Questionable roughing the passer calls have been prevalent, but the Los Angeles Rams are showing the rest of the NFL how to hit the quarterback legally.
After everyone thought the new helmet rule would be controversial this NFL season, iffy roughing the passer calls have taken the baton. Clay Matthews has become the poster boy for controversial fouls on the quarterback, and even quarterbacks themselves have lamented some bad calls. But the undefeated Los Angeles Rams are showing how hitting the quarterback can be done legally.
The Rams pressured Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins a lot last Thursday night, including two sacks and 13 pressures (via Pro Football Focus) credited to defensive tackle Aaron Donald alone. Cousins was sacked four times overall in the game, including one from Ndamukong Suh, as Los Angeles overwhelmed Minnesota’s interior line.
But the Rams picked up zero roughing the passer penalties on Thursday night, despite ample opportunities to offer a referee a judgement call. NFL executive V.P. of operations Troy Vincent put out a video of three Rams’ sacks from Thursday night’s game, with the answer to how the quarterback can be legally hit.
Donald and Suh, whose reputation for dirty play and fines precedes him, both hit Cousins from the side and rolled him to the ground. While the physics of running full speed straight at a quarterback, hitting him and avoiding putting the majority of your weight on him are being left aside, but the top defensive tackle duo in the league is showing that hitting a quarterback can legally be done and still play at a high level.
Adapting quickly to the NFL’s new reality of treating quarterbacks with even more tender kid gloves is a credit to the Rams’ coaching staff. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and defensive line coach Bill Johnson have pretty clearly used tape study and technique teaching to help Donald and Suh avoid game-altering penalties.