DETROIT – Jim Schwartz threw a challenge flag when he didn’t need to and the Houston Texans made him regret it.
Shayne Graham’s 32-yard field goal with 2:21 left in overtime lifted Houston to a 34-31 win over the Detroit Lions on Thursday after their coach 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.”
Detroit kicker Jason Hanson had a chance to get Schwartz off the hook, but his 47-yard field goal attempt on the fifth possession of the extra period hit the right upright.
Lions defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch did, too, on the previous possession when he couldn’t intercept a pass Matt Schaub threw directly at him deep in Houston territory.
Detroit might’ve won in regulation if its coach didn’t make a costly mistake.
Schwartz threw a challenge flag when Houston’s 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. But NFL rules say that throwing the challenge flag on a scoring play negates the review – and is an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to boot.
Forsett even acknowledged he shouldn’t have 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 pulled Houston within three points.
“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. “I had the flag in my hand before he even scored because he was obviously down.”
“A rule’s a rule,” Kubiak said. Arian Foster ran for 102 yards and two scores for Houston, 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.
Stafford was 31 of 61 for 441 yards with two TDs – tiebreaking scores to Calvin Johnson and Mike Thomas in the second quarter.
Mikel Leshoure ran for 32 yards on 12 carries and gave the Lions their first TD on an opening possession.
Detroit extended the longest losing streak in its annual showcase to nine after losing their previous eight games on the holiday by an averaging of three-plus touchdowns.