Death, taxes, and a shitty penalty flag being thrown in an NFL game.
These are life’s certainties.
The irony of this NFL season is that we watched officials throw myriad flags for lowered helmet hits in weeks one and two of the preseason. That was the new rule that everybody thought would derail the league this year and cause defensive players to rethink their entire game.
But that penalty is really having no impact this season. Jordan Hicks committed a clear violation of that rule yesterday and the refs picked the flag up. Instead, the scourge, the plague, the bane of our existence is the “weight on the quarterback” rule that resulted in Clay Matthews once again committing a ludicrous infraction, this time against Washington yesterday:
This is a foul for roughing the passer – the defender lands “with all or most of the defender’s weight” on the passer. Rule 12, Section 2, Article 9(b): https://t.co/s9YKN8NLuT #GBvsWAS pic.twitter.com/ei2QZkvvzx
— NFL Football Operations (@NFLFootballOps) September 23, 2018
The irony here is that Matthews seems to be immediately waving his hands after the play as to say, “I tried not to put my entire weight on him!” He wraps up the quarterback and brings him to the ground. I don’t see scooping, I don’t see pulling, and I don’t see him driving Alex Smith into the dirt in a way that looks overtly violent or malicious.
Matthews was more than honest when asked about the play in the locker room:
Clay Matthews says something has to change with the way the NFL is calling penalties on defenders for hits in the QBs. pic.twitter.com/AkFLQ28RlB
— IG: JosinaAnderson (@JosinaAnderson) September 23, 2018
“…Obviously when you a tackle a guy from the front you’re going to land on him. I understand the spirit of the rule. I said that in weeks prior. But when you have a hit like that, that’s a football play. I even went up to Alex Smith after the game and said, ‘what do you think? what can I do differently?’ And he goes, ‘that’s a football play.’
I think we’re looking for the hits that took Aaron (Rodgers) out last year, that ‘extra.’ If I wanted to hurt him, I could have, I could have put something extra on him. But that’s football. I don’t know. I really don’t know. Unfortunately this league is going in a direction that I think a lot of people don’t like. I think they’re getting soft…”
Smith, for what it’s worth, didn’t have any problem with the hit, saying that Matthews hit him “right in the strike zone” while admitting that it’s difficult to be a defensive player in today’s NFL.
According to ESPN stats and info, Matthews was flagged for four roughing the passer penalties from 2009 to 2017. He has three so far in 2018, so good job by the NFL in converting Matthews from a non-issue player into a repeat offender.
Regarding tackling technique:
The penalty on Clay Matthews — Helmet to the side, shoulder contact, run through the tackle. Pretty much what is taught at the lower levels for proper tackling technique. And he tried to roll off the QB due to the new rule. This is putting pass rushers in a really tough spot.
— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) September 23, 2018
The heart of the frustration, I think, is that players simply don’t know what they are supposed to do. More specifically, it seems like there’s no true way to avoid putting weight on the quarterback in situations like the one above.
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