Minnesota Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks was penalized for a similar infraction in the second quarter of Sunday's 29-all tie at Lambeau Field -- a game the Packers had a chance to wrap up on an interception that was wiped out by Matthews' penalty with under 2 minutes to go in regulation -- and the Kendricks hit on Aaron Rodgers will also be included on the tape, among others.
The portion of the rulebook devoted to roughing the passer (Rule 12, Section 2, Article 9) says in part that: "A rushing defender is prohibited from committing such intimidating and punishing acts as 'stuffing' a passer into the ground or unnecessarily wrestling or driving him down after the passer has thrown the ball ..." Among other things, the technique of grabbing the passer from behind the leg(s), scooping and pulling in an upward motion is considered a foul.
The NFL considers such fouls to be judgment calls and they are not subject to replay review. Asked by a pool reporter after Sunday's game what Matthews was flagged for, referee Tony Corrente said: "He picked the quarterback up and drove him into the ground."
Packers coach Mike McCarthy said in his news conference Monday that Matthews "did what he was coached to do" on the play, echoing Matthews' disbelief in his comments to reporters in the locker room after the game.
"Honestly, I had no idea" why the flag was thrown, Matthews said Sunday. "Like I said, I got my head across, hands were down, didn't dump him, hit him within the framework, proper tackling area. I don't know. Much like you saw with the lowering the helmet (rule) in preseason, I think that hopefully the league gets to the refs and tells them to tone it down a bit, because I don't know what else to do."
There were 15 flags thrown for roughing the passer in Week 1, way up from the average of 6.8 per full slate of games over last season, and NFL senior vice president of officiating Al Riveron told me before the Monday night games that 12 of 14 thrown at that point were fouls. The numbers were down in Week 2, with six roughing the passer fouls called entering Monday night.
"It's hard," Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said Monday. "They had one and we had one. The one on Eric didn't look like he puffed him up or anything. So I don't know. ... I think that.s why scoring is way up, too, because of the things that they.re calling. But ... it's an offensive league."