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NFL: Clay Matthews hit on Alex Smith is “textbook” roughing the passer

Mike Florio

The NFL’s new focus on roughing the passer has once again created a Sunday evening ruckus. And, once again, Packers linebacker Clay Matthews is smack dab in the middle of it all.

But the NFL insists that today’s call — a penalty arising from Matthews landing on Washington quarterback Alex Smith with all or most of his body weight — was the right call. Former NFL referee, and current NFL consultant, Ed Hocuhli explained the reasoning to PFT by phone, not long before the start of this week’s edition of Football Night in America.

Calling it a “textbook” case of roughing, Hochuli said that the hit by Matthews falls squarely within the point of emphasis regarding the roughing passer foul, as it relates to the placement of all or most of the defender’s body weight on the passer.

“They’ve been calling it this way for six weeks,” Hochuli said. “It’s as clear of an example of roughing the passer as you could have.”

So what should Matthews have done differently? Hochuli said that the solution is simple. Matthews had two steps before hitting Smith. The league expects Matthews in that situation to hit him and roll to the side, landing with Matthews’ body weight on the ground, not on the passer.

“If I could show an example of fully body weight on a passer,” Hochuli said, “that would be the play.”

Players, coaches, fans, and media may not like it that way, but that’s the way it is. The league has decided to protect its quarterbacks, because the league knows that the quality of the product suffers greatly when the best quarterbacks aren’t on the field.