When Vince Wilfork drew a third-quarter flag for tackling Bills quarterback Trent Edwards as he threw, the Patriots massive nose tackle went to the tried and true, “What’d I do?! What’d I do?!” gesture.
According to referee Scott Green, Wilfork got the 15-yard roughing-the-passer penalty for “going low” on Edwards. But based on a conversation we had this summer with NFL officiating guru Mike Pereira, what Wilfork did was not a penalty.
Pereira said in August that the rule about hitting quarterbacks low – originally instituted after Carson Palmer got his knee mangled by Kimo Von Oelhoffen in the 2005 playoffs and reemphasized after Tom Brady got his knee mangled last season by Bernard Pollard – had been clarified to teams and officials. And the “going low” component related mainly to players already on the ground. In that case, a defender on the ground could swipe at the quarterback’s legs or try to wrap him up but he could not drive into the quarterback’s knees with his shoulder.
Moreover, Wilfork hit Edwards below the waist but above the knees. As Pereira pointed out to Dan Patrick in March 2009, the quarterback “strike zone” runs from the area below the neck to above the knees.
Wilfork, who’s been on the receiving end of a few fines in his career, appeared to do none of the above, wrapping Edwards up above the knees as he backpedaled and taking him down.
So while Green may have felt that Wilfork was a split-second late getting to Edwards, throwing a flag for “going low” in that instance does not mesh with the rules as currently written.