Lions One of NFL’s Most Penalized Teams in Super Bowl Era


Dan Campbell with a referee during the Lions’ 2021 win over Minnesota.

Everyone knows the Detroit Lions haven’t had the best run of luck with referees through the years, but finally, there’s a number which puts into focus just how miserable things have been for the team.

Fans likely have watched games and found themselves wondering if the Lions were uncharacteristically undisciplined when compared with their peers. If that was the case, the answer provided in a new graphic comes out to be a resounding “yes.”

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In the Super Bowl era, the Lions are one of the teams to collect the most penalties in the league. While not penalized the highest, the Lions are a top-five team with regards to flags, piling up an eye-popping 5,598 of them total.

Certainly, there’s a lot more to explain Detroit’s ineptitude on the football field than just penalties. Other teams on the list have made Super Bowls, collected playoff wins and had overall success in spite of the calls against them, so to use this singular stat as a crutch for all Detroit’s football problems would be beyond wrong.

Still, it’s tough to deny that the Lions have gotten the short end of the stick with the referees multiple times, too. One thing is for sure, better discipline will be just one of the many things needed to turn around football fortunes in the Motor City.

Dan Campbell Wants Lions to Make Their Own Luck

The Lions can’t control what the referees do, but they can control their attitude as well as their own play. After a controversial loss in 2021 where the play clock had apparently run out allowing the Baltimore Ravens a shot at a long field goal, Dan Campbell highlighted the mindset he wants out of his team. Speaking to the media on Friday, October 1 in an interview posted to, Campbell said he had discussions with the league and was told that play clock calls are subjective. As he said at the time, he is over talking about it as a whole.

“I didn’t turn it into the league, but I called. It is really a subjective call is what it came down to so I think they kind of split on it. You guys have heard the procedure on it. To be honest with you, I’m so over it now, ”Campbell said of the play, which went un-flagged.

As to why Campbell is so eager to move on, he pointed to his experience with the New Orleans Saints given some of the calls that went against them yet the amount of winning the team was able to do.

“I came from a place where we didn’t have some great calls go our way either and we won a lot of games, so I don’t use that as an excuse. Man, you make your own luck. We’ll find our luck, because we’ll earn it and make it happen, ”Campbell said.

Finding a way to reverse the mindset with the refs and have better discipline could be as simple as this for Detroit and their fans, at least Campbell hopes it can be. When 2022 comes, it will be interesting to see if this ends up becoming the case in Detroit.

Lions Recent Run Highlighted By Referee Misfortune

While the Lions have certainly earned their fair share of penalties with sloppy play, there is no doubting the fact that a good deal of the calls that have gone against the team have been pretty controversial through the years. There was a batted ball out of the back of the end zone on Monday Night Football in Seattle that should have been flagged. Detroit was also victimized by a picked up flag in a 2015 playoff game in Dallas for pass interference. Who could forget the phantom face mask penalty which aided an Aaron Rodgers miracle Hail Mary in 2016?

As Campbell says, it’s time for the Lions to step up and earn their luck any other way possible, even if folks think them to be cursed. The referees clearly aren’t going to have any sympathy for the franchise as they’ve proven in the past. Detroit simply has to show a tougher mindset as well as better discipline to get over the hump.

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