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Hit on Welker not currently illegal, but it could be in 2015

Thomas

Sunday’s Broncos-Seahawks game included a hit that has plenty of Denver fans crying foul that a foul wasn’t called.

Late in the fourth with the Broncos down 17-12 and facing third and 11 from the Seattle 24, quarterback Peyton Manning threw a pass to receiver Wes Welker. Safety Kam Chancellor jumped up and intercepted the ball before it could get to the target. Behind Chancellor, Welker absorbed a hit to the helmet from safety Earl Thomas.

A flag for unnecessary roughness would have overturned the turnover, giving Denver the ball back 12 yards closer to the end zone.

Per a league source, it was the right interpretation of the current rules. Because Welker had not just made a catch, he did not fall within the “defenseless player” definition. Likewise, because the interception had not clearly been completed, Welker did not enjoy the protections against a blind-side block.

The league nevertheless will study this specific situation in the offseason for a potential tweak to the rules that would give a receiver in that circumstance protection against the hit he absorbed in that specific situation. For now, the hit landed in a gray area that allowed Thomas to avoid a flag and a fine. In the future, that could change.

That won’t help Denver very much; they could have taken the lead 20-17 with less than two minutes to play, forcing Seattle to try to force overtime with a field goal, or to win it in regulation with a touchdown.