Defensive players need to lower the target when hitting quarterbacks

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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.

44 responses to “Defensive players need to lower the target when hitting quarterbacks

  1. Quarterbacks are so overprotected, it’s making the game less enjoyable as a fan. Tired of hearing “Roughing the passer; 15 yard penalty, AUTOMATIC 1st Down”.

    Reggie White and Derrick Thomas are rolling over in their graves right now!

  2. Very often won’t make a difference especially if a QB is running at that point.

    You posted a photo on an article about the Jones hit on Allen the other day that showed Jones clearly angled to hit Allen’s chest with his shoulder, yet the combination of Allen ducking his head along with the safety pulling him down created a helmet to helmet hit that was totally unintentional.

    The front of Allen’s helmet was clearly hitting the earhole ofJones’ helmet in that photo, which doesn’t happen if a defender is headhunting. You don’t hit someone with the side of your helmet if its intentional

  3. That’s two games in two years that CM3 possibly cost his team a win. Don’t agree with either call but he should know by now.

  4. If you are suggesting that Clay Matthews did something wrong then you are the one that is mistaken.

    You are implying that a shoulder to shoulder hit on the QB should become a foul. That is the most asinine thing I have heard so far this season.

  5. If a QB is past the line of scrimmage running the ball then the call should be identical to the call on tackling a RB. The league is trying to protect QBs, but if they aren’t going to throw the ball away and they aren’t going to slide then there is no protection. They are the same as everyone else. That’s just bad playing and bad coaching if your QB gets lit up. If it would be an illegal hit on a RB, then it’s fine to call it.

  6. Like Terry Bradshaw said a couple of years ago , ” With these new rules , why don’t they just put QB’s in skirts ? You ARE playing TACKLE football after all !! “

  7. Oh please, that call last night had nothing to do with anything other than pure jealousy.

    Most of these officials just envy Clay’s hair.

  8. Mike…it’s real simple. Nobody’s ever been flagged for an illegal TACKLE to the helmet….or a late TACKLE…or a TACKLE on a defenseless receiver. Key word being TACKLE and not HIT. If Clay would’ve wrapped up and tackled Russ, there wouldn’t have been a flag. The visual is completely different and he naturally would’ve lowered the contact point to be able to wrap up. Regardless of situation, if you go into offensive player to only hit vs tackle, the natural movement willl have you lead with your helmet, shoulder and/or forearms. The visual, alone, will increase odds of a flag.

  9. The target is pretty much non existent now, just get to the end game and announce no more hitting QB’s at all.

  10. kevpft says:
    October 4, 2019 at 11:30 am
    Or, you know, wrap him up and tackle.
    ———
    You can do that, but remember after you wrap him up you also can’t drive him to the ground or even land on him with your full body weight (see why Denver lost a game earlier this
    year).

    So not really sure which why to hit a QB is better at this point.

  11. Hawks still would have converted on 2nd & 10. It’s not like the call reversed a turnover or something.

  12. Ansah was called for a bs roughing call as well that led to 7 for LA. Matthews got away with a helmet to helmet earlier in the game that went uncalled so I have little sympathy for him. Next.

  13. Ansah got called for roughing the passer on a 3rd down play. Hit Goff at the waist. Rams went on to score. The Matthews call just evened things up. Neither should have been a penalty.

  14. k11shu says:
    October 4, 2019 at 11:43 am
    Nobody’s ever been flagged for an illegal TACKLE to the helmet
    ————
    Yeah, they are only flagged 15 yards for hitting the legs or landing on them.

  15. 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.
    ———
    You seem to be suggesting that QB now get a strike zone to their shoulder. That sort fo highlights how ridiculous the game has become and why we probably need to all take a step back on our QB worshiping. QB’s have the most protections in the rule book and the most protections in the unwritten rule book too.

  16. It is liberating, being able to turn off a game and do something productive for 4 hours. Tackle football no longer exists. Those calls were awful.

  17. That is why I have been advocating inclusion of roughing penalties as reviewable calls. Too many bad roughing calls have resulted in games being won by the lucky teams. It happened to Frisco, when they were called for roughing Drew Brees, and the 15 yard penalty resulted in a winning drive.

  18. spoken from someone who has never played a down in their lives. That was a completely legal hit, and the NFL is protecting one of their star and prime assets. Same would’ve happened if Brady, Mahomes or Rogers were hit in the same fashion.

  19. k11shu says:
    October 4, 2019 at 11:43 am
    Mike…it’s real simple. Nobody’s ever been flagged for an illegal TACKLE to the helmet….or a late TACKLE…or a TACKLE on a defenseless receiver. Key word being TACKLE and not HIT. If Clay would’ve wrapped up and tackled Russ, there wouldn’t have been a flag. The visual is completely different and he naturally would’ve lowered the contact point to be able to wrap up. Regardless of situation, if you go into offensive player to only hit vs tackle, the natural movement willl have you lead with your helmet, shoulder and/or forearms. The visual, alone, will increase odds of a flag.
    —————————————————————

    You realize that Mathews was penalized last year for TACKLING the QB and landing on him, right? They’ll also be penalized for tackling the QB and hurling him to the side so as to make sure they don’t land on him, right?

  20. Um, yesterday’s replay showed Matthew’s shoulder hitting Wilson’s facemask and his head snapping back. A clean shoulder-to-shoulder hit would have Wilson’s head jerk forward.

  21. Was a play earlier where Goff was clearly hit in head no flag . Commentators were not sure why flag wasn’t thrown. Decieding because it wasn’t a vicious hit witch is fine it’s football. So how can the same ref throw a flag on Mathews for nothing? Do they have something against him or just depends on who the QB IS ?

  22. Wilson never gets these calls so actually getting one that shouldn’t haven a roughing was a shock. Mathews should be penalized 200 yards for the hit he put on Wilson beck in the NFC championship game 2014. The guy has it out for #3.

  23. factschecker says: “That sort fo highlights how ridiculous the game has become and why we probably need to all take a step back on our QB worshiping. QB’s have the most protections in the rule book and the most protections in the unwritten rule book too.”
    ——————–

    Quarterbacks are targets for the most CHEAP SHOTS. Why wouldn’t they be? I’d take my chances with a 15-yard penalty vs backup QB Geno Smith anytime.

    And seriously, do you really want to watch a game with the backup QBs Geno Smith and Blake Bortles?? Complain all you want about “protection” rules, but you can’t pay me enough to sit through a game with Smith and Bortles.

  24. It is liberating, being able to turn off a game and do something productive for 4 hours. Tackle football no longer exists. Those calls were awful.
    ———
    But how would you know? It’s hard to believe that both of these sentences can be truthful.

  25. So tired of these over protected QBs …. can’t hit them high can’t hit them low can’t land on top of them lol it’s insane … to even things up QBs should not be able to run past the line of scrimmage unless it’s a QB sneak from under center.

  26. I understand why some folks are saying Matthews should have tackled Wilson and not hit him. The problem is this: if Matthews tackles Wilson, he most likely lands on top of him because Wilson was moving backwards. Matthews then gets flagged for landing on the QB. The call was atrocious. And so are these rules.

  27. Clay got flagged for his reputation as much as anything.

    Name another player in the game right now that has anything CLOSE to his reputation for cheapshots?

    I don’t think this hit was overly egregious.. but the simple fact is, they’ll call that more often than not.

  28. I got two solutions to make everyone happy…. Listen to Belichick and make every play available to a coaches challenge (do not increase amount of challenges…) or two just break down and flags on these pansy quarterbacks…. you know it is inevitable…

  29. At the time, Even As a Seahawk fan @ the game, I told a Rams Fan, next seat over, that the flag shouldn’t have been thrown. I think that Russell did an outstanding job of selling it by doing a complete back roll. There was clearly no helmet contact.

    I actually think expanding replay to roughing the passer, should occur. Then those hits that are missed, and those like this one, can be corrected.

  30. You can disagree with the rule but the call was right.

    Just like Ziggy getting called for hitting low while falling.

    Good call ref, good call.

  31. So the solution is simple: Aim lower. The quarterback strike zone extends from neck to knees.
    _______________________________________

    And wasn’t there an earlier hit on Goff that was above the knees and was called roughing anyhow? That zone isn’t as big as the rule states, it sure looks to me like the zone actually goes from the hip-waist area to the shoulders! But if the QB lowers his head(as Allen of the Bills did) and he is the one who initiates the contact the defender STILL gets hit with the flag 100% of the time, WHAT BS. All I can say is “PUT A DRESS ON THESE QB’S OR MAYBE A FLAG ON THEIR SIDE”!

    It’s sickening that in a game like football there’s one player you almost aren’t allowed to touch anymore! WOW how did those QB’s of the 70’s-90’s ever survive? I was at a HS game last night and those QBs take bigger hits than these NFL QBs now days = SAD!

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