NFL fans have seen more and more roughing-the-passer calls creep into the game in recent years. The total number has risen every season since 2016, and there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight.
Sure, plenty of them are justified calls that even the biggest homer would have a tough time arguing about. But all too often, flags are thrown on plays that seem innocuous at first (and second, third, fourth, fifth) glance.
Part of what makes roughing-the-passer calls so tough to swallow is the outsized impact they can have on the game. Oftentimes the 15-yard penalty can extend a drive that was otherwise about to end in a punt or move an offense into scoring range, as happened Thursday night for the Seattle Seahawks.
Trailing the Los Angeles Rams by five points in the fourth quarter at CenturyLink Field, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson rolled out to his right and threw the ball away just as he was hit by Rams linebacker Clay Matthews.
The hit seemed to check all the boxes for legality: It wasn’t low, it wasn’t in the head, it wasn’t particularly late and the defender didn’t drive the quarterback into the ground.
Yet for some reason a flag was thrown on the play, moving the Seahawks down to the Rams’ 25-yard line. Even Fox broadcasters Joe Buck and Troy Aikman seemed flummoxed by the call.
HORRENDOUS “roughing the passer” call on Clay Matthews. pic.twitter.com/gdtxTpZyGA
— #BusinessAintBoomin (@ftbeard_17) October 4, 2019
“I don’t like the call at all,” Aikman said.
The Seahawks took the lead six plays later when Wilson tossed a 5-yard touchdown pass to running back Chris Carson.
Rams quarterback Jared Goff got his team in position for what would have been a game-winning field goal, but Greg Zuerlein’s 44-yard attempt with 11 seconds left missed wide right.
Unsurprisingly, NFL fans and pundits were not happy with the game-changing roughing call on Matthews.
That’s a weak roughing the passer call in favor of Wilson and #Seahawks. It’s bad enough that a QB can throw the ball to nobody for his own safety, but for that to be a penalty is ridiculous. It wasn’t late and it wasn’t excessive.
— Aaron J. Fentress (@AaronJFentress) October 4, 2019
Terrible roughing call on Matthews. Not a late or big hit plus Wilson faded backwards before contact.
— Steve Wyche (@wyche89) October 4, 2019
Clay Matthews: *exists*
Ref: Personal foul, Number 52 defense.
— Faux John Madden (@FauxJohnMadden) October 4, 2019
Clay Mathews rule back in affect I guess. If he hits qb it’s a flag
— patsfan314 (@patsfan3I4) October 4, 2019
— NOTSportsCenter (@NOTSportsCenter) October 4, 2019
The win pushed the Seahawks to 4-1, while the Rams dropped to 3-2.
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