New NFL Rule Proves More Problematic Than Helpful

-Aubrey Wieber

Anyone who loosely follows sports probably heard about the now infamous Thanksgiving day play where Houston Texans running back Justin Forsett scored an 81-yard touchdown even though both his elbow and knee touched the turf seven yards past the line of scrimmage.

The seven refs on the field apparently didn’t see his knee touch the ground and never whistled the play dead, so Forsett jumped up and kept going while the Detroit Lions defense stood around assuming the play had ended.

This shouldn’t be an issue because in the off-season the NFL changed instant replay rules so that every scoring play and turnover would be automatically reviewed by the officials before play is resumed.

However, Lions coach Jim Schwartz got caught up in emotion and did what would have been the right thing to do last season and threw his challenge flag.

Another new rule this year is that if a coach tries to challenge a play that is already going to be reviewed, they lose the privilege of having it reviewed and are penalized 15 yards. This led to the touchdown being given to Forsett, which ended up being the longest rushing play in Texans franchise history.

Afterward, Schwartz and the officiating crew caught blame from fans, writers, and analysts. After all, Forsett was tackled and the play was over. The Texans got seven points that they didn’t earn, and the Lions lost 34-31 in overtime. Without that touchdown, the Lions would have won in regulation and the win would have been their first on Thanksgiving since 2003.

Schwartz got caught up in the moment and made a bad decision, but he, like everyone else watching the play, did not know the rule.

At least one out of the seven officials watching the play should have seen either the knee or elbow of Forsett down.

But the real blame is on the NFL. I understand the 15 yard penalty handed out when a coach undermines the replay rule already in place, but giving out an unearned and game-changing 81-yard touchdown is the most egregious call I have seen this year, including the Fail Mary, when a Seattle receiver got away with a pass interference penalty and was awarded a touchdown for a ball that Green Bay safety M.D. Jennings had caught. The call was so awful that it ended the lockout between the NFL and the officials.

What this all boils down to is the NFL placing more emphasis on their own pride than the integrity of the game. They knew that the play shouldn’t result in a touchdown, but they gave it out anyway.

At what point does logic take over? Who is happy with this result? Texan fans? Maybe, but it’s hard to be excited about a record-breaking run that shouldn’t have counted in the first place. The fact is the NFL handled this wrong. And it’s not the first time that the Lions have been on the wrong side of a controversial call. In that call, it was again the letter of the law that was followed while reviewing the play instead of logic.

Examples of this behavior expand beyond single plays. The league has said for years that they are changing the game so that it will be safer yet they insist on making teams play on three to four days rest in Thursday night games aired on the NFL Network rather than the six to seven days rest they would have when playing in a traditionally scheduled Sunday or Monday night game. The only reason the NFL insists on these games is to give relevance to their own network. Generally the match ups are poor and the players are visibly tired. They also, amid all of the injuries inflicted annually, continue to push for an 18-game season.

In September, ex-NFL great Steve Young took a shot at the league during an interview with usatoday.com’s Simon Samano.

“[…] Everything about the NFL now is inelastic for demand. There’s nothing (the league) can do to hurt the demand for the game. So, the bottom line is they don’t care.”

The league has been pissing down the fans’ backs and telling them it’s raining for far too long. The worst part about it is that they can. The NFL is wildly popular and no matter what they do, including locking out the players and then the officials in back-to-back years, ratings will be through the roof.

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Image from http://thesportsquotient.com

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