The NFL has placed a newfound emphasis on safety, seen in new rules about helmet-to-helmet hits and targeting of defenseless receivers. The league may have a brand new challenge on their hands in the wake of the devastating hit that left Austin Collie motionless on the field.
Collie left the field on a stretcher and was reportedly moving his feet on the field. His symptoms, including a behavior known as the "fencing response," appeared consistent with at least a concussion.
But beyond just Collie, there is a problem with how these rules can be enforced without disrupting the quality of play. On CBS' halftime show, Bill Cowher said he spoke to the league office about the hit, and was told that the first hit by Quintin Mikell was legal, but that the second hit by Kurt Coleman was a helmet-to-helmet hit and therefore a penalty for unnecessary roughness.
That flag drew boos from the Philadelphia crowd, but it's also as borderline as these calls get. To my eye, Coleman appears to lead with his shoulder rather than his helmet, but makes helmet-to-helmet contact with Collie as he falls. Is that a penalty because of incidental contact? Was the flag a correct ruling or a reaction to Collie's injury? Get ready for a week of debate about the hit, the penalty, and the NFL's commitment to safety.
In the meantime, consider this: after Collie left the field, the Colts scored in just two plays, and did so while facing little resistance from the Eagles defense. It certainly seemed as if the aftermath of the hit affected the way the Eagles played.
(Video via Will Brinson.)