Is this 'roughing the passer'? Falcons flagged for crucial hard hit on Matthew Stafford

Jay Busbee
·2 min read

Is it “roughing the passer” if the “passer” isn’t passing?

Halfway through the first quarter of Sunday’s Lions-Falcons game, Detroit stood deep in Atlanta territory. On third-and-goal, Matthew Stafford stepped up out of a collapsing pocket and right into the path of Atlanta’s AJ.. Terrell. The rookie Falcons cornerback did exactly what he’s supposed to do, and bang:

Unfortunately for Terrell and the Falcons, the refs — who don’t much like it when quarterbacks get planted with a “crack!” sound audible all over a nearly empty Mercedes-Benz Stadium — threw a flag. Terrell’s sin? Roughing the passer.

Wait ... what?

A few notes here:

  • Stafford wasn’t actually passing the ball. You can clearly see he was setting up to throw, but pulled it back as Terrell approached.

  • Thus, this becomes a tackle of the quarterback behind the line of scrimmage, the technical term for which is “sack.”

  • Terrell stands 6-foot-1 and weighs 195 pounds. Stafford is 6-3, 220 pounds. What, exactly, was Terrell supposed to do here to bring Stafford to the ground? Ask politely?

Matthew Stafford and the Lions got the benefit of a peculiar call. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Matthew Stafford and the Lions got the benefit of a peculiar call. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

The NFL’s official policy is to protect the health of its players, quarterbacks most of all. But a flag on a play that looked for all the world like a straightforward sack won’t do much to combat the belief that the NFL is trending too far toward two-hand touch.

The penalty extended the Lions’ drive, forestalling a field goal and giving Detroit a first down at the Atlanta 3. On the very next play, D’Andre Swift stomped into the end zone.

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee or contact him with tips and story ideas at jay.busbee@yahoo.com.

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