All things looked good for a solid portion of Thanksgiving Day for the Lions. Then the bottom dropped out, and then even when it looked like they would get bailed out, their own coach did them in.
Lions coach Jim Schwartz threw a challenge flag when he didn’t need to, allowing the Houston Texans a huge break in their eventual 34-31 OT win over the Lions.
Shayne Graham booted true a 32-yard field goal with 2:21 left in overtime to give the Texans the win, but all it seemed anyone wanted to talk about the Schwartz’s screw up.
The screw up took place as Schwartz broke an NFL rule by attempting to challenge a scoring play. ”Obviously that’s a big break in the game for us,” Houston coach Gary Kubiak said. ”But I think you make your breaks when you work your tail off.”
Even after the screw up though, the Lions could have been bailed out when Jason Hanson got his shot to win the game in OT, but he pushed a 47-yard field goal and it hit the right upright.
The mistake came when Schwartz threw a challenge flag when Texans RB Justin Forsett scored on an 81-yard touchdown run in the third quarter after two Lions tackled him.
”Give him credit for continuing to play football,” Kubiak said. ”We talk about that all the time. You don’t stop, you play.”
Replays showed Forsett’s left knee and elbow hit the turf near midfield, and the automatic review that accompanies all scoring plays probably would have taken the TD off the board.
NFL rules say that throwing the challenge flag on a scoring play negates the review – and is an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to boot.
”It’s on me,” Schwartz could be seen saying to assistants and players on the sideline as he tapped his chest. ”It’s on me.”
Forsett also stated that he shouldn’t have been allowed to score. ”I know now that I was down, but I didn’t think I was during the play,” he said. ”I didn’t think my knee hit, and there was no whistle, so I kept going. I wasn’t giving the touchdown back.”
That score at the time pulled the Texans within three, and it wound up being seven of the biggest points of the game as it gave them a shot.
”I knew the rule – you can’t challenge on a turnover or a scoring play – but I was so mad that I overreacted,” said Schwartz, whose temper got the best of him during a postgame handshake last year with San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh. ”I had the flag in my hand before he even scored because he was obviously down.”
Kubiak had no sympathy.
”A rule’s a rule,” Kubiak said. ”I know one thing: You’ve got to keep your flag tucked in your pocket.”
Arian Foster ran for 102 yards and two scores, including a 1-yard run with 1:55 left in the fourth quarter to cap a 15-play, 97-yard drive that tied the game at 31.
The loss puts the Lions at 4-7, and their hopes of a second straight postseason seem ready to officially die.
They have lost three straight, and even if they win their last five, reaching the playoffs is no for sure.
And as if the Lions don’t have enough problems, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh could be in trouble with the league again after his left cleat connected with Schaub’s groin area in the first quarter.
”I really don’t have anything to say about that play or that person,” Texans QB Mark Schaub said.
Suh was on his chest, taken down by an offensive lineman, when he extended his left foot below Schaub’s belt.
It was that type of day, a frustrating one for the Lions and their coach.