The Detroit Lions haven’t given fans much to talk about over Thanksgiving dinner over the last decade.
The Lions are 1-9 over the last 10 years on Turkey Day, losing nine in a row including the most recent letdown against the Houston Texans.
The Lions might not have won the game but still did manage to provide some dinner-table conversation starters to families gathered around a holiday feast.
The game featured one of 2012’s most controversial plays.
Midway through the third quarter, with the Lions up 21-14, the Texans faced a second and 10. They handed the ball off to running back Justin Forsett, who burst through the line of scrimmage for about seven yards, and he was met head on by Lions’ safety Louis Delmas. Forsett dropped to the ground after the hit, with his forearm and knee making clear contact. However, an official’s whistle did not sound and Forsett quickly sprung to his feet and scampered another 70 yards to the end zone.
“It’s a blown call, bad call,” said wide receiver Calvin Johnson. “I’m not saying anything against the referees; I ain’t trying to get fined or anything.”
Controversy happens in the NFL. With the speed of the game combined with crowded areas by groups of players that may obstruct an official’s view it is understandable calls will be missed. That is the justification for the NFL’s replay system, a system the league has gradually made more prominent over time.
It used to be that head coaches could initiate challenges but only had two opportunities per contest. That was eventually amended to allow coaches a third challenge if they call for two and are correct both times. Last year, the league made another amendment that automatically had all scoring plays reviewed and this season that has been extended to include turnovers as well.
However, there is one stipulation to these amendments that call for automatic reviews, should the coach throw their challenge flag before an official review is called for, the review doesn’t happen.
Lions head coach Jim Schwartz did just that; he threw the challenge flag and the review was prevented.
“I guess that’s a rule,” said quarterback Matthew Stafford, who was still trying to grasp what had happened. “(Schwartz) knew it and he talked to us on the field about it right after… it’s a tough one to swallow, give up an 80-yard touchdown run on a guy that went down.”
Schwartz immediately knew he had faulted and could be seen on the sideline signaling to the team that he was responsible for the mistake.
“I know that we can’t challenge a turnover or a scoring play and I overreacted,” said Schwartz. “I was so mad that they didn’t call him down – because he was obviously down on the field. I had the flag out of my pocket before he even scored the touchdown and that’s all my fault. I overreacted in that situation and I cost us a touchdown.”
Schwartz’s frustration may have been further propelled by an unsuccessful challenge earlier in the game.
In the first quarter, it appeared that a Houston player had touched the ball during a punt, which would have resulted in a live ball. The Lions had a clear recovery but the ruling on the field was that no Texan made contact with the ball and Houston was allowed to maintain possession.
“I was still smarting over the first challenge that wasn’t overturned,” said Schwartz. “I thought it was pretty obvious that the ball hit their guy and we didn’t get that ball and we seemed to be behind a lot of those calls today.”
Schwartz was quick to take ownership of his mistake but perhaps he shouldn’t have been faced with the situation in the first place.
“Either way, that was an awful call,” said Johnson. “Put it like that, point blank.”