Prior to Monday night's game against the Packers, his 51st in the NFL, Trey Flowers had never been flagged for illegal hands to the face. That included three games during his Patriots career for which Jeff Rice was the umpire.
Rice was the umpire again Monday night, and didn't see a problem with Flowers' technique until he was approached by Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari in the fourth quarter. Bakhtiari told Packers News that he asked Rice to watch where Flowers was placing his hands.
“I went over to the ref. I said, ‘Hey, are we not calling hands to the face again? Because the past three plays, I’ve been staring at the sky.’ And he’s like, you know, he’s not looking at my side, but I at least made him aware.”
Shortly thereafter, Rice flagged Flowers twice for hands to the face, two questionable penalties that helped the Packers steal the game and sent the NFL world into an uproar. The league admitted on Tuesday that the second penalty, which led to Green Bay's game winning field goal as time expired, shouldn't have been called.
Flowers said he used the same technique on Bakhtiari that he has throughout his career, and that he adjusted his hands lower on Bakhtiari's collar after the first flag. But the way in which Bakhtiari's head was titled back was enough for Rice to call the penalty again.
“I can definitely tell you,” Bakhtiari said, “for a good portion of the game, I was getting my throat punched in, and I was looking up at the sky a fair amount. If you think about it, if your hand is in my throat, you’re probably hitting my facemask, which is pushing my head up in the sky.”
Flowers was at a loss after the game.
"I didn’t think hands to the chest was a penalty," he said. "I thought hands to the face, but I had him right here on the chest."
Asked if he thought the Lions had a right to question the call, Bakhtiari wouldn't say.
“They’re going to go both ways. You’re going to get calls for you, and you’re going to get calls against you. Fortunately, those two calls went in our favor, and from my vantage point, I’m just looking up at the sky, he said. "It can go both ways. That’s the way I’m going to look at it. That’s what I’m going to say.”
NFL vice president of operations Troy Vincent reached out to both Lions owner Martha Ford and general manager Bob Quinn on Tuesday, according to Ian Rapoport, in the wake of the league's mistake. Lions president Rod Rood said Wednesday he appreciated the gesture.
“We’re going to continue to work with them to make sure officiating isn’t a problem going forward," Wood said. "Hopefully it’ll improve as the season goes on.”