How will new rules changes impact the Lions?

Matthew Stafford is sacked by Everson Griffen of the Minnesota Vikings. (Getty Images)

When it comes to the NFL rule book, the Detroit Lions have always been unlucky. It’s as if the league has an extra page or two that they slip in each year to surprise the Lions with a new rule, or they ignore the rule book completely.

Or as fans would put it, the Lions have gotten screwed by the NFL several times.

Once, Calvin Johnson caught a game-winning touchdown against the Bears as time was expiring in the corner of the end zone. To everyone watching Johnson make the catch, it looked like a legit touchdown. Game over, Lions win. But, a few minutes later the referees explained that Johnson didn’t complete the play by making a “football move.” The catch was negated.

One time, a Lions receiver (Johnson again) caught a pass on the two-yard line and stretched out to the goal line to attempt a go-ahead TD. But a Seattle defender swatted the ball out of his hands, and into the end zone. In the ensuing scramble, the Seahawks batted the football out of the back of the end zone. By rule, that meant the Lions should have received the ball on the one-yard line. But of course, the referees made the wrong call, giving the Seahawks two points on a safety and the football.

In the 2015 Wild Card Game, the Lions built a 20-7 lead in the third quarter on the road against the Cowboys. After Dallas came back to take a 24-20 lead with just over two minutes to play, Matthew Stafford had Detroit driving down the field. On a fourth down play, Stafford’s pass fell incomplete at the feet of a receiver who was run over by a Dallas defender. A flag was thrown onto the field for pass interference. It appeared the Lions would move into Dallas territory with a chance to win the game. But after a few seconds of deliberation, the referees picked up the flag. No explanation was given. The Lions were screwed again.

Those three examples are painful for Detroit fans to swallow. And now that the NFL has made more changes to the rules, Lions’ fans can’t be blamed if they are worried. What new rule will stick it to us next?

The Roughing the Passer Rule

A rushing defender is prohibited from committing such intimidating and punishing acts as “stuffing” a passer into the ground or unnecessarily wrestling or driving him down after the passer has thrown the ball, even if the rusher makes his initial contact with the passer within the one-step limitation provided for in (a) above. When tackling a passer who is in a defenseless posture (e.g., during or just after throwing a pass), a defensive player must not unnecessarily or violently throw him down or land on top of him with all or most of the defender’s weight. Instead, the defensive player must strive to wrap up the passer with the defensive player’s arms and not land on the passer with all or most of his body weight.

We can call this the Aaron Rodgers rule. Last season, Rodgers was lost for the season in a game against the Vikings when a defender sacked him and landed on him, breaking his collarbone. After the league looked at that play and other hard hits on QBs they introduced this new rule at the owners’ meetings. It’s going to be controversial.

What constitutes “unnecessary” action under this rule? How can a defender control whether their body will land on the quarterback? What is “all or most of the defender’s weight”? After a pre-season game, one defender has called this new rule “confusing.” Fans will quickly realize that what they thought was a legal sack will be flagged as a personal foul.

The New Helmet and Head Contact Rule

Lowering the head to initiate contact with the helmet is a foul.

For years now, the NFL has been trying to limit head injuries (well, ahem…ever since they were forced to admit that concussions and brain injuries are prominent in the game). We applaud efforts to make pro football safer. But this rule has a lot of are for misinterpretation or unfairness.

Consider this play in a recent pre-season game:

We’re all for limiting helmet-to-helmet contact, and the use of the helmet as a weapon is dangerous and must stop, but plays like the one above shouldn’t be flagged. Otherwise the defense will have no chance to stop the offense. The game becomes a farce.

What do you think of the new rules changes for the 2018 season? Tell us in the comments section below.

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About Dan Holmes

The editor of Detroit Athletic Co. blog, is the author of Ty Cobb: A Biography. He previously worked for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, NY, and worked for Major League Baseball as a web producer. He contributed to Sock it to 'Em Tigers: The Incredible Story of the 1968 Detroit Tigers, and Deadball Stars of the American League. Follow him on Twitter at @thedanholmes or visit his personal blog at danholmes.com.