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Mike McCarthy avoids Jim Schwartz’s fate in challenge flag snafu

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A play in the pivotal Minnesota Vikings-Green Bay Packers game will end with football fans more confused about the NFL's rules on coach challenges than they were before.

James Jones dove for the end zone. Just after he broke the plane of the end zone, Jones fumbled the ball. The Vikings recovered. The officials originally called it a fumble and Vikings ball.

Aaron Rodgers was incensed with this result, running to the sideline yelling. Packers coach Mike McCarthy threw the challenge flag, but receiver Jordy Nelson quickly ran over and picked the flag up and handed it back to his coach. Earlier this season, Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz and Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith both threw challenge flags on automatically reviewed plays -- the result of which was that the plays were not reviewed and penalties were assessed.

[Also: Chuck Pagano's perseverance inspires Colts to continue defying odds]

But official Mike Carey went forward with the review. When he came back to the field to announce the result of the review, Carey explained that the booth had already initiated the review before McCarthy threw the red flag. Though the Packers were penalized 15 yards on the next play, the fumble was overturned and the Packers were given the touchdown.

According to Carey and Fox officiating expert Mike Pereira, the key difference between the challenge here and the ones that affected the Lions and Falcons is that McCarthy threw the flag after the review was initiated. Nelson's heads-up move didn't have anything to do with it. Still, it's a skinny hair to split on a rule that doesn't make much sense in the first place.

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