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Thursday, November 22, 2012
Like them or not, rules are rules

By Kevin Seifert


OK, this is turning into a busy little Thursday, huh?

The most recent outrage at Ford Field came after Houston Texans tailback Justin Forsett was awarded an 81-yard touchdown that couldn't be reviewed because of a bad mistake by Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz. Let me explain.

Forsett clearly had two elbows and one knee down after Lions safety Louis Delmas tackled him the Texans' 26-yard line. But officials did not blow a whistle, so Forsett popped up and sprinted to the end zone. Schwartz immediately threw a challenge flag, a violation of Rule 15, Section 9 of the NFL rule book. Touchdowns are automatically reviewed by the on-site Replay Official, and the rules call for a 15-yard penalty when a challenge is initiated "when a team is prohibited from doing so."

The bigger consequence, of course, is that the penalty nullified the automatic review, allowing a touchdown to stand that otherwise almost certainly would have been reversed. The rule says a replay official "cannot initiate a review of any ruling against a team that commits a foul that delays the next snap." Technically, Schwartz's mistake in challenging the play delayed the extra point.

There are two separate issues here. One is whether the implementation of rules was correct. It was, like it or not. The second is whether the rule is fair or makes sense. We can all debate that. I wouldn't be surprised to see it re-written in the offseason. But this is not the first time this issue has surfaced in the NFL this season, and it's Schwartz's responsibility to know the rules. The Lions can't blame anyone else for that mistake, nor should their fans.