth time in seven games, failed to get a touchdown in the 2nd half. That is just unacceptable for an NFL Offense! Harrington strugged again. Anytime he threw a decent pass it was dropped. What is up with Roy Williams dropping three balls? Sorry, but Roy Williams has come no where close to living up to all the hype when the Lions made him their first pick in the draft. He has had too many dropped balls this year and the scary thing is that was something he rarely did in Texas. On a positive note, Kevin Jones continues to shine and definitely has earned his spot as the future running back of the Lions. He became the third Lions rookie RB to rush for over 1,000 in a season, and he was injured for a good part of a month. It is great to finally see the running game etched in stone going into the offseason. If Rogers can come back next year and stay healthy, Williams lives up to expectations and Jones continues his success, the Offense should be in good shape assuming Harrington takes a page out of Drew Brees's notebook :-)
Defense: --- B. The Defense played great for most of the game, but fell apart late like they have done just about every game the past two months. After allowing Chicago to pull within six, the Bears got the ball and for all practical purposes tied the game, but the "D" can think the zebras for not overturning an obvious touchdown. The secondary needs some major work in the offseason and has been a disappointment thus far this year. Still, the front seven played well and should be even better next season.
Special Teams: --- B. Jason Hanson doesn't miss a beat as he nailed four field goals which helped the Lions win the game. Swinton had a few decent runbacks, but he is no Eddie Drummond.
Coaching: --- C. I thought the Mariucci called too many pass plays in the 4th quarter. You have the best rookie RB in the NFL! Use him instead of taking your chances with Joey.
Overall: --- D. The game never should have came down to the final two minutes the way the Lions dominated much of the game. That is what happens when you cannot get in the endzone and rely on field goals. The Lions may have won the game, but it was against one of the worst teams in the NFL. At 6-9, the Lions have one more game left to their fourth straight losing season under Matt Millen comes to a conclusion. Unfortunately, the have a great shot of winning next week given the Titans are an injury riddled 4-11 team. It hurts to think what if they could have won all those games they botched in the final few minutes the past two months. Even one more victory would have given them a great shot at the playoffs. But, a victory over the Titans will do nothing but cost them a good eight spots in next years draft. I will flat out say that I hope the Lions play a good game next week and come up short. With a loss, they should still get a top 15 pick.
HERE to go back to my LIONS page!!