Midway through the third quarter of Thursday's Detroit Lions game, Houston Texans running back Justin Forsett ran for a relatively short gain. He was clearly down, but he kept running anyway since there was no whistle. The officials decided to let the run play out just on the off chance that Forsett defied physics and wasn't down. Officials often rely on replay to correct their errors by doing something like this, and Forsett ended up scoring an 81-yard touchdown.
Since it was a scoring play, Forsett's run was automatically going to be reviewed. It would have taken officials only one replay to see their error, and the Lions would still be on top 24-14. This bad call would be a non-story and we could just forget about it as the game continues, right? Wrong. Jim Schwartz made a huge blunder and threw the challenge flag on the field. This is a penalty since scoring plays can't be challenged by coaches, and the unsportsmanlike penalty negated any possibility of a review.
To say the least, this was a disaster of a situation, and you can really divide up blame for what happened.
Jim Schwartz: Part of the blame on this goes to Schwartz. All he had to do was keep his challenge flag in his pocket and the play would have been reviewed and overturned. Schwartz said after the game that he overreacted and it was his fault. Had he not thrown the challenge flag, this play gets overturned. Period.
Officials: I get that officials like to let plays like this happen so they can fix their mistake during a review, but this wasn't even close. It was crystal clear that Forsett was down. Not only was his knee down, but his elbow hit the ground as well. You can't blow something this obvious:
NFL: Most deserving of blame for this is the NFL, which created this ridiculous rule in the first place. Here's the part of the rule that prevented a review from taking place:
There is no limit to the number of Referee Reviews that may be initiated by the Replay Official. He must initiate a review before the next legal snap or kick and cannot initiate a review of any ruling against a team that commits a foul that delays the next snap.
This rule should not exist in this form. Why should a coach throwing the challenge flag prevent the officials from getting the call right? Getting the call right is all that should really matter. Go ahead and penalize the team for its coach breaking the rules, but that shouldn't take away the chance for a review to happen and correct the officials' mistake. It especially shouldn't allow a completely obvious blown call like that stand. That is inexcusable.
The whole reason replay was brought into the NFL was to make sure bad calls like this don't affect the outcome of a game. Jim Schwartz certainly needs to be aware of the situation and not commit such a moronic penalty, and the officials should not get such an obvious call so wrong, but the NFL shouldn't have allowed a situation like this to exist. This needs to be changed going forward to allow replay to properly do its job.