The NFL is trying to legislate football into a place where it's safe for human beings to play, which may not be possible. No position is more protected than the star quarterback and for good reason. The valued assets must be preserved at all costs, even if the pendulum swings away from sanity.
Clay Matthews and the Los Angeles Rams found that out the hard way during last night's game in Seattle. The linebacker was flagged 15 yards for roughing Russell Wilson on a hit that certainly wasn't rough and probably shouldn't have been penalized.
The whistle extended the Seahawks' drive, which proved to be the game-winning march. Matthews was understandably apoplectic in real-time. His shoulder-to-sternum hit came milliseconds after Wilson, who is always a threat to scramble, released the ball. The defensive player is placed in an impossible position on the regular.
They can't go too low on the quarterback. They can't accidentally graze the helmet when trying to go high. And now, if the Matthews-Wilson collision is instructive, play football.
This is not a lament for the old days when dangerous hits were celebrated. It's a damn good thing that the league has gotten serious about preserving the brains and bodies of its workforce. What it is, though, is a lamentation that this run-in could play a major factor in who wins a game. In this case, a huge game that may turn out to decide who wins the NFC West.
It's a bit ironic that game-changing yellow flags can come flying out on a whim when so much time and energy has been shown outwardly in the interest of making everything fair and balanced. There are coach's challenges, booth reviews, and now pass interference reviews. They seem to want to get the big things right and yet a weak call like this can go unchecked.
Now, far be it from me to ask for more replay in sports. But all anyone needs to do is see this hit again in real time to understand that it shouldn't have been punished. There must be something that can be done. Perhaps it can start with an admission that we've gone a bit too far in the interest of protecting quarterbacks.
I know, I know. Fat chance of that.
The Matthews flag felt wrong at the time and it feels even more wrong now knowing what it led to. Damn shame.