One of the bigger storylines among Monday morning quarterbacks was Chicago Bears coach John Fox’s decision to challenge a play that not only reversed a catch-and-run to the 1-yard line, but also gave possession to the Green Bay Packers in an eventual 23-16 loss Sunday.
The line for pulling the red flag is a delicate one, and Ravens coach John Harbaugh said the thought process for challenging a play involves a plethora of factors.
“The biggest thing is getting a look at it and knowing that you have the look that will overturn it. That’s the key,” he said during his weekly conference Monday. “Sometimes you’re able to get that, and sometimes you’re not. On the road, it’s way more difficult than it is at home to get that. But by the same token, it’s what the TV cameras who are doing that game are able to get. That’s what the replays are based on. You can know you’re right, but you could also say that I don’t think they have a look at it and know that you’re not going to get it. Our basic rule is, if we don’t believe there’s a good look at it, we’re not going to throw the flag unless it’s a situation where we don’t have much to lose.”
For Fox and Chicago, the challenge proved detrimental. Running back Benny Cunningham was ruled to be short of the goal line, inviting Fox to argue that he had scored. But replays showed that Cunningham actually lost the ball, which hit the pylon. Officials ruled the play a fumble out of the end zone and gave possession to Green Bay in the second quarter.
Harbaugh, who is 2-for-2 on replay challenges, acknowledged that there are times when tossing a red flag even in the face of a loss is not such a bad move.
“There are other situations where you might throw the flag just because it doesn’t hurt you to throw the flag,” he said. “It could be late in the game and you were going to take a timeout anyway. There’s a little bit of a questionable call and you might throw the flag instead of taking a timeout just in case you’re going to see something that may make you want to challenge it if you’re going to call the timeout anyway — knowing that you don’t really have anything or that you don’t have anything yet and you’re hoping for something. That might be a situation where you lose, but you’re willing to lose there because you were going to take the timeout anyway.”