CINCINNATI (92.3 The Fan) – Hue Jackson agrees with you Browns Twitter.
Unfortunately video replays and the rulebook do not.
Jackson lamented the 15-yard personal foul penalty that came with 3:57 to play in the fourth quarter with the Bengals leading 23-16 that was thrown on Browns rookie safety Jabrill Peppers for hitting a defenseless receiver following Sunday’s 30-16 loss in Cincinnati.
“The officials said that our player’s helmet hit their player in the head. I didn’t see that,” Jackson said. “I thought our player’s shoulder hit him in the chest. The torque of the impact could have caused their player’s head to react the way it did. To me, that’s football. He didn’t target their player’s head. That was a huge call at that juncture in the game, and the officials have to get that one right.
“I thought Jabrill did the right thing during that play, and I stand by him wholeheartedly. He hit the guy below the shoulder pads.”
Peppers’ hit on the near sideline successfully dislodged the football from Malone’s grasp preventing a big completion but also drawing the controversial penalty. At first glance – and even by the sound of the collision – it appeared to be a violent helmet to helmet hit, but replays showed that was not the case.
Veteran cornerback Jason McCourty, who was flagged earlier for a questionable pass interference penalty in the endzone that resulted in a TD, also disagreed with the flag.
“I thought it was a clean hit. The replay shows it was a clean hit. It looked like good football,” McCourty said. “He separated him from the ball by hitting him in the chest area. The receiver got up and ended up coming back into the game, I think. This is a part of our game today — if a hit looks too hard, automatically the referees are taught to throw a flag. I think it’s hard, as a player. He did a good job lowering his strike zone. It looked like a clean hit.”
Replays showed that Peppers actually hit Malone with his shoulder but his helmet also appeared to hit Malone in the neck area, which by NFL rules is a penalty, while his forearm drilled the receiver cleanly in the chest separating him from the football.
“I tried to keep it within the strike-zone,” Peppers said. “It’s the referee’s job to call it if it’s not. They made the right call, and I just have to move on from it. I was trying to make a play for my team, and I guess I came in a little high.”
The penalty moved the ball to the Cleveland 25 instead of a catch by Malone that would’ve put the ball near the 10.
“I just wanted to separate him from the ball and get them to fourth down,” Peppers said. “Maybe they would have punted or gone for it — who knows — but it definitely could’ve given us a chance to win the game. It is what it is. You just have to keep improving and getting better and trust the process.”
Unfortunately 3 plays later running back Joe Mixon put the game away with an 11-yard touchdown run with 3:02 on the clock.
According to the NFL rulebook for 2017, Peppers violated ‘Rule 12, Article 9, prohibited contact against a player who is in a defenseless posture’ by “Forcibly hitting the defenseless player’s head or neck area with the helmet, facemask, forearm, or shoulder, even if the initial contact is lower than the player’s neck, and regardless of whether the defensive player also uses his arms to tackle the defenseless player by encircling or grasping him.”
Fair or not, like it or not that is the rule as the league tries to minimize potentially dangerous hits above the shoulders.
“Player safety has been a big issue, especially with everything that has happened with former players,” Peppers said. “We’ve been playing this game for a long time — I’ve been playing since I was four, and I know the risks of playing this game. When you play defense, there’s a certain mindset you have to have. You have to be careful with how much aggression you use, but you never want to play any different.”
When the dust settled it was just yet another critical call that didn’t go the Browns’ way, again.
“It doesn’t seem like we’ve had favorable calls go our way this year,” Jackson said. “When we are winning, I do expect those calls to go our way, because we are going to be winning here someday soon.”