Pigskin tradition

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By Brandon Mattingly

I hope everyone had a healthy serving of family, food and football over the last several days, even if you feel like you’ve seen too much of all three for a while.

As a supporter of the Dallas Cowboys -- yes, still -- I’ve seen plenty of crazy, memorable moments during the NFL’s Thanksgiving games. From Leon Lett’s bonehead fumble in 1993 to the coin toss fiasco at the start of overtime between Detroit and Pittsburgh in 1998, Thanksgiving Day has a tendancy to summon the did-that-just-happen moments.
This year’s trio of games certainly kept that tradition going by offering a nail-biter, a blowout turned near-comeback and a nightcap that served as three hours of comedy (unless you’re a Jets fan, in which case, I’m sorry, but you’re actually worse off right now than those of us waiting for Dallas to ever put it together).

Robert Griffin III’s 311-yard, four-touchdown performance and Mark Sanchez allowing the Patriots to return a fumble for a touchdown after he dropped the ball running into his own lineman’s keister will be talked about for a while. However, one moment sticks out even more as a token Thanksgiving Day moment, and that was from the Houston-Detroit game, when the Texans were awarded an 81-yard touchdown run that, uh, never happened.

I give running back Justin Forsett credit, although he was down by contact after a few yards, he knew it was close enough that the officials might let it slide and rely on a challenge, and he was right. Problem is, Lions’ Head Coach Jim Schwartz forgot about the dumbest rule in the NFL rulebook, but he was about to teach us all about it.

When he threw a challenge flag on the play that would have been automatically reviewed, it cost his team a 15-yard penalty and nullified any replay, so the touchdown stood. Wait, what?
That’s right, the Lions were docked seven points in a game they led by 10 -- and would eventually go on to lose in overtime -- essentially because Schwartz slowed the game down by roughly 10 seconds.

Needless to say, the NFL was quick to announce on Friday that they’ll review their challenge rules, because that’s what happens when something happens on national TV that makes league officials stop and say, “Oh, we probably should have thought of that.”

I’m definitely not complaining about what happened, because it was pure entertainment from my non-Lions fanhood perspective, but it was just another one of those unique Thanksgiving football moments where everyone watching at home is left stunned by what they just saw.
We’ve seen it happen time and time again, and I’m sure we’ll see it again.

The weird and nonsensical just seems to find a way to happen when the whole country is watching on Turkey Day. It’s part of what makes those annual Thanksgiving Day games so entertaining and just a small piece of what makes the holiday season special.