The NFL’s lowering-the-helmet rule got a lot of attention in the preseason, but we saw in the Carolina Panthers-Atlanta Falcons game why it was put in place.
Even without the helmet rule, officials would have used some other rule to eject Falcons safety Damontae Kazee for a cheap, dirty hit on Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.
Newton scrambled and ran in the open field in the second quarter on Sunday, then slid down with Kazee starting to close on him. Kazee didn’t care if Newton had slid down, because he took a couple steps and took a helmet-to-helmet shot on Newton.
Kazee was ejected, to nobody’s surprise. After the game, which resulted in a 31-24 Falcons victory, Newton told reporters the punishment was warranted.
Cam Newton at the podium. He says what needed to happen after hit (ejecting Kazee) happened pic.twitter.com/vCQpm4asMh
— Jourdan Rodrigue (@JourdanRodrigue) September 16, 2018
Damontae Kazee likely to be fined
The Panthers didn’t get the penalty yardage from Kazee’s hit, but presumably Panthers coach Ron Rivera didn’t mind. Receiver Torrey Smith was the Panthers player closest to Kazee, and he charged at Kazee to retaliate for the hit. That set off a brief fight on the field as Newton was down.
Credit Smith for protecting his quarterback. But had another Panthers player been closer, they would have done the same thing. It was that cheap of a shot on their franchise quarterback.
“I’m just lucky nothing pretty much happened,” Newton said, regarding how he escaped injury, according to Joseph Person of The Athletic. “But this game isn’t fit for cheap shots like that. At the end of the day, I can’t blame him. He’s playing as hard as he can. I’m playing as hard as I can and that’s what this game brings.”
After the brief fight, Rivera screamed at the officials while trainers looked at Newton. Newton got up screaming at his own sideline, trying to fire up his teammates. He was taken to the injury tent and quickly cleared to go back in the game. Newton led a touchdown drive when he re-entered.
Kazee (whose hit on Jaguars receiver Marqise Lee in the preseason tore Lee’s ACL) was ejected, and that hurt the Falcons defense because Kazee was replacing injured Falcons strong safety Keanu Neal. Kazee can also expect to be fined by the NFL in the next few days.
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