Myles Garrett was hit with a dubious roughing the passer call Sunday afternoon, for the crime of allowing his momentum to carry him onto Ben Roethlisberger after a hit. The flag, which came on a third-down incompletion, kept Pittsburgh’s drive alive, and exactly one play later the Steelers found the end zone. It was a sequence that mattered quite a bit in what would wind up finishing as a tie game.
Browns coach Hue Jackson was pissed about the call, and complained about it both during the game and in his postgame presser, where it sounded like he and his players still feel confused about the rule and how to avoid running afoul of it. Listening to NFL players talk about how they’re adjusting, it becomes clear just how unwieldy and unnatural the rule is in the context of a tackling sport. Here’s Carlos Dunlap talking about sacking Andrew Luck Sunday, and describing his approach to keeping his weight off a man he just brought to the ground by throwing his weight into him:
“I planked and rolled off right away and I tried to let the referee know I was not trying to be malicious and drive him through the ground, because I know it’s Andrew Luck after two years, so they’re going to call it tight regardless,” Dunlap said. “So, I tried to do the next best thing. There was no other way for me to try to avoid him on the front side, so on the back side, I tried to keep my weight from driving him into the ground, which is the terminology they used.”
That’s just a lot for a football player to manage while in the act of tackling someone—I went into plank, and then shifted into a lovely downward dog pose in order to avoid putting any of my ample body weight onto the player laying under me—but Dunlap’s contortions aren’t actually the important takeaway from this Tom Peliserro report. Pelissero talked to Al Riveron, the NFL’s senior vice president of officiating, and Riveron says the penalty on Garrett was, in fact, an incorrect call:
“Well, they have to not put the weight on the quarterback. And this one yesterday showed, even though there is some body weight on Ben, this is not what we would consider contact that rises to the level of a foul.”
This admission will be a pretty small consolation for Browns fans today! That was a key sequence in Sunday’s game, and it extended a Steelers drive, and resulted in a touchdown. It’s especially painful because it factored into the Browns being denied their first win since December 2016. Whoops?