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The NFL’s new roughing the passer ‘body weight’ rule is a problem

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Myles Garrett fell victim to the league’s rule, which doesn’t account for important things like the laws of physics.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Myles Garrett finally got his chance to face Ben Roethlisberger Sunday. He also got the chance to lose his team 15 yards for his inability to defy the laws of gravity.

Garrett brought the pressure that appeared to squelch a Steelers’ second-quarter drive, flushing Roethlisberger to his left and tackling the veteran quarterback a split-second after he uncorked an incomplete pass in the direction of Justin Hunter. But officials flagged the Browns’ star pass rusher after the play — not for a late hit, but for violating a new rule that requires defensive ends and linebackers to bend the laws of physics in the name of protecting passers.

Garrett got hit with a roughing the passer penalty for landing with his body weight on Roethlisberger, extending a Pittsburgh drive that would have otherwise segued into a short field goal attempt with that third down incompletion. Instead, James Conner turned first-and-goal into a seven-point Steeler lead the very next play.

What’s this new roughing the passer rule?

The protective wrinkle that nabbed Garrett Sunday is a new rule for 2018.

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 ... 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 and 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.

Basically, it means defensive players can still tackle quarterbacks, they just can’t land on top of them. It was enacted in response to a single play from 2017, when Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr hauled down a scrambling Aaron Rodgers in Week 6 and snapped his collarbone with the full weight of his 255-pound frame.

While the new regulation was made with good intentions, it’s already drawn its share of criticism midway through Week 1. Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap was flagged for it against Andrew Luck, much to his understandable displeasure:

The FalconsGrady Jarrett was the first player to officially run afoul of the new rule in Thursday’s season opener in Philadelphia:

Fans and analysts weren’t happy with the call Thursday:

And they weren’t happy about it Sunday afternoon, either: