As it turns out, Harbaugh did know the rules. And that's why he threw the flag, Harbaugh said Monday, a day after the 49ers' 25-19 victory over the Lions.
Detroit tight end Brandon Pettigrew caught a 16-yard touchdown pass from Matthew Stafford. But one official called it incomplete after he saw Patrick Willis dislodge the ball from Pettigrew's grasp while both players were on the end-zone turf.
This season, all scoring plays are reviewed in the booth. So coaches are prohibited from throwing the challenge flag on any play resulting in points.
Harbaugh, who said he did not hear Schwartz from the other sideline questioning his knowledge of the rulebook, knew the rule. And that's why he threw the flag.
"No, we knew that you can’t challenge a scoring play," Harbaugh said. "But just the way it transpired and we saw the (signal of) incomplete pass by the back judge, and then the referee came over and they huddled and talked. Then, touchdown went up.
"That just seemed very quick that (the Lions) were lining up to kick an extra point and (I) didn’t know if they really had the review to know where that stood. I threw the challenge flag to give them more time to look at it. But, yeah, we knew we couldn’t do it.”
When asked if taking a timeout would've been the proper move, Harbaugh answered, "Take a timeout? Kind of wanted to save those.”
By throwing the challenge flag, the 49ers did not lose a timeout or one of their two allowable challenges -- because the challenge never occurred. The 49ers were penalized 15 yards on the ensuing kickoff, which resulted in a touchback from Lions kicker Jason Hanson.
So the 49ers began their next drive at the 20-yard line. On the 49ers' four other kickoffs, they started from the 20, 18, 20 and 17. So, really, the penalty did not cost the 49ers anything.
Was it ever explained to him why referee Mike Carey did not review the play?
“They said that they did get confirmation down from the review booth that it was a catch," Harbaugh said.
|'Serviceable' tackle in Aldon Smith's path|
|Matt & Mindi answer Twitter questions|
|Brown, Manningham sidelined with injuries|
|Staley feels bad for Smith but supports Kaepernick|
|Dolphins study Rams tape for clues on defending Kaepernick|
|Why didn't Dolphins sign Smith?|
|49ers have stock-piled plenty of 2013 draft picks|
|49ers notes: Miami native Gore reveals his true colors|
|James preparing for active role in 49ers offense|
|Blast from the past: Harbaugh on 'Saved by the Bell'|