The Denver Broncos beat the Carolina Panthers thanks to a late missed field goal, and had help from the officials, who seemed to make it completely legal to go after Cam Newton with any means possible, including dangerous helmet to helmet blows and hits, which left the defending NFL MVP shaken up on a number of times, without any of the Broncos players punished for their violent actions.
This is the play that had a lot of people talking at the end of the game. Newton’s throw didn’t go past the line of scrimmage, but he was headhunted by Darian Stewart, which resulted in offsetting penalties:
There’s a very good chance Newton had a concussion after this play, but no protocol was enforced. With the game on the line, teams and the officials forget about players health being the main concern. The Panthers ended up keeping the drive going, losing on a Graham Gano missed field goal from 50 yards, but the way Newton was targeted in this game, which goes beyond the usual pressure and hits reserved for quarterbacks, raises a few questions. Brandon Marshall also had one to take Newton out, shown in the gif below.
Newton got roughed up by a DeMarcus Ware sack, but the extra hit (helmet to helmet?) by Von Miller didn’t help either:
This is T.J. Ward saying something to Newton, who shut it out at first, but something did make him snap at some point:
Personally, on two of the hits on Newton, I think ejections should have happened. Thomas Davis said after the game that the NFL doesn’t protect Newton as it does other quarterbacks. That’s probably true. When you’re as big as him, the perception is that you don’t get hurt as easily. Newton isn’t your ordinary quarterback, but a head is a head, and in a league that’s about player safety (so they say), teams can’t be allowed to get away with trying to take a quarterback’s head off play after play, knowing the worst that will happen is losing some yards.
Here’s Newton blocking for Tedd Ginn on a reverse play by the Panthers:
The problem may be that this isn’t just an issue with this specific game officials. This is an NFL problem, and maybe until something in the rule books doesn’t change, or in the way the league enforces what it asks from officials, some quarterbacks will get better protection from the men in stripes, while others are going to literally be risking their lives, while the defense going after them knows they can get away with practically anything. Remember, on all the helmet-to-helmet hits on Newton, along with late tackles and more, only once was a penalty called. Maybe the home field swayed the officials, maybe it was the allure of being Super Bowl champions. In any case, Newton shouldn’t have been this exposed without repercussions to the offenders.