League insiders say that Lions coach Jim Schwartz is a smart guy. (They also say that, if you don’t already know it, just ask him and he’ll tell you.)
But Schwartz, in hindsight, wasn’t as smart as advertised on Sunday in Chicago.
By all appearances, Johnny Knox’s 102-yard kickoff return to launch the second half included a DeSean Jackson-style throwing down of the ball before the ball crossed the end zone in the possession of Knox.
When Jackson, then a rookie wideout with the Eagles, threw down the ball before taking it into the end zone on a Monday night last year, the Cowboys challenged. The ruling? No touchdown.
By rule, however, the ball was dead when it struck the ground. So the Eagles got the ball at the Dallas one, and they thereafter scored a touchdown.
When someone first pointed out the Knox gaffe to us, which Schwartz didn’t challenge, we figured, “No big deal. The Bears would have had the ball at the one, and they likely would have scored a touchdown.”
But then we watch the video.
Knox appears to release the ball in the field of play. But since he didn’t throw it backward, like Jackson did, the immutable laws of physics (I don’t actually know what “immutable” means, but I’ve seen it used in this context, and I like the sound of it) resulted in the ball continuing to move forward, landing in the end zone.
And so the ruling, if the red flag had been thrown, would have been: (1) a fumble; and (2) a touchback for the Lions.
So not only would the Chicago touchdown have been wiped off the board, but the Lions would have had the football, first and ten, at their own 20.
Instead, the touchdown (with the extra point) pushed the score to 28-21. And the Bears gradually pulled away, winning 48-24.
There’s no way to know whether the outcome would have been different if Schwartz had thrown the flag, but if the video had demonstrated that Knox had fumbled, the Lions would have had plenty of momentum in a 21-21 game, and the Bears would have felt like the wind had instantly been sucked out of the Windy City.