Thursday night’s game had a little bit of everything, including a bad call.
On the drive that resulted in the game-winning points for the Seahawks, a hit from Rams linebacker Clay Matthews on quarterback Russell Wilson gave the Seahawks a fresh set of downs from the L.A. 25, instead of second and 10 from the 40. It was, as the replays indicated, a bad call; Matthews did not hit Wilson with Matthews’ helmet, in Wilson’s helmet or elsewhere on his body.
Of course, replay review isn’t available for roughing the passer. (Plays like this will create calls for expansion of replay.) So the Rams were simply stuck with the mistake.
But here’s the reality, one that every coach should be explaining to every defensive player. When hitting a quarterback with the shoulder, the higher the hit the more likely that the jerking of the quarterback’s head coupled with the proximity of the defensive player’s helmet will create the impression of a helmet-to-helmet hit.
So the solution is simple: Aim lower. The quarterback strike zone extends from neck to knees. As long as the defensive player uses only his shoulder (and not his helmet) when hitting the quarterback, the hit remains clean and legal. The farther the defensive player’s helmet strays from the quarterback’s helmet, the less likely that it will seem at full speed that the defensive player struck the quarterback in the helmet.
As Big Cat mentioned on Friday’s PFT Live, there’s a separate issue at play for Matthews. He has a habit of dancing close to the line when it comes to hitting quarterbacks. That invites closer scrutiny, and it makes the officials more likely to conclude that the hit crossed the line.
Thus, if there’s a way to avoid that line — and there is — that’s what Matthews should do. Otherwise, he runs the risk of drawing a flag, surrendering 15 yards of field position, and giving the opposing offense a first down.