In the wake of Sunday’s 29-29 tie between the Minnesota Vikings and the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field, one of the primary sticking points seems to be the hit that was put on Vikings’ quarterback Kirk Cousins by Packers’ linebacker Clay Matthews. The hit negated what would have been a game-sealing interception by rookie Jaire Alexander and gave the Vikings the opportunity to march down the field to, ultimately, tie the game.
People don’t seem to like the call.
Do not hit quarterbacks high. Do not hit quarterbacks low. Do not hit them in the midriff. Roughing the passer on Clay Matthews. pic.twitter.com/pFyMnXxqxG— Ollie Connolly (@OllieConnolly) September 16, 2018
There was a common theme inside the #Packers locker room yesterday: None of the defensive players understand how they’re supposed to tackle quarterbacks.— Michael Cohen (@Michael_Cohen13) September 17, 2018
On Clay Matthews’ roughing penalty and why playing defense has become more frustrating than ever: https://t.co/9smv5BADpJ
Was the penalty on Matthews a bunch of crap? Yeah, it probably was. For that matter, so was the call against Eric Kendricks on Aaron Rodgers at the end of the first half that ultimately set up another field goal for the Packers.
Back during the preseason, when the Vikings’ Antwione Williams was penalized for what appeared to be a routine sack against the Jacksonville Jaguars, I said that this new rule was eventually going to cost some team a game (though I did say “helmet rule” rather than the rules against specifically landing on a quarterback after a tackle). On Sunday, that appears to be precisely what happened.
When this rule was first announced during the offseason, people were confused as to what, exactly, was going to be penalized. The officials themselves said that the rule was confusing, and we’ve now seen in a real, meaningful game that there still don’t appear to be real hard and fast guidelines for implementing the rule.
But let’s recall why, exactly, we are where we are with this, shall we?
We’re at this point right now because, last October, Vikings’ linebacker Anthony Barr put what was then considered a perfectly legal hit on Aaron Rodgers that resulted in Rodgers breaking his collarbone and, effectively, ending the competitive portion of the Packers’ season. A play that Barr was not flagged for at the time, nor was he fined for after the fact. Oh, and a play that Barr also wound up receiving death threats over, because that’s good, solid, intelligent behavior, but I digress.
This resulted in a conversation at the NFL offices that I imagine went something like this:
Person 1: “OMG we need to do more to protect quarterbacks!”
Person 2: “Well, what exactly should we do?”
Person 1: “OMG IDK but we have to do something!”
And this is what we got. . .a rule that was thrown together late in the offseason with no real guidance given to officials as to how to call it that has now, officially, resulted in a team not winning a game that actually counts that it appeared they had won.
This new rule, as much of a steaming garbage pile as it is, is designed to protect quarterbacks. If that’s the way things are going to be, it needs to be equally applied to all quarterbacks. “Protecting quarterbacks” doesn’t simply mean protecting your quarterback or protecting star quarterbacks. It means protecting quarterbacks, whether it’s Aaron Rodgers or Kirk Cousins or a third-string quarterback from some random NFL team whose name you probably don’t even know right now. And in the name of protecting quarterbacks, we’re going to see the sorts of garbage calls that we saw affect both teams on Sunday at Lambeau Field.
This new rule is awful. It’s cost a team a game, and it’s probably going to cost more teams games by the time this season is through. But we’re here because Aaron Rodgers got hurt on a legal play in 2017 and the league wasn’t going to simply let that slide.
If people want to complain about where we are, they need to remember exactly how we got here, too.