The NFL is putting an emphasis on player safety, especially protecting the quarterbacks. It is no secret that the NFL is a quarterback driven league. It back-to-back weeks, Packers Linebacker Clay Matthews was flagged for late hits on the opposing quarterbacks, both at the end of the game.
The late hit in the Bears game against Trubisky was clearly a late hit. The call against Matthews on Sunday in the Minnesota game against Kirk Cousins is the most questionable call of the two. Referee Tony Corrente ruled insisted that Clay Matthews lifted and drove Kirk Cousins into the ground on the tackle.
Do not hit quarterbacks high. Do not hit quarterbacks low. Do not hit them in the midriff. Roughing the passer on Clay Matthews. pic.twitter.com/pFyMnXxqxG
— Ollie Connolly (@OllieConnolly) September 16, 2018
According to Rule 12, Section 2, Article 9 of the NFL rule book, the “technique of grabbing the passer from behind the leg(s), scooping and pulling in an upward motion is considered a foul”. Referee Tony Corrente determined that Matthews did just that, which resulted in a roughing penalty that negated an interception and gave the ball back to the Vikings. As we all know the drive continued and sent the game into overtime.
Now the NFL is doubling down on Tony Corrente’s call on Matthews, and is going to include a clip of Matthews’ hit on Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins in a training video that is being sent to teams regarding penalty calls. The clip is being used as an example of an illegal hit under the rule book, referring to the scoop and pull technique that Matthews used and is being deemed worthy of roughing the passer in today’s NFL.
Referee Corrente and the NFL has determined that Matthews picked up Kirk Cousins and drove him into the ground. Granted Cousins did leave his feet for a second when he through the ball 50 yards, and that is when Matthews wrapped his arms around Cousins’ waist.
This rule has now become the most controversial change in the league, even more than the catch rule. During the Jaguars-Pats game, an identical tackle was made on Tom Brady and there was no penalty.
After watching Clay Matthews’ penalty in Green Bay on flight home this a.m., I was struck by similarity to this non-flagged play in Patriots-Jaguars. My preference: No flags on either play (that’s football), but regardless, more consistency something for officials to strive for. pic.twitter.com/CwUZSi7g5j
— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) September 17, 2018
Even former heads of NFL officiating don’t agree with the rule.
Former @NFL officiating chiefs @MikePereira and @DeanBlandino issued strong rebuttals today to the league’s emphasis on roughing the QB, especially the two calls in MIN-GB. Relevant transcript: pic.twitter.com/mtnpcepi0Y
— Kevin Seifert (@SeifertESPN) September 17, 2018
The NFL is not going to change the rule during the season. Mike McCarthy, Mike Pettine, Clay Matthews and the rest of the Packers defense are just going to have to adjust to the rule going forward. It nearly cost them a game against the Bears, and there are many reasons for the tie against the Vikings and that penalty is a glaring one.
Anthony Haag is a writer for PackersTalk.com. He has been a Packers fan since the day he was born and truly bleeds green and gold. He makes annual visits to Lambeau Field and has attended his fair share of games. You can follow Anthony on Twitter at @anthony_haag