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Clay Matthews’ controversial roughing the passer call on Kirk Cousins has everyone confused

The call gave the Vikings new life.

The Green Bay Packers looked to have their game against the Minnesota Vikings locked up after Kirk Cousins threw an interception down by eight points with 1:45 left on the clock. Instead, Packers linebacker Clay Matthews was called for roughing the passer, a penalty that extended the drive and allowed the Vikings to tie the game.

This was the call in question:

Does that look like roughing the passer to you?

After that penalty, the Vikings marched right down the field for a touchdown pass to Adam Thielen and a two-point conversion to Stefon Diggs that tied the game at 29.

Nothing about this call makes sense

There was nothing after the initial hit by Matthews. He hit Cousins clean in the chest as the ball was released. It didn’t look like he landed on Cousins with his body weight, but apparently the ref thought differently. Nevertheless, the call was made and the interception was wiped out.

Referee Tony Corrente explained it after the game. Unfortunately, his explanation won’t leave anyone, especially Packers fans, with much satisfaction.

Take another look at the video. Does it look to you like Matthews picked up Cousins and drove him into the ground? No. Cousins’ feet do leave the ground, so maybe that’s what the refs saw. However, as the video makes clear it’s Matthews’ momentum combined with Cousins in the act of throwing that gives him a lift.

The NFL is standing by the call, though

Senior Vice President of Officiating Al Riveron will defend Corrente’s call and even pass it around to all 32 teams as a teach lesson:

But Dean Blandino and Mike Pereira are the two men who previously held Riveron’s position, and both disagree with the call.

‘I don’t know what else to do.”

Here’s what Matthews said after the game outside of his locker:

“I mean, I don’t even know where to start to be completely honest with you. There are so many emotions running through (me) as far as what a terrible call it was, but at the same time, I don’t know what else to do. I don’t know, you let me know. Did I put pressure on him? Because I thought I hit him within the waist to chest (area). I got my head across, put my hands down and to call it at that point in the game is unbelievable.

”Last week, ok, shame on me, but this week — that’s unbelievable and the worst part is, we’ll probably send it in and you know what they are going to say — they’ll find fault on me because they are going to agree with the refs. I don’t know. It’s a difficult call to call and you saw how it changed the game and I know there’s an emphasis on protecting quarterbacks but it’s gotten out of control now.”

“A little bit of gray area”

“I think that’s where a little bit of gray area is in the judgment of the defender hitting the quarterback,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said the next day.

“I get what the goal (of player safety) is, and we’re all for the goal being achieved, but at the same time, you have to make sure it’s not a competitive disadvantage to the pass rusher trying to hit the quarterback.”

McCarthy didn’t object to the use of instant replay in that situation, either.

Room for interpretation

Here’s the entire roughing the passer rule:

A rushing defender is prohibited from committing such intimidating and punishing acts as “stuffing” a passer into the ground or unnecessarily wrestling or driving him down after the passer has thrown the ball, even if the rusher makes his initial contact with the passer within the one-step limitation provided for in (a) above. When tackling a passer who is in a defenseless posture (e.g., during or just after throwing a pass), a defensive player must not unnecessarily or violently throw him down or land on top of him with all or most of the defender’s weight. Instead, the defensive player must strive to wrap up the passer with the defensive player’s arms and not land on the passer with all or most of his body weight.

It leaves a lot of room for interpretation, especially that last part of it. At least one former official made that perfectly clear.

The game was extended into overtime after the Packers missed a 52-yard field goal. Luckily, or unluckily depending on your rooting interest, the Vikings missed a game-winning 35-yard field in overtime to finish with a 29-29 tie.

It’s worth noting here that the 29-29 final score is an NFL first, a scorigami!

A tie’s better than a loss, but that won’t leave anyone in this game feeling much satisfaction, especially Packers fans. Green Bay had it nearly wrapped up, but a bad call changed the outcome of the game.