Sports Commentary: NFL’s roughing the passer problem

Senior Reporter

The NFL has been going through a dramatic change early in the season. It introduced a new roughing-the-passer rule, making a lot of fans and players upset. The recent rule has also changed outcome of games.

According to the NFL rules, “any physical acts against a player who is in a passing posture (i.e. before, during or after a pass) which, in the Referee’s judgment, are unwarranted by the circumstances of the play will be called as fouls.”

This includes hits to the quarterback’s head, late hits to the quarterback after he throws the ball and landing your body weight on the quarterback.

Clay Matthews has been a prime victim of this new rule. Matthews has been flagged for roughing-the-passer in all three games he has played this season.

Clay_Matthews_-_December_25,_2011_2Wikimedia Commons
Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews has gotten flagged for roughing-the-passer in all three games of the season thus far.

Leading the Minnesota Vikings 29-21 with 1:45 remaining in the Packers second game of the season, Matthews hit Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins as he threw a pass that was intercepted. The interception, which seemingly sealed the win for the Packers, was called back due to a roughing the passer penalty against Matthews.

Replay revealed, that while throwing the ball, Cousins was already in the air before Matthews hit him and that Matthews was not at fault for driving Cousins into the ground, as was called on the field. The Vikings went on to catch up to the Packers, ending the game with a tie in overtime.

The new modification of the rule has already impacted the results of games and maybe seasons. Matthews got flagged in the following week for roughing the passer, yet again, because he put his body weight on top of Redskins quarterback Alex Smith when bringing him down.

“When you’re tackling a guy from the front, you’re going to land on him,” Matthews told CBS 4 Minnesota. “I understand the spirit of the rule. When you have a hit like that, that’s a football play. I even went up to Alex Smith after the game and asked him: What do you think? What can I do differently?”

“That’s a football play. I hit him from the front, got my head across, wrapped up. I’ve never heard of anybody tackling somebody without any hands. When he gives himself up as soon as you hit him, your body weight is going to go on him.”

The referees have thrown more than twice the total over the same period in 2017, mainly because of a new point of emphasis against defenders landing on quarterbacks with all or most of their body weight.

They have also thrown flags in noticeably different ways, sometimes resulting in penalties for hits that seem impossible for defenders to avoid.

The NFL is getting a little out of hand with the modified roughing-the-passer rule. The reason for all of this is that the NFL doesn’t want incidents and injuries that occured last year and seasons prior to happen again.

Last season Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr fell on top of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Barr’s body weight broke Rodgers’ collarbone, which effectively ended the Packers’ season.

The NFL knows that the quarterback is the most important player on the field and that many people watch football for the quarterbacks.

Yes, the rule should have had some sort of change. But not one this drastic, where it seems like the defense can’t even hit the quarterback without risking a penalty.

The Competition Committee sent out videos on how and how not to sack a quarterback. The examples of legal hits showed players rolling off to the side of quarterbacks, or employing the “gator roll” technique, in which the quarterback is pulled over the defender.

Time will tell how this rule will play out for the rest of the NFL season. New rules always have controversy built around them, this rule is one of them that could and has affected the outcome of games. Which many fans including me do not want nor like.

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