A key fourth-quarter penalty helped keep a Washington Commanders drive alive as they ended the Philadelphia Eagles’ unbeaten streak Monday night at Lincoln Financial Field.
Washington would go on to win 32-21, but the score was only 26-21 with time enough for last-minute heroics by the Eagles when Washington quarterback Taylor Heinicke scrambled a bit looking for an open receiver on third-and-7.
Finding none, he took a knee with Eagles linebacker Haason Reddick closing in.
After Reddick slid into the quarterback, defensive end Brandon Graham arrived to make sure Heinicke was down to stay — and as he struck the quarterback, his shoulder appeared to hit Heinicke’s helmet.
The Commanders quarterback immediately gestured for an unnecessary roughness flag, and he got it.
Heinicke gives himself up and gets the call for the late hit. Ugly way to basically end it pic.twitter.com/1URFgXc49P
— alex (@highlghtheaven) November 15, 2022
A jubilant Heinicke then danced to his feet, knowing that the NFL’s focus on protecting quarterbacks would keep the drive alive and likely seal the win for his team.
“That last play, we called a slant for Terry [McLaurin], and it was one of those things where if he’s open, give it to him, and if not, take a sack,” Heinicke said afterward, according to The Washington Post.
“I was not going to throw it unless he was wide open. When I took that knee and I saw them coming at me, I was hoping they’d come at me and, sure enough, they did. It was a mistake on their end but, hey, we’ll live with it,” he said.
This play by Taylor Heinecke may be the smartest football play I’ve ever seen.
Play is over, knows he can’t make anything of it so he wisely takes a knee late so the defender will hit him late to get the first down to end the game. Incredibly smart. pic.twitter.com/sqqEpV4EFC
— Jordan Moore (@iJordanMoore) November 15, 2022
Game on the line, undefeated season on the line, Brandon Graham just giving it his all not expecting a QB to scramble and take a knee, tough pic.twitter.com/EvOXD8rCcu
— The NBA Expert (@RealNBAExpert) November 15, 2022
Referee Alex Kemp explained that the penalty was called because Heinicke “had clearly given himself up.”
“Therefore, he is down and a defenseless player. The contact by Philadelphia No. 55 was not only late but also to the head and neck area,” Kemp said, according to ESPN.
Many on social media argued the merits of the call.
WHAT WAS OLD BUDDY FOR THE EAGLES DOING????? My goodness. That is absolutely unnecessary roughness.
— Jared Stillman (@JaredStillman) November 15, 2022
What a perfect way to end a game in 2022 – a ridiculous roughing the QB call. Brandon Graham was just flagged for hugging Taylor Heinicke. Eagles lose for the first time. Terrible call, great win for the Redskins.
— Gerry Callahan (@GerryCallahan) November 15, 2022
people defending the correct call on Graham for roughing the passer absolutely blow my mind
– doesn’t matter if it leads to the last play of the game
– clearly hits the QB despite being 5 yards away when he first goes down
– why are you sticking up for the Eagles anyways?
— A.J. (@BillsMafiaGoon) November 15, 2022
— Dave Bender (@thatdudebender) November 15, 2022
Can’t believe #Eagles fans are trying to die on the hill that this roughing the passer call by Graham (55) was a bad call.
The no-call face mask on the fumble earlier… yes, but not this.
This was clear and obvious late hit. pic.twitter.com/7a9ANMcbX3
— Lawrence Owen (@Colts_Law) November 15, 2022
Graham, however, did not make excuses in explaining the play.
“I was just trying to touch him down, because it just looked like he was going to get up. You just never know. But that’s on me. I own that one. That’s on me,” he said.
Late hit on the Eagles?!? pic.twitter.com/opGNA57ZXP
— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) November 15, 2022
“Here I am trying to get to the quarterback, so you want me to take time to think about how I’m going to tackle him or bring him down to the ground?” he said.
“In this league now, we have QBs that scramble really, really well,” Reddick said. ” Like, if I’m trying to do my job, I can’t … that’s a split-second. As soon as I touch him he could go down like that and the play might be over, so how can I have full awareness on what my body is doing, especially in today’s league?”
“I can’t be sitting around thinking how I’m going to approach a tackle on a QB because he’s a QB. What if I’m trying to figure out how to do it, and now he breaks out of it and he’s scrambling down the field for 20 yards or he threw a deep bomb because I’m worried about not getting a penalty?” he said.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.