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Texans vs. Lions: How NFL Rule Book Cost Detroit Yet Again

Justin Forsett rushed for 87 yards and a touchdown on Thanksgiving.
Justin Forsett rushed for 87 yards and a touchdown on Thanksgiving.Mike Carter-US PRESSWIRE
Jamal CollierAnalyst IIINovember 22, 2012

Regardless of which NFL team holds your NFL allegiance, your initial reaction to the Thanksgiving touchdown run by Houston Texans running back Justin Forsett against the Detroit Lions likely fell somewhere between perplexed and furious.

The box score will tell you that Forsett had an 81-yard touchdown sprint for the overwhelming majority of his 87 total rushing yards on the afternoon, but witnesses’ eyes tell a different story. Forsett was down by contact after six or seven yards gained before getting up and running to the end zone.

There were no whistles, meaning that the ruling on the field was a touchdown. When Lions coach Jim Schwartz threw a challenge flag on the play, he cost his team the chance to have the play reviewed by the booth.

On top of that, Detroit was penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct simply because touchdowns—like turnovers—are automatically reviewed.  

The officials made the correct call, but the rule seems to counteract the competitive balance of the game. ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio wrote on Thanksgiving that it needs to go. ESPN’s Mike Tirico agrees:

On technicality ruling was proper. Schwartz will admit he was wrong. In reality system is incredibly flawed. That was embarrassing for NFL

MikeTirico (@miketirico) November 22, 2012

Their two opinions match that of the mainstream NFL fan, who may not know all of the rules but knows a rule that he or she doesn’t like.

Detroit fans are all too familiar with this scenario.

Unfortunately, the “Calvin Johnson Rule” was not changed in the following offseason. The same type of reaction followed Johnson’s non-TD catch that any layperson watching that particular Chicago Bears-Lions matchup would deem a touchdown.

Expecting an offseason rule change to prevent future incidents resembling the Forsett Thanksgiving touchdown is likely a fruitless ambition. Coaches will have to adjust, and Schwartz acknowledged that he made a mistake by throwing the challenge flag.

The only solace Lions fans have with this call is that it was, at worst, an indirect effect on the outcome of the game. Johnson’s touchdown that was called back in Week 1 of 2010 was a flat-out, game-deciding call.

It happened with less than a minute to go in the game, and Johnson’s score would have put the Lions up 20-19 pending the extra point. Detroit lost that game 19-14.

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