Jim Schwartz's huge error costs Lions the game

Maybe it’s not as bad as the blown call by replacement officials in the end zone at the end of the Week 3 Green Bay-Seattle game.

But trying telling that to the Detroit Lions.

The regular refs screwed up this time and when Lions coach Jim Schwartz compounded their error by throwing a challenge flag when he’s not permitted to, he cost his team in a big way.

The Lions wound up losing 34-31 to the Houston Texans in overtime today at Ford Field and a disputed 81-yard touchdown run by Justin Forsett was the difference. Of course, had Jason Hanson not missed a field goal from 47 yards in overtime, the Lions still would have won.

The play in question happened midway through the third quarter when Forsett appeared to be stopped after a seven-yard run from his own 19. His left elbow clearly hits the ground and then his left knee. He’s touched down. But the whistle didn’t blow and Forsett popped up and motored to the end zone.

Schwartz threw his challenge flag and that did the Lions in. He received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty because reviews of scoring plays are automatic. When Schwartz was penalized, the review was cancelled by rule. It never happened.

"I know the rule," Schwartz said afterward, according to Chris McCosky of the Detroit News. "You can't challenge a turnover or a scoring play and I overreacted. He was obviously down on the field. I had the flag out of my pocket before he even scored the touchdown.

"I cost us a touchdown."

Yes, he did. And Schwartz has no one to blame but himself. His Lions are now 4-7 and for all purposes they’ve been wiped out of the NFC playoff race. It seems like a ridiculous rule but Schwartz’s error ought to prevent other coaches from making the same mistake.

Follow me on Twitter: @BradBiggs

Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

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