Strange rule leads to bizarre call
In Dallas for the Redskins-Cowboys game on FOX, I could hear the screams all the way from Detroit to Atlanta.
Twice in the last four days, two coaches have been victimized by a bad rule that must be addressed and changed in the offseason. Just this past Sunday, Atlanta coach Mike Smith was penalized for trying to challenge a turnover against Arizona prior to the replay official initiating a review.
Lightning struck again Thursday in the Houston-Detroit game, a game the Texans won in overtime 34-31. A huge play in the third quarter contributed greatly to their victory. Here was the situation:
Houston had the ball, second-and-10 from the Houston 19-yard line with 6:50 left in the quarter. Detroit led 24-14.
Houston running back Justin Forsett carried the ball 81 yards for a touchdown. However, on the play Forsett's knee clearly touched the ground only seven yards after being hit by Detroit's Erik Coleman and Louis Delmas. Detroit coach Jim Schwartz was penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct for trying to challenge the ruling. As was the case with Smith, both coaches threw the challenge flag before the replay official initiated a review.
By rule, since the challenge flag came first, both plays could not be reviewed. Had the replay official buzzed the referee to initiate the review before the challenge flag was thrown, the 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct would have remained, however, the play would have been reviewed. And in the case of the Forsett touchdown, it would have been reversed.
Let's address the first aspect of this: how did the officials miss this? Forsett was obviously down. I have to admit that this was a concern that the NFL had when it moved the umpire into the offensive backfield. Had he been in his old position (5-7 yards behind the line on the defensive side of the ball), he would have had a perfect look. The closest official on this play was the line judge (approximately 70 feet away) and Forsett's back was to him.
Knowing this, the league was still comfortable making the change because the league knew replay could correct errors that occurred in this area, whether it was a fumble, a runner being down or a trapped pass.
That's why this rule must be changed. The current rule is counter intuitive to the reason replay was put in and it penalizes a coach twice. It costs a coach a 15-yard penalty and then disallows a review, where a ruling on the field could have been changed.
It's even more nonsensical that the play could be reviewed if the replay official had initiated the review before the challenge flag was thrown.
For all of you devious people who have asked the question, why not throw the challenge flag to prevent a call from being reviewed if you think it could hurt your team? It doesn't work that way. The replay official is still allowed to review the play if the ruling would benefit the other team.
But having this happen twice in four days? It's a simple rule change. Penalize the coach 15 yards, when he's not entitled to throw the flag, but review the play regardless of when he throws it.
After all, replay is all about getting it right.
Two other plays from the Lions-Texans game I want to discuss both involved controversial Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.
The situation: Houston had the ball, first-and-10 from the Houston 26-yard line with 6:49 left in the first quarter. Detroit led 7-0.
The play: Houston quarterback Matt Schaub attempted a pass to Owen Daniels that was incomplete. On the play, Detroit's Ndamukong Suh was being blocked by Houston's Derek Newton. As Suh went to the ground near where Schaub was standing, his left leg hit Schaub in the crotch. There was no penalty called on the play.
The situation: Houston had the ball, second-and-12 from the Detroit 14-yard line with 2:56 left in the second quarter. Detroit led 14-7
The play: Schaub completed a five-yard pass to Kevin Walter. On the play Suh had a hold of Schaub's jersey up by his chest and pulled him to the ground. Schaub's legs buckled and his right ankle nearly twisted backward on the play. No foul was called on the play.
What is it with Thanksgiving and this guy? A year ago to the day, in a Lions loss to the Packers, Suh got into trouble for pushing Green Bay's Evan Dietrich-Smith head to the turf and then stomping on his arm. Suh was suspended for two games.
I want to be quick to point out that Suh wasn't flagged for either one of those plays Thursday, but I know the league is going to take a look at both plays.
With Suh being suspended in the past, the league has put itself in a box. Since they consider history when making a decision about potential discipline, they would have to consider another suspension or at least a substantial fine.
My guess is that they'll deem the foot to the crotch to be inadvertent and the pull down to be legal.
As for the second game, it didn't start out too well, but the Dallas-Washington game got very interesting at the end. Dallas rallied from a 28-3 halftime deficit to make a game of it before falling 38-31.
The situation: Dallas had the ball, going for a 2-point conversation from the Washington 2-yard line with 10:01 left in the fourth quarter. Washington led 35-19.
The play: Dallas quarterback Tony Romo ran a quarterback sneak and dove for the goal line and converted to cut the Redskins lead to 35-21. After a review, the play was upheld.
My take: I think Romo's left knee was down before the ball crossed the plane of the goal line. I also think Romo was touched by the defense. The shot down the line shows that the ball had not crossed before Romo's knee had hit the ground. If you piece the two shots together, I would have reversed it.