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Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes hurt his ankle Saturday against the Jacksonville Jaguars when defender Arden Key fell on the QB’s leg. Mahomes’ leg bent awkwardly under Key’s weight.
X-rays on the quarterback’s leg were negative and he returned to the game after halftime. An MRI revealed that Mahomes suffered a high-ankle sprain, but he expects to play for the Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game.
Many were quick to say that Key attempted to injure Mahomes by purposefully falling on his leg. Quite a few people deemed the play to be “dirty.”
I can’t disagree more with the takes here. In fact, I blame the NFL for a rule that has massively impacted games. The league inadvertently impacted the entire scope of the NFL playoffs because of it.
Arden Key tried to avoid “Roughing-the-Passer” foul on Patrick Mahomes
We don’t need to revisit all of the horrible roughing-the-passer fouls that the NFL called this season. Some massively impacted the outcome of games.
My take on Arden Key’s hit on Patrick Mahomes is that he was actually trying to avoid drawing a flag. Even a couple of the tweeters above, who called the play dirty, pointed out the exact reasons for my case.
Warren Sharp wrote that Key didn’t even try to “wrap and tackle.” Dave Early notes that Key saw “the ball come out.”
Both of those statements are true. But they indicate the opposite of what these two gentleman are implying.
If you watch the video, Key does appear to see Mahomes get rid of the ball. He also appears to stop trying to make a tackle and drop to the ground. But the assertion that he purposefully dropped on Mahomes’ leg seems borderline insane.
First, Key can’t see where Mahomes’ leg is when he drops to the ground. Look where his head is and where his eyes are looking. There’s a fleeting moment when he appears to look down, but his momentum is already carrying him to the ground.
Second, I believe Key is simply trying to avoid dragging Mahomes to the ground under his full body weight. Although he does appear to use the Chiefs QB to brace himself, the “body weight” rule on the roughing-the-passer fouls prevents him from driving Mahomes into the ground.
Which, by the way, is what Key would prefer to do in this situation. Sharp is correct: Key is not attempting to wrap and tackle. But why would he? Mahomes has already released the ball.
If he continues pulling Mahomes to the ground in any way that looks forceful, he’s getting a 15-yard penalty against the Jaguars.
Fear of roughing-the-passer foul creates its own safety issues
Herein lies the issue with roughing the passer and the way the rule is officiated. Players are forced to try, in real-time, to avoid perfectly natural reactions on a football field. Because Key is trying to stop doing what he would normally try to do here — tackle Mahomes — he ends up putting both players in an awkward position.
Unfortunately, in this case, that led to Mahomes suffering an injury. I guarantee all the same people crying that this is a dirty hit or that it should have been flagged are the same who complain about weak roughing the passer calls.
And that’s the rub. If Key had simply done what he was taught and performed a normal tackle on Mahomes, there is probably no injury here. But likely, there would have been a penalty called against the Jaguars.
Instead, no foul is called and Mahomes gets hurt.
That’s the exact opposite of what the NFL is trying to accomplish.
Hopefully, this doesn’t cause more issues moving forward. My guess is that it will, though.
Follow Dan Zaksheske on Twitter: @OutkickDanZ