Sports NFL: Crucial flag in first half of Steelers-Browns tie was incorrect

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Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett shouldn’t have been called for roughing the passer in the second quarter of the Browns’ 21-21 tie Sunday with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the NFL’s senior vice president for officiating said Monday.

Garrett wrapped up 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 6-0 Steelers 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 said Monday. “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 said that four other penalties for players landing on quarterbacks — on Atlanta’s Grady Jarrett, Cincinnati’s Carlos Dunlap, Minnesota’s Sheldon Richardson and New Orleans’ David Onyemata — were correct.

Jarrett fell on Eagles quarterback Nick Foles in the end zone after Foles released a pass in Thursday night’s opener. He didn’t agree with the call, he said Monday.

“I didn’t think it was a bad hit,” Jarrett said Monday. “I feel like I kept my weight off him pretty good intentionally, popped up fast. I wasn’t able to turn to the side.”

The Browns will be relieved to know the call was wrong, because the flag perplexed them.

Coach Hue Jackson said Monday before he heard Riveron’s comments that he needed to learn more to understand the thinking behind the flag.

After the game, Garrett was also confused.

“I don’t know how from that angle I can hit him and put him into the ground,” Garrett said Sunday. “So you don’t want to tackle him. You kind of just have to tackle him into the ground. So you don’t you put your body weight or almost all your body weight into him, so I have to torque myself out of the way. So hopefully that gets adjusted or something’s changed about that, but we’ll see. I’m not going to change how I’m hitting because that’s how I’ve always been taught.”

Jarrett said he and Falcons coach Dan Quinn had a conversation about the play.

“We just talked about trying to make adjustments,” Jarrett said. “You can’t do nothing about the rule.”

At the same time, Jarrett said it’s hard to alter his playing style.

“Without a doubt,” he said. “I feel like not power-driving him into the ground is fair. I feel like not intentionally hitting him in the head is fair.

“Form tackle. I don’t think that’s fair to call roughing. And we’ve seen that happen a lot. But what are you going to do, cry about the call? … If they want to do that, they might as well go to two-hand touch. When we touch a quarterback, just be a sack then. You know what I’m saying? So just be fair on both ends of it.”

Quinn acknowledged that those are plays the officials are now calling with a renewed emphasis on player safety.

“So the hit on the quarterback — and Grady and I just had that conversation — we’ve got to get a way so they can hit and then at the last second, if we can move,” Quinn said. “It’s going to be challenging when you’re going full speed one way and hitting — ‘How do I change and get off course?’

“By no means was he trying to dumb the quarterback on that play, what the rule is intended for. I get it. Pile-driving the guy down, that was certainly not the case or his intent on that play.”

ESPN’s Vaughn McClure and Pat McManamon contributed to this report.

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