Culliver grabbed the ball out of the air and returned it 74 yards for an apparent touchdown, but he was flagged for unnecessary roughness — an illegal hit on a defenseless player. The Panthers scored five plays later to take a 21-14 lead and increased their lead on a Newton touchdown pass to Olsen on their next drive.
The call left a lot of people, including Redskins media members, Steve Austin,
one two of Coach Jay Gruden’s sons and Niles Paul, steamed. Indeed, it appeared that Culliver was aiming for Olsen’s shoulders, but Olsen ducked into the hit.
Former NFL VP of officiating and Fox Sports rules analyst Mike Pereira later explained that the call, which could not be reviewed, was the correct one.
“The hard part about this for a defensive player is [Greg] Olsen had basically altered his body position,” Pereira said. “He went down to brace for the contact. But the rule book says the entire liability falls on the defensive player, even though the offensive player changes his position. If you’re still considered defenseless, the defender cannot go to the head or neck area with his helmet, shoulder or forearm. It’s tough to play defense, but it is a foul.”
In other words, hate the rule, not the call.