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Embarrassing Monday night for NFL with roughing passer calls

Florida Football Insiders

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Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

As the old cliche’ goes, “too much of a good thing can be bad.” And unfortunately, with the NFL having safety in mind first in trying to protect quarterbacks, the emphasis and enforcement of “roughing-the-passer” has gone overboard.

And we mean overboard.

Like horiffic look on Monday Night Football between the Buccaneers and Steelers, overboard.

The Steelers won an important game for both teams 30-27, but there’s way too much conversation about the QB hits coming out of this game.

There were five personal foul calls by referee Pete Morelli and his crew against pass-rushers on a quarterback last night. In fairness, on the occasion that Bucs QB Ryan Fitzpatrick was scrambling in the first quarter and Steelers linebacker James Bostic clearly left his feet and hit him in the head (above), as he was attempting to slide down, it was correct.

That was a legitimate call that the NFL is emphasizing and trying to erase.

However, the argument can be made that on three of the other four calls of roughing either Fitzpatrick or Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the officials, and Morelli specifically, overreacted and made a call that should have been let go.

We at F.F.I. understand the point of emphasis that referees are being instructed to stop defenders from wrapping up a quarterback and driving him into the ground. More on a specific call about that in a second.

First, at the beginning of the second quarter and with the Steelers backed up near their own end zone, Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy did exactly what players are being instructed to do. He let up and did not tackle Roethlisberger to the ground, avoiding landing on him after he threw the football.

And yet, Morelli threw his flag anyway.

On the play the Steelers had completed the pass to Juju Smith- Schuster for 43 yards, but still, it was an example of a call that did not meet the criteria and emphasis and should not have been made.

Later in the second quarter, Bucs defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul was flagged for a hitting Big Ben in  the head while Roethlisberger was in the pocket. However, it was clear both live and on the replay that Pierre-Paul made very little contact with his arm and Roethlisberger flopped to the ground.

Again, it should have been let go.

Now, with six minutes remaining in the first half, Ryan Fitzpatrick threw an incomplete pass and Steelers defensive tackle Stephon Tuitt textbook grabbed him around the waist and drove him into the ground landing on him. This is the example that is exactly what the NFL wants called and Morelli got that one right.

However, by and large the calls were bad on this specific point of emphasis.

It’s obvious after the controversy involving the Packers Clay Matthews hit on the Redskins quarterback Alex Smith Sunday, where he drove him to the ground in the pocket on a sack, that the NFL is in “full spin mode” on making that call and doing it consistently.

Further, players are trying to adjust, not just McCoy last night, but also Dolphins defensive end William Hayes who was trying to keep from wrapping up Derek Carr Sunday and ended up tearing his ACL because of it.

The bottom line is in a stand-alone Monday Night Football national television game, it was not a good look for the NFL to repeatedly see flags on the field for roughing the quarterback that weren’t really roughing.

Take for example, this tweet on Tuesday morning from ESPN’s Booger McFarland who called the game from field level Monday night:

He’s right. The NFL and its ongoing evaluation has to reign in how and when roughing-the-passer is going to be called.

Otherwise, the officiating continues to be one of the main story lines, and no one pays to see the officials.

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