Two weeks into the season, Clay Matthews has a pair of game-changing penalties for hitting quarterbacks.
And after yesterday’s, he’s not sure how he’s supposed to tackle people, if what he did to Kirk Cousins was illegal.
Matthews’ sack of Cousins yesterday wiped out what would have been a game-clinching interception by Jaire Alexander for the Packers, and the Vikings would go onto force overtime on the drive and leave with a tie. Even Cousins thought it was a “generous” call.
“I have so many emotions running through as far as what a terrible call it was,” Matthews said, via Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com. “At the same time, I don’t know what else to do. I don’t know. You let me know. You tell me. Did I put pressure on him? I thought I hit him within his waist to chest, I got my head across, put my hands down. To call it at that point in the game is unbelievable.
“Last week, OK, shame on me. This week, that’s unbelievable. The worst part is, we’ll probably send it in and you know what they’re going to say? They’ll find fault on me because they’re going to agree with the refs. I don’t know. It’s a difficult call to call. You see how it changed the game. I know there’s an emphasis on protecting quarterbacks, but it’s gotten out of control. I don’t know what else to do. It’s frustrating because Jaire’s interception, that’s game [over], right? Instead, they go down and score, overtime, this and that.
“We had opportunities to win the game, no doubt about it, but frustrating to allow a call which I feel like I did the right thing to influence the game. I don’t know. I’m trying to bite my tongue, but I obviously don’t agree with it.”
Referee Tony Corrente explained after the game that the penalty was not because of the new “body weight rule” but the fact that Matthews picked Cousins up and slammed him to the ground.
But the laws of physics seem to suggest there’s not much else Matthews could have done. He was running fast, in the direction of Cousins. Cousins had just thrown a ball, so all his weight was moving the opposite direction, and one foot was off the ground. So while the other foot left the earth when Matthews hit him seems natural, given the speed and otherwise clean nature of the hit.
“I know what to say; it’s just I don’t want to lose any more money, you know?” Matthews said. “I’ll go back, watch the film, see if there was anything I could change, but I feel pretty good about that hit. You put in so much work and you hate for one play … I take a lot of responsibility with the way we’re supposed to play the game. It’s obviously not one play that defines a game but, at the same time, that was a pivotal play.”
Matthews wasn’t fined last week, when he hit Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky on a fourth down to extend a drive.