There were plenty of reasons the Eagles lost to the Vikings on Sunday afternoon, but the questionable call for roughing the passer on Michael Bennett is up there.
Sure, the entire loss can’t be pinned on that call, but it was a big one.
With just 36 seconds left in the first half, Bennett sacked Kirk Cousins for what would have been about an eight- or nine-yard loss, but then a yellow flag came flying in. The refs claimed Bennett hit Cousins low.
So instead of a 3rd-and-long from the 32-yard line, the Vikings got the ball and a first down at the 11 and scored a touchdown to go up 17-3 just two plays later.
“I think it was a bad call,” Fletcher Cox said. “Mike gently brought him to the ground. Kirk bent his legs to go down and he called it. What can we do? Play the next play.”
Fans were not happy about the call when it happened (see story). You be the judge. Here it is:
This was the explanation referee Walt Coleman gave to pool reporter Reuben Frank from NBC Sports Philadelphia:
He went low into the quarterback’s knees with his shoulder, with force. And the rule is that you cannot hit the quarterback low at the knee area or below with force. He got him there with his shoulder, so that’s what I had as far as roughing the passer.
The problem with that explanation is that replays showed that Bennett hit Cousins in the thigh/butt/waist areas and then slid down to his ankles because of … you know … gravity.
It has become increasingly hard for defensive players to avoid roughing the passer penalties in this NFL. The problem here was that Bennett tried to abide by the rule and was still flagged.
“I just think they sometimes lack common sense,” Malcolm Jenkins said. “I get it, we want to protect quarterbacks. I completely understand that; they’re lifeblood to our game. But it’s really hard to do a job and it’s having an effect on some games. But we have plenty of opportunities to win a game. That was just one play that was a little frustrating.”
Chris Long said he thinks it should be on the quarterback to protect himself in the late stages of that play. If he feels someone at his ankles, he should go down. But the NFL is increasingly protective of quarterbacks. It was a tough spot for Bennett to be in.
“I don’t know what he’s supposed to do,” said Jenkins, who had a lengthy conversation with the ref on the field.
Jenkins said he was asking the ref what he should tell Bennett to do differently. The explanation, according to Jenkins, was that Bennett simply has to avoid the hit. The problem with that, of course, is that Bennett gets paid to hit quarterbacks.
“I guess we gotta adapt,” Long said.
Bennett declined interview requests after the game.
But chances are that he wouldn’t have been thrilled with that penalty call. A sack there could have been a huge, momentum-shifting play. Instead, it helped the Vikings build what proved to be an insurmountable lead.