During the game that ended with a near fight following the postgame handshake last year, Lions coach Jim Schwartz yelled at 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh to “know the rules” when Harbaugh tried to challenge a play that wasn’t reviewable.
That episode wasn’t on Schwartz’s mind Thursday when he threw a challenge flag after Texans running back Justin Forsett’s 81-yard touchdown run in the second half of what became a 34-31 overtime loss for the Lions. Forsett was clearly down before sprinting for a touchdown, but the officials missed it. Schwartz said after the game that he knows the rule forbidding challenges on touchdowns and turnovers, but threw the flag anyway because he was mad about that call and about a first half challenge that he felt the Lions should have won.
“Yeah, I know that rule,” Schwartz said, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. “You can’t challenge a turnover or a scoring play and I overreacted. I was so mad that they didn’t call him down ’cause he was obviously down on the field. I had the flag out of my pocket before he even scored the touchdown. That’s all my fault. I overreacted in that situation and I cost us a touchdown.”
By throwing the challenge flag, Schwartz guaranteed that the play wouldn’t be reviewed which let an obviously blown call by the officials stand. It’s a bad rule, but, as Schwartz said, it is one the coach knew and one he has to keep in mind during the heat of the action. It’s not hard to draw a line from that lack of discipline to the lack of discipline his team has shown on the field far too often in the last few years.
But it’s a bit harder to directly connect the dots from that call to the Lions’ loss. Detroit had chances to win the game after the call and they weren’t able to capitalize on them. Two sacks knocked them out of field goal range on two different drives, Jason Hanson missed a field goal in overtime and the defense allowed the Texans to tie the game with a touchdown at the end of a 15-play, 97 yard drive in the fourth quarter.
That doesn’t make the errors by the officials or Schwartz any less egregious, but the Lions can’t just blame the refs for costing them a game.