Lions Suffer Controversial Call, Rule Flaw on TD

5:33 PM, Nov 22, 2012   |    comments
Justin Forsett ran for an 81-yard touchdown on this play despite clearly appearing down. (Photo: Paul Sancya, AP)
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Chris Strauss, USA TODAY Sports

A terrible call by officials combined with an emotional illegal challenge by Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz led to one of more egregious scoring plays in the history of NFL Thanksgiving games.

With 6:49 remaining in the third quarter of Thursday's Texans-Lions game, Houston running back Justin Forsett appeared to be down on a second and 10 running play. Forsett appeared to be tackled several yards into the run, as his elbow clearly touched the ground and seemed to remain there for at least a second. 

Forsett 81-Yard TD call

(Thanks to SB Nation for the gif)

The refs however, refused to blow a whistle to signal the play down. Forsett wisely recognized this, to the surprise of the Lions defense and some of his own teammates and took off 81 yards down the field for a touchdown.

Schwartz emotionally threw a challenge flag but since the scoring play was automatically reviewable, the challenge resulted in a 15-yard penalty and revoked the booth's opportunity to review it. The whole endeavor would prove costly as the Lions lost 34-31 to the Texans in overtime.

According to page 89 of the NFL rule book, there is a listing that details "Penalty: For initiating a challenge when a team is prohibited from doing so: Loss of 15 yards." That section also states that the official "cannot initiate a review of any ruling against a team that commits a foul that delays the next snap."

The NFL states that the purpose of the rule is to prevent a team from manipulating the clock by throwing a challenge flag.

Former NFL VP of Officiating Mike Pereira tweeted about the call, claiming "Just got back from the field. The rule penalizing Schwartz is good. The rule not allowing the play to be reviewed is horrible. Must change."

Pereira is absolutely correct. While Schwartz should have known the rule, not allowing the official to reverse a very obvious mistake makes a sham out of the entire operation.

Schwartz took immediate ownership after the play, gesturing a mea culpa after receiving the flag. It's a rule he took advantage of a year ago in the infamous "handshake" game against the 49ers, when San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh received the same penalty after challenging a touchdown by the Lions' Brandon Pettigrew.

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