Texans' 1st Thanksgiving game was marred in controversy

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The Houston Texans are playing just their second Thanksgiving Day game today, and just like their debut on "turkey day" eight years, they will face off against the Lions in Detroit.

The team has undergone changes in the years since that game, which not only offered a thrilling overtime finish, but also a controversial penalty that went in Houston's advantage.

Then and now



Team record heading into game: In 2012, the Texans rode a red-hot 9-1 record entering the fight at Ford Field. The same can't be said in 2020, where a mix of bad luck, poor coaching earlier in the season and a culture shock midway through it have landed Houston at 3-7.

Quarterback: In 2012, Matt Schaub was under center during what turned out to be a Pro Bowl year for him. The Lions game, though, wasn't completely rosy for No. 8, for a reason that will be mentioned later. In 2020, Deshaun Watson is set to make his Thanksgiving Day debut as a pro.

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Running back: Arian Foster was RB1 in 2012, where he was on his way to his third straight Pro Bowl. One of the top faces of that Texans era, Foster actually eclipsed 100 yards rushing and scored twice on Thanksgiving. In contrast, the starting running back in 2020 is first-year Texan David Johnson, who has yet to rush for 100 yards in a game this season.

Wide receiver: Schaub's top wideout target was Andre Johnson, who shredded Detroit for 188 receiving yards. His performance that day earned him his sixth 1,000-yard receiving season of his career. WR1 in 2020 is Will Fuller V, who could similarly break the millennium mark this year just like No. 80. Fuller enters the 2020 Thanksgiving matchup with 708 receiving yards, including four 100-yard games.

Head coach: Gary Kubiak was manning the sideline for Houston in 2012, which wound up being his penultimate season with the Texans. After being let go in 2013, Kubiak eventually was hired by the Denver Broncos in 2015, where he won a Super Bowl as head coach. Interim head coach Romeo Crennel is the head man in the 2020 matchup. Crennel, who has experienced almost everything there is in the NFL as a coach, will actually be head coaching for the first time in a Thanksgiving game. Crennel was the defensive coordinator of the New England Patriots when they faced the Lions on Thanksgiving 2002.

The controversy



While most Thanksgiving Day games, especially ones involving recent Detroit Lions teams, are mostly forgettable, the 2012 Texans-Lions matchup has a lasting legacy due to two controversial moments in the matchup.

For one, Schaub was the target of a kick to the groin by Detroit defensive end Ndamukong Suh, who basically added to his aggressive and unruly reputation.

"You don't want a player like that," Schaub told reporters of Suh after the game. "The stuff that he stands for and the type of player he is, that's not Houston Texan-worthy."

But if this game was memorable for one thing, it was for an 81-yard touchdown run by the Texans that should not have been counted. Backup running back Justin Forsett ran for the questionable score midway through the third quarter. His knee and elbow hit the ground when he was tackled by two defenders, but he continued without a whistle being blown to stop the play. Broadcast replays even confirmed the play should have been blown dead at that point.

Here's the interesting part. Detroit's head coach Jim Schwartz threw his red flag to challenge the score, but since scoring plays are automatically reviewed, Schwartz was not required to throw a flag for a replay. But by rule, a challenge flag negated an automatic review, and to add insult to injury, Schwartz's Lions were assessed a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.

That score cut Detroit's lead to 3 and essentially kept Houston in the game heading into the fourth quarter. The Texans eventually won in overtime with a Shayne Graham field goal.

The miscue caused the NFL to make a rule change. Under the "Schwartz rule," a scoring play will be reviewed regardless of whether a challenge flag is thrown.

Hopefully, this game will similarly end in a Houston victory, just without it being in question.

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