Helmet penalty flags fly in Jets' win over Falcons
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By TERRIN WAACK
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) No one was safe from the NFL's new helmet rule during Friday night's game between the Atlanta Falcons and New York Jets. Every facet of the game was affected: defense, offense and special teams. A penalty showed up in each.
"I'm anxious to go back and look at those," Atlanta coach Dan Quinn said.
The rule first struck specials teams in the opening quarter, well before the Jets closed out the Falcons 17-0 at MetLife Stadium.
After the Jets scored their first touchdown, Atlanta running back Ito Smith returned the kickoff 25 yards before being stopped by Buster Skrine. Once he was down, everyone got up and moved on - until they were reminded that before the whistle blew there was a flag on the play. It was specifically against Skrine, who left the game afterward with a shoulder injury. The officials moved the ball up 15 yards.
That was the first of the three calls, a significant amount considering they all came in the first half. The penalty was for "lowering the head to initiate contact." Key word: contact.
Two plays after the first penalty, still in the first quarter, Falcons wide receiver Reggie Davis caught a pass and was pushed out of bounds to end the play. There was another flag for a helmet penalty, on Smith - and he was on offense.
"I knew that could happen," Quinn said. "I probably was surprised it happened on a pass play by a blocker. . If that's going to be the way it's officiated, I think that's good that it happened now, not only for our team but for other teams around the league, to provide an example."
That 15-yard penalty was enforced at the 42-yard line where Davis went out of bounds after advancing Atlanta 5 yards.
"The first two that I saw I had a good look at, and I thought they were the correct call," Quinn said. "... It's an emphasis, and I'm disappointed to see our team - that we take such pride in that - have those fouls."
Lastly, the helmet penalty hit the defense, the side of the ball people expected to break the new rule on initiating contact by lowering the helmet.
Falcons defensive back Damontae Kazee tackled wide receiver Tre McBride after an 8-yard pass. Kazee apparently lowered his head enough to draw a flag. New York moved up half the distance to the goal line, or 4 yards.
"We're not only going to show ours, we're going to show ones from around the league this week, so we have more teaching (opportunities)," Quinn said. "Clearly we have work to do in that area, and we'll devote the time to it because it is that important."
This was both teams' first preseason game and it was sloppy. Overall, the Falcons had 10 penalties for 71 yards. The Jets had eight for 65 yards. Two of the helmet calls were on Atlanta, one on New York.
"Those can go down," Quinn said. "Let's continue to work on it because clearly we're not doing it (right)."
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Updated August 11, 2018