Ezekiel Elliott becomes first offensive player penalized for helmet hit


For the first time all season, an offensive player was penalized for the helmet rule. Officials threw a flag on Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott for lowering his head to initiate contact.

“We’re just making some calls here that are tough, but we’re doing it for protection and safety,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. “That’s the biggest question being asked: How do you play?

“. . . I don’t won’t Zeke to stop punishing them on the end of his runs. Upon further review, they both tucked their heads. Zeke is a punishing runner. That’s what we want in the NFL. That is a physical aspect of football that we want to give our fans. I’ll certainly do everything I can to not make those kinds of things penalties.”

Elliott hit Eagles safety Corey Graham at the end of a 14-yard pass. Elliott appeared to get the worst of it, going into the blue medical tent and missing five plays.

Elliott said he briefly lost feeling in his arm.

“I mean when you’re on that sideline, I’ve got to protect myself,” Elliott said. “And if a guy’s going low, I’ve got to go low, too. The rule is meant for the betterment of the game. The rule is for our safety, and if there was illegal helmet-to-helmet contact on there, that’s something I need to go look at and work on. That’s not OK. It’s just a tough play.”

The NFL largely forgot about the “lowering the helmet” rule that raised such a ruckus in the preseason. Through the first 13 weeks of the season, officials had thrown 10 flags for use of helmet, according to Kevin Seifert of ESPN. All were on defensive players.

But the NFL’s senior vice president of officiating, Al Riveron, has called out offensive players on his weekly videos. He has used a play from Raiders running back Doug Martin and Patriots running back Sony Michel as examples of illegal hits under the use-of-the-helmet rule.

Neither Martin nor Michel was fined. The NFL did fine former Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt $26,739 for unnecessary roughness after he lowered his head to run through Broncos safety Justin Simmons earlier this season.

Referee Clete Blakeman, whose crew called the penalty on Elliott on Sunday, said Elliott “initiated the contact against the defender with the helmet as it’s defined in the rule book.”

“It’s hard. It’s a hard game, and what we do is hard,” Blakeman said in a pool report. “But we feel good about that call. A couple of us, actually two of us, had it as the same foul from different angles.”

40 responses to “Ezekiel Elliott becomes first offensive player penalized for helmet hit

  1. This is surprising (not really since it’s the Cowboys and Jones). I’ve seen running backs lower their helmet and purposely try to punish tacklers at least once every Sunday and have never seen a flag for that.

  2. It was a tough call, they obviously both lowered their heads, and I guess in that situation the referees decide to call it on the player that landed a bigger hit with it. Are they supposed to call it on both players in that situation? Ideally, they probably should, but it’s just not an ideal scenario. The penalty is designed to be called in obvious one-sided situations and not here.

  3. Yeah, pretty sure I disagree with the call. Thought it was iffy when it happened and then after viewing the replays I thought the call was unnecessary. Sounds like the refs were meeting a quota. The officiating this entire game was terrible.

  4. Two points: Zeke was being pushed down from behind by a defender and from at least one angle he hits the defender’s shoulderpad first with his head. This was a crappy call. Not a good day for the officials. The Offensive PI call was weird, the “roughing” call on Gregory was a make up for the bad PI call.

    Exciting game though, despite all the laundry.

  5. Why are the refs always so one-sided when the Cowboys are playing? It’s like they are just trying to call penalties against da’ boys. Well, hopefully it evens out down the stretch and we get a few calls to go our way.

  6. This is nothing new. Since the Cowboys are the face of the NFL and are the “game of the week” more often than not, they routinely get made the example. It’s always the Cowboys that get called for the most questionable penalties. Remember the 12 men in the huddles penalty in the playoff game against the Packers?? And the Cowboys are still the only team I have ever seen penalized for spinning the ball after a play(delay of game).

  7. I was 50-50 on this one. Elliott was being taken to the ground and out of bounds and thus was on his way down anyways. It looked like a he reacted like most people do when they’re about to get smacked, he turtled up. I can see how the refs considered him to be the initiator since he lowered his head first. Dude did hit him while he was half out of bounds so it should have been offsetting.

  8. If this rule was implemented decades ago, Earl Campbell would have banned from the NFL.

  9. Every starting running back does this every game. They called it on Zeke because he mouthed off at the league.

    I just saw Gurley do it like 6 time against the Bears. I’m watching the game right now. No flag.

  10. I agree it seems as if the Cowboys are a a front
    line team that suffers the burden of being held to
    a higher example. Many mainstream fans do not
    recall the outrageous call that was made in the
    Packers -Cowboys playoff game.
    The Cowboys were in the move located about the
    Packers 35 yard line ..it there about. Dax Prescott was
    outside the huddle ..and there was a late change in personal,
    the Cowboys made a change that ended up being 3 to 4
    wide receivers. Prescott was not in the huddle, the Cowboys
    Receivers went into the huddle then Prescott enters the huddle
    ( watch the replay,
    The play ended up with a first and goal for the Cowboys,
    Only to be overuled by an obscure call..being that the
    Cowboys made an illegal substitution. The only problem
    was the penalty had not been called in 3 years. Of course
    the official that made the call. ( not a referee ) was the last official
    to call it 3 years earlier. Then to add insult ..the NFL specifically
    decided in the off-season to remove that penalty .
    The NFL

  11. Just about all FB lead with their helmets with the RB right behind. Same with a lot of the OL on running plays. If a RB has to run straight up, they are all sitting ducks for the defense. Every RB fights for yards by trying to run thru a defender. Lowering you head is a part of it. I can see the refs throwing a flag for any player using their helmet as a battering ram. I don’t think that what Zeke was doing. He was just trying to gain as muck yardage as he could. I hope this doesn’t become a trend where RB can’t run thru a defender who also lowers his helmet. Every RB is taught not to run straight up when a defender is trying to tackle you. The one thing most fans don’t want to see is more flags!

  12. So what happened to the call when Elliot took a helmet in the ear just a few plays before this? Eagles were constantly leading with the helmet the whole night

  13. Dump the helmet and pads.Problem solved. The big hits will still be there, but the head first plays will stop and the tackling technique will improve 100%.

  14. This is the problem everybody saw coming when the rule was first put in place. I am not saying that the call was bad, because according to the rule it was the right call. I just don’t know why it hasn’t been called sooner on Zeke or any other running back in the league? My guess is that it will be now.

  15. To be fair I see ball carries do that all the time and get away with it. If it’s going to be enforced it needs to be more consistent. Of course, no one is claiming the officiating was close to consistent yesterday. Terrible calls against both teams. Dallas had more bad calls. We had ones that were more critical. Something has to be done.

  16. Hmm… you seem to be conveniently leaving out how the refs were not able to determine which Eagle recovered the fumble so the best course of action was to award it to Dallas. And you seem to be leaving out the phantom pass interfere by Dallas Goedert.

    But I see your point (no, not really)

    dfwhawkguy says:
    December 9, 2018 at 10:14 pm
    Why are the refs always so one-sided when the Cowboys are playing? It’s like they are just trying to call penalties against da’ boys. Well, hopefully it evens out down the stretch and we get a few calls to go our way.

  17. Its because he initiated contact , don’t like it but that’s the rule .Larry Csonka might have been the last running back flagged for running over a DB .

  18. Lose the helmets?? That’s like saying removing airbags from cars will make for safer drivers.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.