Sunday’s roughing the passer call in the 49ers-Seahawks game has a strong similarity to last Sunday’s unnecessary roughness call in the Patriots-Chargers game. Both calls flow from the rule against certain types of hits on defenseless players.
For a quarterback in the pocket and a receiver in the process of making a catch, the relevant rule is identical. No hits are permitted to the head or neck area, and no hits can be made elsewhere to the defenseless player with the hairline or crown of the defender’s helmet.
In the aftermath of the flag thrown on Patriots cornerback Brandon Browner for the hit against Chargers tight end Ladarius Green, PFT reported that the question of whether such hits will be subject to replay review could be placed on the Competition Committee’s offseason agenda. In the aftermath of Sunday’s hit by 49ers linebacker Nick Moody against Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, a source with knowledge of the situation tells PFT that the issue will be placed on the Competition Committee’s agenda.
But here’s the catch. For the same reason the Browner penalty wouldn’t have been overturned via replay review, the flag thrown on Moody most likely would have been upheld. The replays of the hit do not show indisputable visual evidence that the ruling on the field was incorrect.
Despite the hue and cry against the call from referee Ed Hochuli (including an admission by NFL V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino that a mistake was made), the rules expressly prohibit “[l]owering the head and making forcible contact with the top/crown or forehead/’hairline’ parts of the helmet against any part of the defenseless player’s body.” It appears that Moody put the forehead/”hairline” of his helmet into Wilson’s chest.
Players, coaches, commentators, league executives, and/or fans may not like that, but the rule currently prohibits use of the forehead/”hairline” of the helmet against a defenseless player. Perhaps instead of making such plays subject to replay review, the rules should be revised to permit use of the forehead/”hairline” of the helmet in a spot other than the head or neck area of a defenseless player.