O'Hara's Burning Questions: Challenge flag backfire and other issues in 34-31 loss to Texans

Posted Nov 22, 2012

A challenge flag that backfired on the Lions, controversy over a Suh kick, overtime strategy – and other issues in the Lions’ 34-31 overtime loss to the Texans on Thanksgiving Day.

Burning questions –a challenge flag that backfired on the Lions, controversy over a Suh kick, overtime strategy – and other issues in the Lions’ 34-31 overtime loss to the Texans on Thanksgiving Day:

Q. Challenge rule: The Texans were awarded a touchdown on a run by Justin Forsett in the third quarter that should have been a six-yard gain. It stood up as an 81-yard TD run because of a rule involving challenges of scoring plays.

Is that a fair rule?

A. For the second time in three years, the Lions were involved in a rule that seems grossly unfair, and the one on Forsett’s run is worse than the first.

On opening day of 2010, Calvin Johnson had a catch in the end zone overturned because of a rule about completing the process of the catch. Johnson’s catch would have beaten the Bears. It still is a bad rule, but it has some merit.

The rule on Forsett’s run has no merit. It is counter to the intent of instant replay – getting the right calls. And that didn’t happen.

What happened on Forsett’s run, and what is the rule: On second down at Houston’s 19, he was hit running through the left side of the Lions’ defense and landed on his left knee and elbow at the 25. He was down for a six-yard gain – except the officials didn’t notice. There was no whistle, and Forsett got up and ran into the end zone for a touchdown.

Coach Jim Schwartz threw the challenge flag immediately, and that’s what gave Houston the touchdown. All scoring plays and turnovers are subject to automatic review, but there is a rule prohibiting throwing the challenge flag on those plays.

The penalty Forsett’s run voided the touchdown – thus, awarding Houston the score – plus a 15-yard penalty on the ensuing kickoff.

Q. Does the rule make any sense?

A. No sense at all. There is no delay of game involved. All the referee has to do is pick up the red flag on his way to watch the replay. Schwartz was asked if he thinks it’s a dumb rule.

“That’s what the rule is,” he said. “I mean, the idea with replay is to get the call on the field right. Obviously that didn’t happen.”

Q. Suh kick: In the first half, the tip of Suh’s left foot made contact with the crotch of Texans’ kicker Matt Schaub. On the play. Suh was rushing Schaub and had rolled over Texans lineman Derek Newon. As Suh landed face first on the turf, his left leg extended and made contact with  Schaub, who went down immediately.

The CBS crew doing the game made a big deal about the play, claiming that Suh intentionally kicked Schaub. Did it look intentional?

A. There appeared to be a kicking motion by Suh, but it’s hard to say that he intentionally meant to kick Schaub. Most of the controversy stems from Suh’s reputation, especially the incident on Thanksgiving  Day a year ago, when he stomped on Packers lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith.

Anyone who thinks Suh tried to kick Schaub probably figures that this year he was going for two.

Q. Schaub’s reaction: What did Matt Schaub say about the play?

A. He would not discuss it, tell a Houston reporter: “I’ve got no comment on that play or that player.”

Sounds like he’s not a big fan of Suh’s.

Q. Young missing: Titus Young was made inactive for the game because of his behavior in the last game. Did his absence have any impact on the Lions’ offense?

A. He wasn’t missed, that’s for sure. There didn’t seem to be any of the miscommunication that was evident in the last game against Green Bay.

Ryan Broyles, who started in Young’s place, had six catches for 126 yards, but he also had a drop on a third-down play in overtime that would have given the Lions possession at Houston’s 28.

Matthew Stafford threw for 441 yards, but he didn’t have a high completion rate – 31-of-61.

Q. Overtime strategy: After Chris Houston’s interception in overtime, the Lions got to Houston’s 28 with a first down. The Lions ran Joique Bell twice, for a two-yard gain and a three-yard loss, before sending Jason Hanson out to try a field goal to win the game.

Were the Lions too conservative there?

A. Bell had broken two long runs in the fourth quarter, but this was the time to throw the ball. Stafford already had thrown for 441 yards. There were a few more left in his arm.