Week 2: Vikings at Packers
Late in the fourth quarter Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews was hit with a roughing the passer penalty to extend a drive for the second consecutive week. Unlike last week, there does not seem to be much in this. Matthews contacted Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins as he released the ball and did not drive him into the ground or put his weight into landing on him. It is a tough call for referee Tony Corrente to make in real time compounded by the point of emphasis on quarterback hits this year.
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
Former referee and NBC rules analyst Terry McAulay tweeted that if the league considers this a foul “I am glad that I am no longer on the field and have to make those calls.”
The penalty negated an interception which continued a Vikings score-tying drive. Neither team scored after that, resulting in a 29-29 tie.
Corrente explained the call to a pool reporter after the game, which only made it worse.
It has nothing to do with the rule of full-body weight [landing on the quarterback]. It has nothing to do with helmet-to-helmet. He picked the quarterback up and drove him into the ground.
While there is no point of emphasis this season on driving a quarterback to the ground, this has always been specifically watched by the referee position. But what is obviously missing from the video is that Cousins was picked up and dropped to the turf unnecessarily.
Matthews is clearly aware of the two emphasis points mentioned by Corrente. Matthews has adjusted his game in response to the watershed rewrite of the rules this season. He wrapped Cousins at the torso in a rugby-style tackle coincidental with the pass being released, and the natural follow-through took them both to the ground. It is as if the tackle could be used as an example for the rule as it is written:
a defensive player must not unnecessarily or violently throw [the quarterback] down or land on top of him with all or most of the defender’s weight. Instead, the defensive player must strive to wrap up the passer with the defensive player’s arms and not land on the passer with all or most of his body weight.
Until they get further clarification from the league office, Matthews only has Corrente’s response as to how this tackle could have been legal:
Not picked him up and drove him to the ground
I’m not sure if Corrente had time to review video of the play prior to his interview with the pool reporter. (Typically, referees do not.) So, Corrente really has the one view at game speed as reference, while the rest of us have benefit of replay. But it would be shocking if the league upholds this as a correct call. Corrente will likely not be downgraded, which is typical for marginal player-safety calls.
Patrick Weber contributed to this report.
Tony Corrente postgame interview
Q: Tony, can you explain the penalty on Clay Matthews and what you saw there on the late hit?
Corrente: That was the play in the fourth quarter?
Q: Yes, sir.
Corrente: When he hit the quarterback he lifted him and drove him into the ground.
Q: Is that enforced under the new helmet rule?
Corrente: Not at all. It has nothing to do with the rule of full-body weight. It has nothing to do with helmet-to-helmet. He picked the quarterback up and drove him into the ground.
Q: What could he have done differently on this that play?
Corrente: Not picked him up and drove him into the ground.
Q: There was one other question. There was a kickoff where the Vikings player appeared to take a knee. We are not sure if he went down and then flipped the ball to the referee on the Packers sideline.
Corrente: He started to go down but he never went down.
Q: And so he then had to recover?
Corrente: He has to recover the football.
Q: And that’s not a safety?