The Pittsburgh Steelers got the ball back in the final minute of regulation after outside linebacker T.J. Watt came up with a crucial sack that helped end a Green Bay Packers and eventually set up a game-winning field goal for Chris Boswell.
But replay showed Watt colliding with clear helmet-to-helmet contact on Packers quarterback Brett Hundley. It appeared to most watching, including Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth in the NBC booth, that a roughing passer call was missed.
Quarterbacks are protected and cannot be hit in the helmet. But runners who lower their head into collisions don’t have those same protections.
With Hundley aware the contact was coming, lowering his head into it and attempting to push forward for yardage as a runner, the play was ruled correctly by officials.
Helmet to helmet does not apply to a runner, which is how the quarterback is treated in that situation— Fᴏᴏᴛʙᴀʟʟ Zᴇʙʀᴀs (@footballzebras) November 27, 2017
To clarify the hit on Hundley, a "passer" is not the QB, but a player in the act of passing. Even though in the pocket, he's not a defenseless player, especially since he's trying evade tackles and gain yards. There are QB protections, but none of those were violated on this play— Fᴏᴏᴛʙᴀʟʟ Zᴇʙʀᴀs (@footballzebras) November 27, 2017
Watt’s sack on first down set the Green Bay offense back and two plays later it punted with 27 seconds to go. A roughing the passer call would’ve likely meant Pittsburgh never touched the ball again in regulation. But this time officials were correct by rule not to protect the quarterback.