Justin Bethel makes key play, but not without some controversy and confusion

Nov 17, 2014, 3:05 AM | Updated: 3:05 am
Follow @theAdamGreen...

GLENDALE, Ariz. — It may not be the play that saved the game, but it definitely made sure the game didn’t turn.

The Cardinals, who struggled on offense for most of the afternoon, drove all the way to the Detroit 36 before stalling. Leading 14-6, the decision was made to bring Drew Butler in for the punt, hoping to pin the Lions near their goal line. The strategy looked like it may have worked, as Justin Bethel was able to grab the ball just before it reached the end zone.

Sensing he was falling into the end zone, Bethel tossed it back into the field of play, where Lions returner Jeremy Ross scooped it up and returned it to the Arizona 46.

Instead of pinning the Lions inside their own one, the Lions — who had struggled all afternoon to move the ball against a very stout Cardinals defense — were about to set up shop in Arizona territory.

Then Cardinals coach Bruce Arians threw his red challenge flag, arguing that Bethel had gained control of the ball, thus rendering the play dead at that point.

Bethel said Arians asked him if he had possession of the ball, and he was sure that he did.

The call on the field was reversed, and while the Lions were able to escape, they got no further than the Arizona 47.

“Obviously, big play there in the kicking game that could’ve went either way, but I knew Justin had possession and clarified that we could challenge that,” Arians said after his team held on for a 14-6 victory, a win that improved their record to 9-1.

Seems simple, right?

Bethel, who has made a name for himself as an outstanding special teams performer, said he knew he had possession of the ball but thought maybe his foot was touching the goal line. That would have given the Lions the ball at the 20, which, while not ideal, is still better than what the return would have led to.

“So I was like, ‘No, I was in the end zone, it’s a touch back, it’s a touch back, bring it back,'” he said. “And then I say, ‘Darn my good feet.'”

It ended up being an outstanding play by the Pro Bowler, who said he threw the ball back into the field of play because he felt himself falling and saw red jerseys in front of him. But when he turned around, all he could see was people chasing after Ross.

At that point, he just wanted the ball to be brought back, either to the one or the 20. Ultimately, things couldn’t have turned out much better.

“If they called it then that’s what they called it,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. “It is what it is. Those guys make the final decision. They said he possessed the ball, and that was the ruling. It doesn’t matter what I think. Personal views don’t come into this at all.”

Life Changer Loans

Arizona Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Trace McSorley looks for a receiver during the team's NFL football pr...
Kellan Olson

Trace McSorley throws TD in 1st preseason drive, Cardinals beat Bengals

The Arizona Cardinals' first series of the preseason was a positive one and they never looked back from there to beat the Cincinnati Bengals.
20 hours ago
Greg Dortch #83 of the Arizona Cardinals makes a catch while being tackled by Bookie Radley-Hiles #...
Kellan Olson

Greg Dortch keeps making plays for Cardinals with great grab, long return

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Greg Dortch has made big catches all camp long and he kept it going in his first preseason game this year.
20 hours ago
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Andre Baccellia (82) pulls in a pass for a touchdown in front of Ci...
Kellan Olson

Arizona Cardinals WR Andre Baccellia ruled out due to ankle injury

Arizona Cardinals WR Andre Baccellia will not return in Thursday's preseason opener against the Cincinnati Bengals due to an ankle injury.
20 hours ago
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray takes stands on the sidelines during the NFL football te...
Tyler Drake

Kyler Murray expected to call plays during 4th quarter of Cardinals-Bengals

Kliff Kingsbury is expected to hand over play-calling duties to quarterback Kyler Murray in the fourth quarter of Cardinals-Bengals.
20 hours ago
(Twitter photo/@Cardschatter)...
Arizona Sports

James Conner supports DeAndre Hopkins with ‘FREE DHOP’ shirt

James Conner rolled into Paycor Stadium with a "FREE DHOP" shirt, supporting teammate and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins.
20 hours ago
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Rondale Moore (4) runs with the ball after making a catch as he tak...
Arizona Sports

PFF’s Sam Monson lends 3 bold, positive Cardinals predictions

Not everyone is caught up in the 2021 Cardinals' tumble in the second half, nor a newsworthy offseason for mostly the wrong reasons.
20 hours ago
Justin Bethel makes key play, but not without some controversy and confusion