Analysis: Week 12 backs up Simmons' contention NFL lacks clarity, consistency in rules enforcement

DENVER (AP) — When his teammate Kareem Jackson was suspended for a second time last week for the kind of hits the NFL is trying to get rid of, Denver Broncos star safety Justin Simmons lamented the league lacked both consistency and clarity in its rules enforcement.

Week 12 showed Simmons was spot on.

In Buffalo's 37-34 overtime loss at Philadelphia, Bills quarterback Josh Allen was on both ends of some dubious decisions by referee Shawn Hochuli's crew.

Allen, who has a habit of throwing his head back after contact, did his best impression of a soccer player flopping on the pitch on the Bills' opening drive of overtime. It resulted in a roughing the passer penalty on Philadelphia linebacker Nicholas Morrow, moving the ball well within field goal range.

Earlier in the game, Eagles linebacker Haason Reddick got away with a horse collar tackle when he corralled Allen outside the pocket and flung him violently to the ground for a sack.

"Josh Allen was out of the pocket, so there should have been a foul on this play,” CBS rules analyst Gene Steratore said.

In Sunday night's primetime slot, the Chargers were driving for a touchdown on their opening possession when scrambling Los Angeles quarterback Justin Herbert was hit out of bounds by Baltimore Ravens safety Geno Stone and a yellow flag came out.

Only, the penalty wasn't on Stone but on Chargers offensive lineman Jamaree Salyer, who came to his quarterback's defense and drew a 15-yard punishment. So, instead of first-and-goal from the 3, the Chargers faced third-and-19 from the 21 and they settled for a field goal in what would become a 20-10 loss.

After the game, pool reporter Joe Reedy of the Associated Press asked referee Alan Eck why there was no penalty on Stone. Eck said it was a judgment call that Stone committed to and began the hit before Herbert was clearly out of bounds.

“So, the ruling on the field was that the quarterback was trying to gain yardage,” Eck said. “While he was still in bounds, the defender committed to the tackle. And as his foot landed out of bounds, the defender made contact. So, since the defender already committed to the tackle while the quarterback was in bounds, it was deemed a legal hit.”

Eck went on to say Salyer’s “reaction was over the top."

And in Denver's 29-12 win over the Cleveland Browns, Simmons' teammate, outside linebacker Baron Browning, was whistled for unnecessary roughness on what looked to a lot of people like a textbook hit of Dorian Thompson-Robinson even though it knocked Cleveland's rookie quarterback from the game with a concussion.

Browning didn't dip his head to hit with the crown of his helmet. He led with his shoulder, targeted the chest and didn't land on the quarterback.

But when Thompson-Robinson crumbled to the grass at his goal line, his lip bloody, an official ran over to check on him and only then did he throw the flag.

“I didn’t think it was a dirty hit, but they called it, so what can I do,” Browning said of the hit that knocked DTR from the game. “We can’t control everything, but we can control the response and we got a turnover."

It’s up for debate with some rules analysts saying Browning came in too high and that his hit in stride could be construed as a launch but to many others, it appeared to be clean, the exact kind of tackle the NFL would show players during training camp as an example of how they’re supposed to hit.

Instead of punting on fourth down, the Browns had a first down at their 38, although two plays later, backup QB P.J. Walker fumbled and Denver defensive tackle D.J. Jones recovered the loose ball at the Cleveland 20-yard line, setting up the Broncos' breakaway touchdown.

Jackson, a veteran in his 14th NFL season, has been ejected twice, fined four times and suspended for six games this season over a series of illegal hits. When he returned from his first suspension he said he couldn't guarantee that his wallet or opponents wouldn't take more big hits because, he said, the league couldn't give him clear answers on how he was supposed to adjust his game to comply with the new safety rules.

On his first tackle back, he hit left his feet and hit Vikings QB Joshua Dobbs with the crown of his helmet in the neck. Although the play wasn't flagged, the NFL suspended Jackson for four games the following day.

Simmons and other teammates defended Jackson in interviews and on social media. And on Sunday in pregame warmups Denver's defensive backs wore “Free KJack” T-shirts.



Arnie Stapleton, The Associated Press