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Standing Firm: NFL Roughing the Passer Penalty Remains

The NFL releases videos explaining in further detail new penalties, but avoid major issues.

Tom Spurling



After scrutiny from players, coaches, and fans alike, the NFL was forced to clarify the new roughing the passer penalty. Unfortunately, the videos failed to specify plays like the hit Clay Matthews delivered to quarterback Alex Smith last week.

Lets break down the video play by play: Remember, the video shot a list of legal and illegal tackles according to the new rule. The first four videos show illegal tackles, much like Matthews, while the last four show legal tackles.

The first legal tackle (1:08) shows a Green Bay defender tackling the Raiders quarterback last season. The quarterback is on the move after fumbling the snap and the defender comes from behind to make the tackle. Even though the defender managed no to land on the QB, he was coming at the quarterback from behind and the QB was on the move, unlike Matthews situation of tackling a pocket QB.

The second video (1:28) shows a Viking defender leaping to tackle quarterback Jimmy Garappolo. The defender leaves his feet, losing balance and most of his strength, and once contacting the quarterback pulls Garappolo down to the ground from behind.

Again, a play that is unlike Matthews in every facet. The defender came from behind, in the air, while the quarterback was moving away for him. While Matthews tackle was head on, feet on the ground, with the quarterback firm in the pocket.

In the third video (1:40) of legal tackles, again we see a defender leaving his feet to make a tackle on the quarterback. While this time the quarterback was in the pocket, the defender came from behind and left his feet, taking his momentum behind the quarterback as seen in the video.

Winston steps into his throw as the defender is in the air, initiating the contact on the back side of the quarterback, forcing the defender to swing the quarterback to the ground. The momentum did not take the defender on top of the quarterback like it did for Clay Matthews tackle.

The final video (1:50) most closely represents the tackle the Packers defender delivered last week. However, the defender in the video is engaged with an offensive lineman up until his contact with the quarterback. Because of this, the defenders momentum is taken downward, before regaining his balance the defender makes a last ditch effort to throw his arm at the quarterback.

The unsuspecting QB stays in the pocket, allowing the defender to make contact with him from the side, taking his momentum behind the quarterback once again. Once again, a different play than the Matthews play last week.

There is one thing that is consistent in these videos, in every video detailing a legal tackle the defender comes at the quarterback with his momentum taking him behind the QB. None of the videos explained how to legally tackle a quarterback coming head on with the quarterback staying in the pocket, as most defensive tackles do.

It would seem the best way to handle this issue would be to just take the defenders and put them behind the offense pre snap, because otherwise it looks like it is illegal to tackle a quarterback from a forward position, the way the game is played.

The NFL managed to avoid the question players, coaches, and fans have been asking, further stirring up confusion with no end in sight.

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Tom is a student at Fisher College in Boston. Tom spends his time conquering video games and exploring his city of Boston. His favorite part of writing is the stories and hopes to tell them for years to come.

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