September 11, 2018 / 2:11 AM / a month ago

NFL: Key penalty in Steelers-Browns called in error

The NFL’s head of officiating said Monday that Browns defensive end Myles Garrett should not have been called for roughing the passer in the second quarter of Cleveland’s 21-21 tie with the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.

Sep 9, 2018; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett (95) forces a fumble from Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) as linebacker Christian Kirksey (58) goes for the ball during the second half at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Garrett took down Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for a third-down incompletion and was called for a personal foul. On the next play, Steelers running back James Conner ran in for a touchdown and a 7-0 Pittsburgh lead.

Al Riveron, the NFL’s senior vice president of officiating, told NFL.com that the official erred in calling the penalty on Garrett. The defensive end was flagged for a violation of the rule that prohibits a player from landing on the quarterback with most or all of his body weight.

“The rule specifically says ‘most, if not all, of your body weight,’” Riveron told NFL.com. “So we want that player to make an effort. And the last three or four weeks, we have pulled extensive video to show the clubs exactly what we’re talking about. ... Because the question we get all the time is, ‘Well, what do you want our players to do?’

“Well, they have to not put the weight on the quarterback. And this one yesterday showed, even though there is some body weight on Ben, this is not what we would consider contact that rises to the level of a foul.”

Riveron did note that four other flags thrown for players landing on quarterbacks — on Atlanta’s Grady Jarrett, Cincinnati’s Carlos Dunlap, Minnesota’s Sheldon Richardson and New Orleans’ David Onyemata — were correctly called as penalties under the longstanding rule, which is an area of emphasis for officials this year.

The regulation regarding landing on the QB has been in place more than 20 years. The rule has read: “When tackling a passer who is in a defenseless posture (e.g., during or just after throwing a pass), a defensive player must not unnecessarily or violently throw him down and land on top of him with all or most of the defender’s weight.” This year, the league replaced the word “and” with “or,” giving refs more leeway to call a penalty.

Through Sunday, 14 roughing-the-passer penalties were called in 14 Week 1 games. Over the past three seasons, the typical weekend of games featured 6.8 such calls, per NFL Research. Riveron said 12 of the 14 calls last weekend were correct.

The other incorrect call was on New Orleans’ Marcus Davenport, who was wrongly penalized for a non-hit on Tampa Bay’s Ryan Fitzpatrick, according to Riveron.

Riveron had yet to look at other plays that went unpenalized to see if additional infractions were merited.

Riveron added that he hopes adjustments will be made by teams to reduce the increase in safety-focused penalties.

“It’s a combination of several things: the coaching, obviously the players, and then the officiating,” Riveron told NFL.com. “But I think at the beginning, because it has not been called the way it has been called or the committee wants it to be called now differently or a certain way, then it levels off and everyone adjusts to it.”

—Field Level Media

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