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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