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Roughing Call Leaves London Fletcher With More Questions Than Answers
LANDOVER, Md. – London Fletcher thought he made a clean tackle on Tom Brady – until he stood up and saw umpire Jeff Rice’s right arm in the air.
Rice had thrown a flag on the hit, which came with 59 seconds remaining in the first half of New England’s 34-27 victory over the Washington Redskins on Sunday, and told the linebacker that he is prohibited from hitting a quarterback while in the act of sliding.
Referee Jeff Triplette then announced the penalty for unnecessary roughness was because Fletcher used a “forearm to the head of the quarterback as he started to slide.”
Neither explanation satisfied Fletcher, who had to be calmed down on the field by other officials after the play.
The Patriots went from second-and-4 at the Washington 23-yard line on a three-yard scramble by Brady to a first-and-goal from the 10-yard line after the penalty, which led to a 23-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski and a 20-20 tie score at halftime.
“He waited until the last minute to slide,” Fletcher said. “He’s considered a runner. At that point in time, the referee thought I hit him in the head. I didn’t hit him in the head. I hit him in the shoulders, but what can you do?”
Brady initiated the slide when he saw Fletcher coming, but it appeared Fletcher began the process of making the tackle before Brady committed to sliding. There was no helmet-to-helmet collision, as it may have appeared; rather, Fletcher’s right forearm hit Brady in the chest.
Mike Pereira, a former vice president of officiating in the NFL from 2001-09 and current “rules analyst” for Fox Sports, posted on his Twitter page after the play that he did not agree with the call.
“I don’t agree with the [roughing the passer call on Fletcher],” Pereira wrote. “[He] was sliding late and there was no hit the head.”
Fletcher tried to argue his case with the officials, including Rice and field judge Barry Anderson, who escorted him away from the others after the play. It didn’t work.
“You try to explain your situation, but they don’t really listen to you that much,” Fletcher said. “I think anybody who saw that definitely didn’t think it was the right call, but hey.”