This play seems to be the No. 1 topic of discussion in the aftermath of the Skins win yesterday: the touchdown pass from Campbell to Devin Thomas to put the Skins up by two TDs with 8:38 left to play, which was called back thanks to an unnecessary roughness penalty on Stephon Heyer. But having seen the replay several times (watch it at the 2:30-mark), we still have no clue why he was flagged. He made a legal block on Darnell Dockett while the play was still going on.
We’ve searched, but haven’t been able to find any answers to why the call was made, so let us attempt to get to the bottom of this ourselves:
The NFL’s use of hands rules state the following:
A player of either team may block at any time provided it is not pass interference, fair catch interference, or unnecessary roughness.
Okay, that doesn’t clear things up. So I suppose the definition of unnecessary roughness will help:
An illegal play where a player, in the judgment of the officials, uses tactics that are above and beyond what is necessary to block or tackle another player.
Alright, so now the flag starts to make some sense — the official must’ve somehow thought that Heyer blocking a defender was beyond what was necessary to protect the quarterback. But here’s the problem with that: It’s fucking bullshit. Heyer hit Dockett in the chest, not in the head or from behind, while his back was turned to Campbell, who had scrambled out of the pocket. And the ball had not yet been thrown downfield when Heyer started the block. For all he knew, JC was still five yards behind him, looking for a receiver. In other words, Heyer was doing exactly what an offensive lineman is supposed to do: block defenders who wish to do harm to the QB.
So technically, yeah, Heyer did more than was necessary to block Dockett. But given the positioning of the two players and the fact that Campbell still had the ball, I don’t see how the official can throw the flag there. And by “don’t see how” I mean that I have never once seen that call made before in the countless hours I’ve wasted watching football in my lifetime.