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#pounditSaturday, November 27, 2021

NFL doubles down on stance that Clay Matthews hit was a penalty

Clay Matthews penalty

Clay Matthews’ hit on Kirk Cousins during Sunday’s Minnesota Vikings-Green Bay Packers game has predictably become the biggest talking point of the week, and the NFL is not backing off the call. In fact, they are doubling down on the stance that the hit was a penalty.

The NFL made changes to the roughing the passer rule over the offseason, potentially as a response to Aaron Rodgers’ broken collarbone suffered last year on a hit from Minnesota’s Anthony Barr. The new rule seeks protection for quarterbacks from being “stuffed” and from defenders laying on them with bodyweight.

Here’s the language of the rule:

A rushing defender is prohibited from committing such intimidating and punishing acts as “stuffing” a passer into the ground or unnecessarily wrestling or driving him down after the passer has thrown the ball, even if the rusher makes his initial contact with the passer within the one-step limitation provided for in (a) above. When tackling a passer who is in a defenseless posture (e.g., during or just after throwing a pass), a defensive player must not unnecessarily or violently throw him 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.

Though Matthews’ hit looked as clean as it gets, he was penalized for roughing the passer, negating an interception that in all likelihood would have sealed a 29-21 win for Green Bay. Many fans, media members, players, and observers are upset that such a hit qualifies as a penalty. Two former referees feel the same way and don’t like the direction the league is going with the penalties.

Despite all that, the NFL believes that the correct call was made. They feel Matthews lifted up Cousins and stuffed him into the ground, which is something they’re trying to eliminate defenders from doing. The league is also planning to include Matthews’ hit in a video distributed to teams as an example of what a violation looks like.

Not only do we heavily dislike the new rule — as we’ve been saying since the preseason — but we also question their interpretation of the rule in the case of Matthews’ hit.


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