NFL fans are quite familiar with the parlor game “What is a catch?” We see that game play out every week during the NFL season.
Fans are also growing familiar with the latest spinoff, titled “What is roughing the passer?”
The latest version of that game played out late in the game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Atlanta Falcons. Thanks to a touchdown pass from Marcus Mariota to Olamide Zaccheaus, and the ensuing two-point conversion, the Falcons cut the Buccaneer’s lead down to 21-15 with just under five minutes remaining.
Then their defense faced a critical third down near midfield on Tampa Bay’s ensuing possession. The defense had a chance to force a punt and give Mariota and the offense one final crack at the win.
It looked like they delivered, as Grady Jarrett broke through the line and got to Tom Brady for what appeared to be a critical sack.
Then, the flag fell:
As you can hear, in the booth FOX Sports analyst Daryl Johnson questioned the call, saying that it was “not in the spirit of the rule.”
That sentiment was quickly spreading on Twitter:
refs called this roughing the passer on 3rd down and i genuinely do not know what Grady Jarrett could have done differently pic.twitter.com/VX6i0UpJiL— Christian D'Andrea (@TrainIsland) October 9, 2022
the roughing the passer calls that Tom Brady gets are legitimately comical— Benjamin Solak (@BenjaminSolak) October 9, 2022
Omg roughing the passer— Will Compton (@_willcompton) October 9, 2022
Fire that referee
I know we overreact to penalty calls. But the roughing the passer called on Grady Jarrett against Tom Brady was one that legitimately makes you wonder about the legitimacy of the sport. It was a routine tackle.— Michael Hurley (@michaelFhurley) October 9, 2022
One of the worst roughing the passer calls in NFL history— Emory Hunt (@FBallGameplan) October 9, 2022
Tom Brady roughing the passer call is the worst of the season— Cris Carter (@criscarter80) October 9, 2022
I've seen a lot of #NFL football in my life, but someone is going to have to explain this roughing the passer call in the @AtlantaFalcons / @Buccaneers game. I'm not sure I've seen anything quite like this pic.twitter.com/YvmekNYxG2— Scott Pioli (@scottpioli51) October 9, 2022
The reaction from Falcons head coach Arthur Smith speaks for itself:
Banger after banger for Jerome Boger’s crew. pic.twitter.com/5LbhniBTor— Jonas Shaffer (@jonas_shaffer) October 9, 2022
According to the NFL’s Roughing the Passer rules, it is stated that “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.” While that is likely the portion of the rule that the officials pointed to in this case, it does not seem at all that Jarrett “unnecessarily or violently” throws Brady down on this play. It happens in the course of an ordinary sack, with Jarrett chasing the quarterback down from behind.
Indeed, that is the portion of the rulebook that Jerome Boger pointed to when questioned about the call after the game:
Sunday's referee Jerome Boger to pool reporter @gregauman: "What I had was a defender grabbed the quarterback while he was still in the pocket and unnecessarily throwing him to the ground. That is what I was making my decision based upon."— Josh Kendall (@JoshTheAthletic) October 9, 2022
Referee Jerome Boger told pool reporter @gregauman that the roughing the passer penalty on #Falcons DT Grady Jarrett was for “unnecessarily throwing (Tom Brady) to the ground.” pic.twitter.com/rqxyNzjd6I— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) October 9, 2022
Instead of the Buccaneers facing a potential punt, they were able to run out the clock.
Leaving fans wondering what they had just seen with their own eyes:
That roughing the passer call against Brady was an absolute disgrace— mike freeman (@mikefreemanNFL) October 9, 2022