Anderson, also co-chairman of the competition committee that suggests rules changes to the owners, said a change could come this year. The NFL traditionally resists changing rules during a season.
“We will certainly discuss the rule with the competition committee members, as we do all situations involving unique and unusual circumstances, and determine if we feel a change should be recommended to ownership,” Anderson said in a statement.
“Not being able to review a play in this situation may be too harsh, and an unintended consequence of trying to prevent coaches from throwing their challenge flag for strategic purposes in situations that are not subject to a coaches’ challenge.”
Anderson added the NFL is not bound by past events when a rule is proved to have loopholes, and that a 15-yard penalty for throwing the challenge flag on a play that is automatically reviewed might be enough. For now, throwing the challenge flag also eliminates the use of replay. All scoring plays otherwise are reviewed.
Justin Forsett’s third-quarter 81-yard run in the Texans’ 34-31 overtime victory at Detroit on Thursday initially was ruled a touchdown, although replays clearly showed his knee and elbow touched the turf when he was hit by Lions defenders. Detroit coach Jim Schwartz challenged, resulting in a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and the negated use of video replay.
“I overreacted,” Schwartz acknowledged. “And I cost us.”
A similar incident last week when head coach Mike Smith attempted to challenge a fumble during Atlanta’s win over Arizona.
In 2011, instant replay rules were changed to have the replay official initiate a review of all scoring plays. The rule stated that a team is prevented from challenging a play if that team commits a foul that prevents the next snap, or if a challenge flag is thrown when an automatic review would take place. A 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty is assessed as well as the elimination of the replay review for the play.
But, as Anderson noted, getting the calls right is paramount and that the league may have overlooked the scenario that occurred in Detroit.
The rule was adopted in part because of a situation in a Redskins-Giants game in December 2010.
Officials on the field ruled a fumble recovered by the Giants, and the ball was made ready for play. But Washington veteran linebacker London Fletcher kicked the ball and was called for delay of game. While the penalty was being enforced, Washington challenged the ruling of a fumble.
The competition committee felt that a team could benefit from committing a penalty in that situation, giving it more time to challenge a play. It was decided that the new rule would also apply when a team throws the challenge flag on a play that can’t be challenged — including scoring plays, turnovers, when the team is out of challenges or timeouts, and inside the final two minutes of a half or game, or in overtime.