It's easy to blame the referees. In fact, it's an old bit.

For sure, the referees blew the call in the fourth quarter of the Lions' 24-20 Wild Card playoff loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday evening. To most watching, it was clear that Cowboys LB Anthony Hitchens committed pass interference against Lions TE Brandon Pettigrew with 8:18 to go in regulation.

No matter how many times you watch the replay, it seems obvious that Hitchens was guilty as first charged and it made no sense that the refs then picked up the flag, changing the ruling to no call.

But that blunder wasn't the reason the Lions lost. It's just a convenient excuse for fans that have now seen their team not win a playoff game since after the 1991 season.

The Lions lost because they didn't continue to play as well as they did in the first quarter when they took a 14-0 lead.

Here are some other reasons for their loss:

* They scored just three points in the second half. In fact, they had just two field goals after the first quarter.

* They had a terrible 10-yard punt by punter Sam Martin after the referee reversal of that pass interference call. It set up the Cowboys in great field position for their game-winning TD drive.

* The Lions had two bad defensive holding calls on the Cowboys' winning drive.

* Cowboys' QB Tony Romo completed 73% of his passes in the second half.

* Worse, Romo had what seemed like 10 seconds to throw the game-winning TD. There was no pressure on him when it mattered.

* Lions' QB Matthew Stafford fumbled twice during the final drive when the Lions had a chance to win at the end.

The bottom line remains that the Lions were in position to pull the upset on the road. The Lions had the Cowboys on their heels right out of the gate.

But once again, the Lions weren't able to finish the job, make the plays at the end to secure a win against a winning team.  

"Of course, we're very disappointed," Lions coach Jim Caldwell.

And so are many fans on this Monday. There will be tons of calls all day on sports-talk radio. Fans will vent their frustrations on the referees mostly because it's just easier.

It's harder to be honest with yourself about the team you love and live and die with.

We get it. The word "fan' comes from "fanatic" so often times fans don't want to acknowledge the mistakes by their team.

This is Lions 101.

But the facts remain that the Lions weren't able to beat good teams. Fans don't hear or think these numbers matter. But they do.

Including the playoffs, the Lions were 10-1 vs. non-playoff teams. They were 1-5 vs. playoff teams. Their one win came against the Packers at Ford Field early in the season.

In Stafford's six-year career, including the postseason, the Lions are 0-18 against winning teams on the road.

The Lions have lost eight straight playoff games, tying the Kansas City Chiefs for the most in NFL history.

The Lions haven't won a road playoff game since 1957.

The reason all these numbers have piled up have very little to do with referees making a bad call. Refs make bad calls constantly in the NFL, even with replay. This is not unique to the Lions.

The notion that the league has it out for the Lions and didn't want to see them advance is totally dumb.

It's just not true. In fact, the NFL is always bragging about its parity. You can bet the league would love to see the Lions finally get in the mix for a chance at a Super Bowl.

Yet, there were many saying on Twitter and sports-talk radio that the league would rather see Aaron Rodgers go against Romo than Stafford and Russell Wilson.

Total nonsense.

The Lions simply have to play better down the stretch, especially on the road. That's how you win big games.

If you're looking for help from the referees to be able to win, you will be in for a rude awakening.

Again, the picking up of the flag was terrible. It hurt the Lions yet it didn't mean that the Lions would have automatically won. Fans are kidding themselves if they honestly believe that.

The Lions lost the game.

Period.