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Mike McCarthy throws challenge flag on lost fumble, gets review anyway

Mike McCarthy

Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy walks on the field before an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)


We got to know the rule barring coaches from throwing the challenge flag to ask for replay review of calls that are automatically reviewed earlier this season and we got a twist on it this Sunday.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy threw his red challenge flag when the officials ruled that the Vikings recovered a fumble by wide receiver James Jones in their own end zone in the third quarter. Jones was lunging for the end zone and looked like he got the ball into the end zone before fumbling, but McCarthy’s move seemed to secure the Vikings the ball since plays are unreviewable by rule when coaches throw their flag.

That’s not what happened this week, though. Referee Mike Carey said that the replay official had already buzzed him to start the replay, so the play would go on to be reviewed while the Packers were penalized 15 yards for the improper use of the challenge flag. The penalty didn’t wind up hurting Green Bay too much since the ruling post-replay was a touchdown for Jones and the 15 yards came on the kickoff.

Any rule to wipe out replays that will get a call right is a bad rule, but this situation was no different from the Lions play on Thanksgiving that made this rule well-known around the league. Carey’s decision wound up with the right call, but it wasn’t one that Vikings coach Leslie Frazier met with good humor.

It’s surprising that McCarthy still didn’t know the rule given all the attention it got this year, but one of his players was a bit more on the ball. Wide receiver Jordy Nelson picked up the flag and put it in his pants because he knew McCarthy was jeopardizing the team’s chances of coming away with the touchdown. He and the coach were able to laugh about it thanks to Carey’s ruling.

The touchdown made the score 27-24 late in the third quarter of a game that’s shaping up to be a real thriller in the final moments.