BOSTON -- Quarterbacks get special treatment in the NFL. Star quarterbacks get even more special treatment. The greatest quarterback of all time, even more so. We all understand the deal.
Even with that being established ... the roughing the passer penalty that helped seal a win for Tom Brady and the Buccaneers on Sunday afternoon in Tampa was egregious, going a bit above and beyond the expected level of overprotection on a star quarterback.
The play in question came in the fourth quarter of the game between the Falcons and Bucs, with Tampa hanging on to a 21-15 lead. Falcons defensive lineman Grady Jarrett came around the edge, had Brady in his sights, and wrapped up the quarterback before bringing him to the ground for a huge third-down sack.
The Falcons were set to get the ball back, needing a touchdown to win the game. But a flag flew on the play, and shortly thereafter, veteran referee Jerome Boger announced a roughing the passer penalty on Jarrett. (This is the second straight week that Boger has made a controversial roughing the passer call, as he made a call last week that benefited Josh Allen and the Bills in their narrow win over the Ravens.)
As a result, the Buccaneers got 15 free yards and, more importantly, a fresh set of downs. After the Bucs picked up one more first down, Brady was able to take kneeldowns to end the game and secure the narrow victory.
Whenever anything happens involving Brady, the internet tends to react to an extreme degree. A moment like this was certainly no exception.
Former Patriots, Chiefs and Falcons executive Scott Pioli said "someone is going to have to explain this roughing the passer call. ... I'm not sure I've seen anything like this."
Hall of Fame tight end and current commentator Shannon Sharpe said that this was "the worst call of this early NFL season" and that the "NFL will need to offer an explantion on this BULLJIVE call."
Hall of Fame receiver Cris Carter agreed:
Pro Football Focus analyst Trevor Sikkema said, "Of all the 'refs loves Tom Brady' flags that have ever been thrown, that's the worst I've ever seen. [Falcons head coach] Arthur Smith deserves to be absolutely livid."
ESPN's Field Yates called it an "embarrassingly bad call."
There weren't too many people coming to the defense of Boger for that call, but Bucs head coach Todd Bowles unsurprisingly believed it was in line with what the referees have been instructed to look for, after Tua Tagavailoa's concussion situation.
"I think they're starting to crack down on some of the things, and slinging [quarterbacks] back," Bowles said. "So I don't now, right now, the way they're calling it, I think a lot of people would've gotten that call."
Bowles added: "League safety is at an all-time high, as it should be. Anything close, we understand going into the ballgame, they're going to call it."
Boger, though, said that the Tagovailoa injury was not the reason for his call.
"What I had was the defender grabbed the quarterback while he was still in the pocket and unnecessarily throwing him to the ground," Boger told a pool reporter. "That is what I was making my decision based upon."
As for Brady's view of the play? He had only a few words to sum it all up.
"I don't throw the flags," Brady said.
The Bucs improved to 3-2 with that divisional win, and Brady improved to 11-0 lifetime against the Falcons. While it's unclear -- and probably unlikely -- that the Falcons would have driven the length of the field to win the game, it is impossible to argue that Atlanta was not robbed of the opportunity to at least give it a shot, thanks to that penalty call by Boger.
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