- Previously covered University of Michigan for ESPN.com and AnnArbor.com
- Also covered Notre Dame for Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett said he was in “not a little but a lot disbelief” at the roughing the passer flag thrown on him when he sacked Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady late in Sunday’s 21-15 Buccaneers win over the Falcons.
Jarrett’s comments, on his weekly appearance on 680 The Fan in Atlanta, were his first since postgame Sunday, when he said he was too emotional about the flag and the outcome to speak clearly about what had happened.
Even days later, he’s not sure what he was supposed to do differently.
“Just looking back on it, I’m still kind of left clueless,” Jarrett said. “On what I’m expected to do in that situation.”
Jarrett had wrapped Brady up and then rolled to the ground, bringing Brady down with him. Jarrett made contact with the ground first and then turned over, finishing the sack. Referee Jerome Boger called the penalty and, in a pool report after the game, said Jarrett “unnecessarily” threw Brady to the ground.
The NFL had no further comment on the play when reached by ESPN on Monday. But, citing a league source, The Associated Press reported Tuesday that the NFL plans to discuss roughing the passer penalties, though changes to the rule are not expected during the season.
Teams can submit plays to the league each week for questions, and the NFL reviews every play postgame and judges officials by their performance weekly in games.
Jarrett said Tuesday he thought it “would be a great step” if the NFL considered in-game reviews on roughing the passer calls. It came into further focus Monday night when Kansas City defensive lineman Chris Jones was flagged for roughing the passer while sacking Derek Carr on a similar play to Jarrett’s.
Had Jarrett not been flagged, Atlanta would have forced a fourth down and gotten the ball back with a little under three minutes remaining.
“I did see Chris’ sack last night, and that was questionable as well,” Jarrett said. “All these other things that we can review, I’m not saying that it cost us the game, but it cost us an opportunity to win the game and if it’s costing people games, it’s going to cost people livelihoods. Going to cost people’s opportunities. You never know who is going to go down and make a crazy play.
“Obviously this happened to us, the Falcons, but forget all that, it’s about the sport. When people watch us to be entertained, to see some game-winning drives and then when you do it right, the right way, that’s what makes it so frustrating, because you did follow the rules and you didn’t do anything bad. So let’s give the game what the game is owed, and that’s the best product we can put on the field.”
Jarrett acknowledged it could be tough to tell intent at full speed and to see what happens – another reason he would like to see review involved.
He also said he is all for protecting quarterbacks. Jarrett understands their value not only to their teams but also, in many cases, as leaders of franchises and sometimes cities. He says he’s not advocating for roughing the passer to go away, just for help in how it’s called.
“Nobody wants to go in there and straight DDT, RKO and hurt people,” Jarrett said, referencing pro wrestling moves. “But when you do it right, I don’t believe you should be punished for it.”
“So it’s highly, highly emotional, and we just don’t want it to go down like that, you know what I’m saying? Hopefully something can come from this and change can happen.”
Jarrett also briefly addressed appearing to be being kicked by Brady on Sunday — something television cameras caught but was not flagged — and said he spoke with officials about it, saying he told the official, “‘Look, you see him now. Let’s clean it up.’ You know what I’m saying? And then it happened again at the end of the game. I’m like, so we going to let this slide?”
Jarrett said the rule changes to where players can be hit on tackles has changed his thought process in how he tackles, and it’s something “you literally have to think about as you’re approaching the quarterback.”
He doesn’t think it would be fair to offenses to change when a sack is called — there are too many dynamic quarterbacks in the league who can break tackles — but there also has to be a way, he said, to bring quarterbacks down.
Which is where he believes review could come in.
“If it’s going to be a different rule for different players and this may be, then I feel like you do review some stuff,” Jarrett said. “Then maybe you make judgments on intent and certain things and that can be part of the game, because it’s just getting to the point where it’s deciding games and extra unearned downs and stuff like that.”
The flag cost the Falcons a chance to try to beat the Buccaneers for first place in the NFC South. Had the Falcons won, Atlanta would have been over .500 for the first time since the end of the 2017 season.
“The thing that hurt me the most was my team not being allowed to have the opportunity to go do what we need to do, you know,” Jarrett said. “Like I said, nobody knows if we go out there and we go get a touchdown. I’m not saying that lost us the game.
“I’m saying all we wanted was an opportunity that we, as a whole team, staff and organization earned in that moment, you know. That’s unfortunate that it had to go down like that.”
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