Another week, another Lions loss and another penalty call to stir up the conspiracy theorists that think the NFL is out to keep the Lions down.
Ndamukong Suh brings a rare combination of size, speed and agility. Has the league seen anything like him before? Probably not, and it shows in the way he is being officiated. Yesterday’s game with the Bears provided us with another example of this:
This isn’t the first time Ndamukong Suh has been wrongly accused of a personal foul. Just a couple weeks ago he was flagged for a horse-collar tackle when he actually had Cowboys running back Marion Barber by the hair.
Perhaps the most unfortunate aspect of these personal foul calls is the situation in which they have occurred. Suh’s phantom horse-collar penalty came inside the red zone and allowed the Cowboys to eventually score a touchdown rather than having to kick a field goal when the game’s outcome was still very much in doubt. This week’s call on the Jay Cutler push down tacked on an extra 15 crucial yards to the drive that ultimately ended with the game winning touchdown.
The disappointment with the call goes beyond this one game. The NFL is facing a growing title wave of criticism over what many feel is a softening of the game. It started as some low grumbling over the way quarterbacks have become virtually untouchable but has grown louder and louder with more liberal applications of personal foul penalties and a crackdown on helmet to helmet hits. The league is right to make player safety a priority but needs to find a balance between protecting their players and protecting their game.
Ed Hochuli was questioned about the call after the game and had this to say:
I felt it was an unnecessary non-football act — a blow to the back of the runner’s helmet in the process of him going to the ground.
That would be a fine explanation except for one detail: Ndamukong Suh did not hit Cutler in the back of the helmet.
Former head of officiating Mike Pereira was content to shrug off the personal foul call when consulted by Fox broadcasters Sam Rosen and Tim Ryan. Pereira has appeared reluctant to give officials much criticism since joining Fox in his current consulting role, not surprising given his former position. In this case he chalked it up as a judgment call. I am having a lot of trouble accepting this explanation considering it feels like NFL officials are getting every “judgment call” wrong. Something clearly needs to change and it isn’t Ndamukong Suh.