EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Maxx Crosby slashed inward off the edge, broke free from his blocker and chased down Sam Darnold. The Raiders' rookie defensive end brought the New York Jets quarterback to the ground for an important sack.
That seemed to set up a third-and-super-long until a late flag was thrown against Maurice Hurst. Officials called him out for roughing the passer, which set up a first-and-goal and a reversal of fortune. The Jets scored on the next play and then rolled to a 34-3 win over the Raiders on Sunday.
Fans and players were flummoxed. Hurst didn’t do anything wrong, landing softly on top the pile shortly after Darnold went down.
"They said I hit him in the head, but I didn't even touch his head. So, I don't know,” Hurst told the San Francisco Chronicle’s Matt Kawahara. "… I just don’t see a need for calling it unless it’s blatant. It just seems like the calls are getting out of hand at this point."
Hurst also called it a momentum change, and that’s certainly true. The Raiders could’ve forced a long field-goal attempt, but instead they gave up a touchdown that broke a 3-3 tie. It was part of a Jets offensive run that steamrolled the Raiders.
Hurst wasn’t the only person confused by the ruling. It didn’t make sense to CBS broadcast analyst Trent Green, and fired up Gruden. He let the officials have it, caught on camera using some language not suitable for work or this website.
Raiders defenders didn’t understand the call either. The Raiders have been flagged and fined several times for roughing-the-passer calls. Hurst was fined for such an infraction earlier this season, but he had that removed on appeal. Appeals can’t take away penalties during the game, where it hurts the team the most.
“I don’t know what roughing the passer is anymore,” defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins said. “That’s what the ref called, and that’s what it is.”
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It was a major part of a horrible Raiders start that never improved. The Silver and Black struggled in every phase, but that controversial roughing-the-passer call was a pivot point.
“What happens is that you drop a couple passes, you miss a field goal and then that happens,” Gruden said. “It gives you a sinking feeling. You ever been on a boat that’s sinking? It’s not happy. It’s not pleasant. It is adversity. It’s football. You have to respond to adversity, and we didn’t do a good enough job as coaches rallying our troops today.”