TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — I can’t touch this.
Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett found out the hard way when he sacked Tom Brady and was reported for roughing the passer in the fourth quarter of Atlanta’s 21-15 loss at Tampa Bay on Sunday.
The controversial penalty that benefited Brady and the Buccaneers raised more concerns about interpretations of the rule. It was the second week in a row that referee Jerome Boger made the critical call late in the game on a play that did not appear to warrant a flag.
Last week, he helped the Buffalo Bills in a game that ended with Tyler Bass kicking a 21-yard field goal as time expired to beat the Baltimore Ravens 23-20.
This time, it allowed the Buccaneers to extend the final drive and eventually run out the clock.
Protecting quarterbacks has always been a point of emphasis for the NFL. That was compounded after Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was carted off the field on a stretcher after a violent hit in a Sept. 29 game against Cincinnati. Tagovailoa suffered a concussion when 6-foot-3, 340-pound Bengals defensive tackle Josh Tupou threw. he backwards, hitting his head on the grass.
Tupou was not penalized for sacking Tagovailoa. Neither Josh Allen nor Brady were injured on the hits Boger called roughing.
“What I had was the defender grabbed the quarterback while he was still in the pocket and knocked him down unnecessarily,” Boger told a reporter after the game. “That’s what I was making my decision based on.”
Buccaneers coach Todd Bowles understood the decision.
“I saw that one called. I saw it against Tua when he got hit, and in the London game this morning,” Bowles said. “I think they’re starting to clamp down on some of the stuff, pulling their backs. I don’t know. Right now, the way they’re calling it, I think a lot of people would have gotten that call.”
In the NFL rulebook, it states: “Any physical act against a player who is in a passing stance (ie, before, during, or after a pass) that, in the judgment of the referee, is not justified by the circumstances of the play will be considered as fouls”.
The rule also states, “When in doubt about a roughing call or a potentially dangerous tactic against the quarterback, the referee should always call the passer.”
Many analysts, including former quarterbacks, disagreed with Boger’s call.
“The league office needs to fix this,” Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy said on NBC’s “Football Night in America” pregame show. “If you can’t deal with the quarterback, it’s going to be impossible to play defense.”
Robert Griffin III tweeted: “The Falcons were ROBBED. Hitting the QB hard does not equal Roughing the Passer, even if it’s Tom Brady.
Despite the perception that Brady, 45, gets special treatment, the seven-time Super Bowl champion ranks 41st with 0.14 calls per game since 2009. This was the first time Brady benefited from a brutal penalty this season. He only got one last year.
Jarrett was visibly upset about the penalty and refused to speak to reporters after the game. Falcons coach Arthur Smith would not criticize the officials.
“Obviously, from my point of view, it looked like it was a bad call,” Falcons cornerback Casey Hayward Jr. said. “But that’s why you put refs to make those calls. They pay these guys to make those calls. It looked bad (from) the point of view, but like I said, he was in the back. They put those guys in there to make those calls.”
No one wants to see any player take a hit like the one that sent Tagovailoa to the hospital. But there’s a difference between protecting quarterbacks and punishing defenders for playing football.
Finding a balance is the NFL’s dilemma.
Follow Rob Maaddi on Twitter at https://twitter.com/robmaaddi
More AP NFL coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl i https://twitter.com/AP_NFL
Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.