His left elbow was down, but Justin Forsett's TD run stood because of Lions coach Jim Schwartz's incorrect challenge. (Paul Sancya/AP)
By Tom Mantzouranis
The crew of replacement refs responsible for the most controversial moment of the 2012 season -- Golden Tate's "game-winning" "touchdown catch" against the Packers -- can now feel a little better about themselves.
In the third quarter of the Lions-Texans Thanksgiving game, Texans back Justin Forsett ran up the gut for eight yards before being tackled by Lions defenders.
)One problem, though: The refs didn't see Forsett's knee and elbow clearly hit the ground, and didn't blow the play dead. Recognizing this, Forsett got up and kept running for an 81-yard touchdown ([si_launchNFLPopup video='c89f0f2373b9428385302fc8444b5cdc']watch the run[/si_launchNFLPopup]). But the play, as all scoring plays are, would be automatically reviewed and clearly reversed, right?
One problem, though: Jim Schwartz threw a challenge flag on the play. Due to a rule that could at best be described as ridiculous, and at worst mind-bogglingly non-sensical, any time a coach challenges a play that would be automatically reviewed, not only is the team flagged 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct, but the automatic review is negated.
The result? Forsett's touchdown was allowed to stand, narrowing the Lions' lead at the time to 24-21 and sending the Detroit crowd into a furious frenzy.
You can fault Schwartz for not knowing the rule (especially after last week, when Mike Smith made the same mistake and suffered the same fate in the Falcons-Cardinals game). Schwartz himself could be seen mouthing "That's on me" in the call's aftermath. (Defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham directed his anger elsewhere.)
But you should fault the refs even more. This wasn't one of those "sometimes you miss things when the game moves so fast" situations; an entire crew missed something that anyone with semi-functioning vision and a basic knowledge of football recognized immediately.
But, really, most of the blame lies with the NFL. A bad call should be reviewable, no matter what. For the league to punish a team despite the gross negligence of the league's own employees, those charged with upholding the integrity of the game, is absurd. And all because Jim Schwartz had the gall to -- gasp! -- throw a flag? Can't you just tell him to pick it up?
Obviously, that's not possible. Instead, let's stubbornly refuse to correct an obvious mistake, all in the name of some arcane edict. Because that's where the NFL's priority lies -- enforcing its rules, whether they make sense or not, sometimes at the cost of legitimacy.
And, now, it's Twitter's turn: