Lions coach Jim Schwartz and the NFL’s replay system go together about as well as oil and water.
Last Thanksgiving, Schwartz threw a challenge flag when he shouldn’t have and wound up getting a penalty while wiping out the possibility of a challenge due to a rule that has since been changed. In Sunday’s loss to the Bengals, Schwartz says he was told by officials he couldn’t challenge a play that he was actually allowed to challenge.
It came in the second quarter when Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap blocked a David Akers field goal and Bengals safety Reggie Nelson recovered. Nelson returned the ball 16 yards and then appeared to lateral it forward to Dunlap, who then appeared to bat it in the direction of cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick. Kirkpatrick returned the ball nine more yards to the Lions’ 40-yard line before being tackled. Schwartz wanted to challenge, but said after the game that the officials told him there was nothing to challenge.
“They had forwarded the ball,” Schwartz said, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. “I thought it was a forward lateral, but the officials told me that didn’t matter on a blocked kick so decided not to challenge it. They said that there’s no such thing as a forward fumble on a blocked kick. That’s what I was told.”
Former NFL vice president of officiating Mike Pereira, who now works for FOX Sports, said on Twitter during the game that the play was reviewable and that it looked like an illegal forward pass to him. The NFL made no judgment on the lateral, but said in a statement that the play was reviewable under Rule 15, Section 9, Article 4(d) which applies to any player not down by contact regardless of whether or not there was a blocked kick during the play.
There’s not much Schwartz can do at this point beyond complain to the league office and silently pine for a day when everyone involved in the game actually knows the rules about the review process.