The officials should have flagged it. The league office fined it.
Last Sunday in London, Seahawks safety Bradley McDougald applied a vicious helmet-to-helmet hit to Raiders receiver Amari Cooper. On Friday, NFL senior V.P. of officiating Al Riveron said that McDougald should have been penalized for an illegal hit on a defenseless receiver or lowering the helmet to initiate contact with an opponent.
Per multiple reports, McDougald was fined $26,739. The fine has been characterized as a foul for “unnecessary roughness,” which presumably keeps it out of the lowering-the-helmet category — even if it could have been put there.
Which raises a broader question about the new rule. With plenty of instances of it being called unnecessary roughness because the hit is applied to a defenseless player, the new rule isn’t being enforced in part because the conduct is covered by pre-2018 rules.
Under pre-2018 rules or otherwise, McDougald should have been flagged. That fact that the league acknowledged that publicly will make it harder for McDougald to defeat the fine on appeal.