Michael Bennett flagged for questionable roughing call on Kirk Cousins

This week’s episode of questionable NFL roughing-the-passer penalties stars Michael Bennett and Kirk Cousins.

The play in question on Sunday took place late in the second quarter with the Minnesota Vikings facing second-and-5 at the Philadelphia Eagles’ 23-yard line and holding a 10-3 lead.

Roughing flag sets up Vikings on TD drive

Bennett executed a swim move to slip past Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph and sack Cousins, setting up what looked like a third-and-long situation for Minnesota.

But a flag was thrown. Roughing the passer. Bennett was called for going low on a tackle that dragged Cousins down by his legs.

The Vikings went on to score a touchdown on a Cousins pass to Adam Thielen with 21 seconds remaining in the half to take a 17-3 lead.

Tom Brady rule in play

The call is drawing criticism, especially from Eagles fans. But it’s not clear cut. The NFL prohibits defenders from lunging at quarterback’s legs, a rule that was implemented in 2009 in response to the 2008 hit that ended New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s season.

Bennett got Cousins by his thighs as he was falling to the ground. His arms slid down to Cousins’ ankles, and Cousins fell relatively gently to the ground on a hit that did not result in any sort of injury.

Michael Bennet and Eagles fans were not happy with a roughing call on a drive that ended with a Vikings touchdown. (AP)
Michael Bennet and Eagles fans were not happy with a roughing call on a drive that ended with a Vikings touchdown. (AP)

Should Bennett have been flagged?

There was clearly no intent to injure or make a “dirty” low hit by Bennett. But he did end up with his arms around Cousins’ knees and ankles, which is prohibited in the NFL because of the potential serious injury risk involved in a tackle like that.

Referee Walt Coleman explained the flag to NBC Sports Philadelphia.

“He went low into the quarterback’s knees with his shoulder, with force,” Coleman said. “And the rule is that you cannot hit the quarterback low at the knee area or below with force. He got him there with his shoulder, so that’s what I had as far as roughing the passer.”

It’s a tough call and a tough pill to swallow for the Eagles and their fans after Minnesota went on to score a touchdown.

But was it the right call?

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