By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Cam Newton got some help from, well, the rest of the team in the Patriots’ 20-17 win over the Cardinals – he also got a little help from an overzealous Isaiah Simmons and the officials.
After picking up a crucial first down with a 14-yard run on third-and-13, Newton took a hard hit from the Cardinals linebacker as he was running out of bounds. The officials flagged Simmons for a personal foul on the play to tack another 15 yards onto Newton’s run.
The first down and penalty set the Patriots up at the Cardinals’ 39-yard line. They picked up seven yards on the next two plays, which put Nick Folk in position to hit his game-winning 50-yard kick.
What a hit by Isaiah Simmons on Cam Newton. Helmet contact.— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) November 29, 2020
Obviously drew a flag.pic.twitter.com/zW4TN9y1c0
Without the penalty on Simmons, it’s debatable whether the Patriots ever get into range for Folk. It immediately sparked debate on social media over the validity of the call.
For starters, Newton was in bounds when the contact was made. And Simmons did make helmet-to-helmet contact, but it appeared incidental as he mainly led with his shoulder. Former NFL head of officiating Mike Pereira weighed in on why that meant it shouldn’t have been flagged.
Lots of chatter on Twitter about the hit on Newton. I get it. It was a bit hit and looked like a foul but, it wasn’t. Newton was inbounds and Simmons did not lead with his helmet. It was more shoulder to shoulder with maybe incidental contact with the helmet. Not a foul.— Mike Pereira (@MikePereira) November 29, 2020
Penalty or not, Newton’s teammates took exception to the hit.
“We definitely won’t let guys take cheap shots on [our] quarterback,” James White said after the game (as transcribed by NESN). “And at the same time, you’ve got to be composed, because we don’t want to get a flag in that situation, as well, and move us backward. I think everybody did a great job of protecting him without getting a flag, because that would have been a huge mistake.”
It’s never fun when you get to postgame reactions and the officiating is part of the discussion. So in the big picture, it’s unfortunate that the flag came out in such a key moment in the game. The officials had a bad day all-around, as they also made a questionable blindside block call that wiped out a Gunner Olszewski punt return for a touchdown.
But at the same time, there was little need for Simmons to deliver such a blow to Newton. The quarterback may not have been out of bounds, but he was clearly giving himself up and taking the first down at the sticks.
All Simmons had to do, if anything, was give Newton a little nudge or drag to ensure he didn’t try to suddenly cut back in bounds. Simmons has to know the situation, and that any kind of hard contact on a quarterback running out of bounds is susceptible to getting flagged.
Simmons’ decision to deliver a hard hit to Newton helped cost his team the game, whether or not he actually deserved a penalty.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff or send him a nasty email at firstname.lastname@example.org.