In Week One, Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David was penalized for hitting Jets quarterback Geno Smith out of bounds, setting the Jets up for a game-winning field goal.
The play wasn’t malicious, but a case of David starting to make a tackle on a quarterback running near the sideline and finishing it as Smith stepped out of bounds. Smith had gained extra yards by remaining inbounds several other times during the game, making David’s desire to make sure he didn’t do so again both understandable and painful to the Bucs.
Something similar played out in Tennessee on Sunday with a quarterback who shares a last name with the Jets signal caller. Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith was running near the sideline with the Titans leading 17-13 in the fourth quarter when he was hit by Titans linebacker Moise Fokou as he stepped out. Fokou was penalized and the Chiefs went on to score the go-ahead touchdown on their way to a 26-17 win. Fokou took issue with the call after the game.
“I was shocked,” Fokou said, via John Glennon of the Tennessean. “I thought I was OK. … The way I looked at it, I thought [Smith] was still [in bounds]. I’m going full speed, left my feet and I don’t know how to stop in mid-air.”
Fokou’s description of the play and the difficulties faced by defensive players in those situations is pretty much on the money, although that doesn’t change the fact that hits like that on quarterbacks almost always draw flags. Coach Mike Munchak bemoaned the way those calls are made, as did perennial opponent of NFL rules Bernard Pollard. In a surprising twist, Pollard also said that Fokou needs to be more mindful of the way games are called.
“The quarterback wasn’t out yet and this guy is somebody who’s diving and sliding late, all this other stuff,” Pollard said. “It’s a gray area and it’s something I think needs to be corrected in the rules because it’s hard for us defensive players. Having said that, you have to look at the situation we were in and you have to let him go. The guy was 2 yards shy.”
David was fined for his Week One hit. We’ll find out if Fokou faces the same discipline later this week.