What's acceptable? Where are the lines? Last Sunday, the Seahawks-Dolphins game swung on a seemingly ludicrous call: Ryan Tannehill throwing the ball up for grabs in the end zone right as Seattle's Earl Thomas (running full-speed) jumped toward him with his arms outstretched, trying to deflect what ended up being a truly rancid pass that Seattle picked off easily. Only one problem: As Thomas was following through with his deflecting motion, Tannehill moved and one of Thomas's hands struck him in the head. Accidental, unintentional contact that only Bruce Lee or one of the Matrix characters could have avoided. What happened? They whistled Thomas with a penalty and gave the ball back to the Dolphins, who immediately tied the game and went on to win by three.
As the only person who picked the Seahawks to make the Super Bowl, as well as someone who would have wagered on Seattle (laying three points) if gambling were legal, the call left me more outraged than Alton's whiny, pathetic, legacy-altering, mail-in-of-a-performance in The Challenge did three days later. I even wondered in a tweet why the league didn't make helmet-to-helmet and inadvertently-hit-someone-because-they-were-in-midair-when-the-target-moved-and-couldn't-stop-because-it's-effing-impossible-to-change-what-your-brain-already-told-your-body-in-less-than-a-split-second penalties reviewable. If the goal of the instant-replay process is "getting game-turning calls correct," then shouldn't coaches be able to challenge massively important 15-yard penalties that may have been interpreted incorrectly? In the moment, I genuinely believed that Thomas's penalty (a) was the wrong call, and (b) altered the course of that Seahawks-Dolphins game.
Here's the funny part: Two days later, I learned that the NFL penalized Thomas for the play. Fifteen thousand dollars!!!! My man Mike Florio even defended the league and said it was the right call! And you know what else? IT PROBABLY WAS THE RIGHT CALL! You're not allowed to intentionally hurt quarterbacks, mistakenly hurt quarterbacks or even hurt their feelings anymore. It's a zero-tolerance policy for anything involving the words "quarterbacks" and "hurt." Same goes for defenseless receivers over the middle. Same goes for punters as they're kicking the football. Same goes for defenseless kick returners or defensive players getting annihilated by blind-side blocks … well, except for you, Eric Weddle.
http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/869 ... cautiously