Grady Jarrett seemingly made the play the Falcons needed late in the fourth quarter Sunday, but it instead hurt Atlanta's cause after a flag was thrown.
In a one-score game with 3:03 left to play, Jarrett flew past Buccaneers left guard Luke Goedeke on a stunt and slung Tom Brady to the ground for a would-be sack on third down. That action, however, is what ultimately led to a roughing-the-passer penalty that gave the Bucs an automatic first down and 15 yards to boot.
Falcons head coach Arthur Smith stood in disbelief as referee Jerome Boger detailed the penalty. Atlanta never got the ball back, falling to their NFC South rival, 21-15.
"I'm not going to get into that," Smith said after the game. "I haven't seen the film."
Jarrett declined to speak with the media, possibly signaling his frustration of the call.
Said Brady post-game: "I don't throw the flags."
The flag drew quick criticism, but Jarrett's sack didn't seem laced with ill-intent. The Falcons defensive tackle came into the Bucs backfield with full steam ahead as Brady slowly tried to evade the rush. It appeared Jarrett's momentum attributed to him slinging Brady to the ground hard once having the QB corralled in his grasp.
Boger explained the penalty during a postgame interview with pool reporter Greg Auman of The Athletic.
"What I had was the defender grabbed the quarterback while he was still in the pocket, and unnecessarily throwing him to the ground," Boger said. "That is what I was making my decision based upon."
Asked by Auman if there was a specific measure he looks out for considering the play appeared slightly similar to that of Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa's brutal hit against the Bengals on Sept. 29, Boger replied, "No, not necessarily."
Buccaneers head coach Todd Bowles, who's been a well-respected defensive coach in the NFL the past 22 years, wasn't shocked by the call. He told reporters he's noticed officials flagging such plays more often recently and that league safety is currently at an all-time high.
"They are starting to crack down on some of the things, slinging backs," Bowles said. "I don't know. Right now, the way they are calling (it), I think a lot of people would've gotten that call."