A week ago against Mitchell Trubisky and the Bears, Packers linebacker Clay Matthews was flagged for roughing the passer. It was the right call and one Matthews owned. But on Sunday afternoon, Matthews was again flagged for a hit on the quarterback, this time the Vikings' Kirk Cousins, and the circumstances couldn't have been more different.
Do not hit quarterbacks high. Do not hit quarterbacks low. Do not hit them in the midriff. Roughing the passer on Clay Matthews. pic.twitter.com/pFyMnXxqxG— Ollie Connolly (@OllieConnolly) September 16, 2018
In today's NFL, that's a penalty because, according to referee Tony Corrente, Matthews "lifted him and drove him into the ground."
"It has nothing to do with the rule of full body weight," Corrente continued. "It has nothing to do with helmet to helmet. He picked the quarterback up and drove him into the ground."
There was some confusion after the play -- and understandably so -- that Matthews was penalized for landing on Cousins using his full bodyweight. The league has cracked down on that this season in an effort to protect quarterbacks. Instead, Corrente is referring to -- and ProFootballTalk's Mike Florio explained Sunday night -- "burping" the quarterback. That's when a defensive player picks up the quarterback and drives him into the ground.
Again, we appreciate and understand the spirit of the rule but watch the clip again. Matthews neither "picked up" nor "drove" Cousins into the ground.
In general, we're fine with the rules to keep quarterbacks healthy. The issue, however, is a familiar one: There is no consistency from one call to the next, from one game to the next. And for the Packers, that lack of consistency proved to be the difference between winning the game (Jaire Alexander intercepted Cousins on the play) and a tie.
"I have so many emotions running through as far as what a terrible call it was," Matthews said after the game. "At the same time, I don't know what else to do. I don't know. You let me know. You tell me. Did I put pressure on him? I thought I hit him within his waist to chest, I got my head across, put my hands down. To call it at that point in the game is unbelievable.
Meanwhile, Cousins conceded that he probably got away with one.
"I haven't seen it. I'm sure it was probably a generous call, and two or three years ago, it probably doesn't get flagged," he told NBCSports.com's Peter King. "But that's one of those plays the Packers felt made a huge difference in the game, and there are some we felt made a huge difference in the game. Both sides can point to several plays I'm sure."
This probably won't make Matthews feel any better.