Kiko Alonso should’ve been penalized for his hit on Joe Flacco, and he was. If he had been ejected, it would’ve been hard to argue with that too.
Hitting any player high is going to come with consequences, but leveling a quarterback — the most protected position in football, except maybe kickers and punters — is a cardinal sin in football. And so Alonso will undoubtedly get a fine and possibly even a suspension.
But determining Alonso’s intent on the play isn’t as easy. With a fraction of a second between the beginning of Flacco’s slide and the collision with the linebacker, it’s hard to really say that there was malicious intent.
After the game, Alonso told reporters he didn’t mean to injure Flacco and said “I hope he’s all right”:
Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso said his hit on Joe Flacco was a "bang, bang play" and he didn't intend to hurt the Ravens QB. pic.twitter.com/mzm9L1bkWi— Omar Kelly (@OmarKelly) October 27, 2017
It’s undeniable that Flacco put himself in danger with the timing of his slide:
With Alonso aiming to beat Flacco to the 10-yard line, where the Ravens needed to get to for a first down, the quarterback waited as long as possible to slide.
Given the timing of the slide, if Alonso had hit Flacco in, say, the side, instead of the head, he may have gone unpenalized altogether:
Under NFL rules, a QB who slides late can be hit by a defender but still cannot be hit forcibly in the head.— MarkMaske (@MarkMaske) October 27, 2017
Essentially, the rule says that a quarterback who slides late is responsible for contact. But if the contact is high then it’s a penalty, regardless.
Part of the problem with that is the head is the last part to go down on slides, teeing it up for diving defenders. Any time a quarterback chooses to slide late, defenders are tasked with avoiding contact altogether because a hit to the head is likely the only collision that can happen.
“You’re taught that when a quarterback slides, you’re supposed to aim for the head so you can jump over them. So you can miss them,” Ravens linebacker C.J. Mosley told the NFL Network crew in a postgame interview.
Alonso didn’t miss Flacco.
By rule, he should have. Alonso didn’t avoid the contact, connected with Flacco and delivered a hellacious blow that knocked the quarterback out of the game. He received a deserved penalty by the letter of the law.
But slapping labels like “dirty” or “cheap” on Alonso maybe isn’t fair. Sliding late is as dangerous of a play as any in the NFL, and it set up Flacco to be drilled.