D.J. Swearinger on the irony of 'horrible' roughing the passer call

Chris Lingebach
September 24, 2018 - 8:31 pm

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

There could only be one winner between the Redskins and Packers on Sunday, but both sides can at least agree on a controversial roughing the passer call made late in the 31-17 Redskins victory.

Officials flagged Packers linebacker Clay Matthews for roughing the passer late in the third quarter, when Matthews delivered what looked to be a clean sack on Redskins QB Alex Smith.

Matthews erred, the NFL reasons, in allowing all of his body weight to land on top of Smith. Matthews accused the league of "getting soft" after the game.

The call comes one week after Matthews laid a game-changing hit on Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, that was also flagged for roughing the passer.

The Packers last Sunday were leading by eight with less than two minutes to play in regulation. Matthews unleashed a similarly clean hit as Cousins was releasing the ball, causing what should have been the game-ending interception.

Matthews was called for roughing the passer, negating the interception, and the Vikings drove down the field and tied the game, pushing it into overtime. The game ended in a 29-29 tie.

In an interview Monday with 106.7 The Fan's Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier, Redskins safety D.J. Swearinger looked back on the roughing-the-passer penalty – which, in this case, benefited his team – calling it "horrible."

Paulsen: That was the worst call ever. 

Swearinger: Yeah, it was. It was.

Paulsen: And it's a correct call, based on the current rule.

Swearinger: Yeah, it is the correct call, but it's horrible, man. That is horrible, man. I don't care what team it is. That's a clear sack. There's nothing he can do about that. I think they're basically asking defensive ends to tag him, or if you tackle him, you've got to hurt yourself. Because the only way he doesn't land on him is... I don't know. You can't do that in mid-air while grabbing somebody.

Paulsen: Is it even physically possible to land on your arm?

Swearinger: No. You're gonna hurt your arm. You're gonna hurt your shoulder, you're gonna hurt your elbow. It's something gonna happen if you try to do that and something happens wrong. There's no physical way that can happen, man. And then at the end, at least he tried to at least get off him. You know what I'm saying? It's just... it's a lose-lose for defense now. 

Despite disagreeing with the call on the field, Swearinger did note the irony that the rule was only put in place to protect Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

In 2017, Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone in a Week 6 game against – ready for some more irony? – the Minnesota Vikings. Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr – playing the role of Matthews in this instance – was not penalized for the hit. The injury required surgery and Rodgers would miss the next seven games.

Paulsen: I even heard Alex Smith say – as a quarterback, he basically said, 'I feel bad for him.'

Swearinger: Yeah, but you know what? Truth be told, man, they put that rule in for Aaron Rodgers and it kind of backfired on them, I think.

Paulsen: Oh, because of the collarbone? 

Swearinger: Because of the collarbone. That's exactly why the put the rule in, because he got hurt. They don't want the great quarterbacks out, so they put the rule in for him. So, it backfired on 'em.

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