Should Jadeveon Clowney have been flagged for helmet hit that knocked Carson Wentz out of game?

Carson Wentz left Sunday’s playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks in the first quarter after taking a blow to the head.

The Philadelphia Eagles quarterback was falling to the ground after a leg tackle from behind by Seattle Seahawks safety Bradley McDougald when edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney dove at him headfirst.

Why no flag?

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Clowney made a direct hit with the crown of his helmet to the back of Wentz’s head as he was falling to the turf.

Clowney’s hit did not draw a flag.

Wentz got up after the first-down hit and continued to play on a drive that ended six plays later with a punt. During the Seahawks’ ensuing possession, Wentz left the field to be evaluated for a head injury and was listed as questionable to return before being ruled out at halftime.

Officials declined to flag Jadeveon Clowney for a direct blow to the back of Carson Wentz's head. (Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Officials declined to flag Jadeveon Clowney for a direct blow to the back of Carson Wentz's head. (Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

The play didn’t garner much attention in real time, especially after Wentz popped right up for the next play.

But replay shows a clear helmet-to-helmet hit on unnecessary contact by Clowney. It’s not clear how a 15-yard penalty would have impacted the Eagles’ drive that ended on their own 36-yard line.

Officials’ explanation

Referee Shawn Smith told a pool reporter after the game that the hit wasn’t flagged because Wentz didn’t give himself up.

“He was a runner, and he did not give himself up,” Smith said. “We saw incidental helmet contact, and, in our judgment, we didn’t rule that to be a foul.”

Wentz’s teammates lament ‘dirty’ hit

Wentz’s teammates didn’t see it that way. Left tackle Jason Peters told reporters that he confronted Clowney on the field about the hit and told him it was a dirty play.

“I checked Clowney about it,” Peters said. “He was mouthing, I was mouthing back at him. ... I just told him, 'Man, that's a dirty play. And he's like, ‘My bad,’ and we just kept playing. I just kept reminding him, ‘Man, stay off my quarterback.’”

Tight end Zach Ertz agreed and said he knew Wentz was injured as soon as he stood up.

“I thought it was late,” Ertz said. “I kinda knew something was wrong right away, just the way he got up. Devastated for my guy. Really tough.”

Clowney: ‘It was a bang-bang play’

Clowney defended the hit, explaining that he never intends to hurt anybody on the football field.

“It was a bang-bang play,” Clowney said. “I don't intend to hurt anybody in this league. Let me just put that out there. I've been down the injury road. It's not fun. My intention was not to hurt him. I was just playing fast.”

Intentional or not, that’s a flag that must be thrown in the interest of player safety.

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