Quentin Groves did not kick, yell or scream. Nor did he sit in the corner and hold his breath until he turned blue.
The call in question belonged to referee Walt Coleman, and it came at a pivotal point of the game. Detroit led 24-17 and Brandon Weeden had just thrown his Benny Hill/Yakety Sax interception. Detroit had third-and-3 on Cleveland’s 31-yard line, and any flickering Browns hope depended on not giving up a first down.
Matthew Stafford threw incomplete over the middle to Calvin Johnson, which set up fourth-and-3. Except Coleman’s yellow penalty flag lay on the ground where Stafford threw. Groves was flagged for roughing the passer, one of those calls that rankle longtime NFL watchers, but one that will be called more often than not in today's NFL.
Groves lowered his head and shoulder and hit Stafford at the shoulders. He continued the tackle after the throw. Coleman flagged him, much to the chagrin of the Browns and their coaches.
Groves, though, was not complaining.
“That’s his call,” Groves said. “I can’t get mad at the refs. I can’t bad-talk about the refs. At the end of the day, it’s his judgment over my judgment. That’s what he gets paid to do and he’s a professional.”
The call allowed Detroit to continue its drive and score a touchdown with 2:01 left that put the game away.
Groves said he did not hit Stafford in the head -- a big-time no-no -- and added that Coleman told him he thought Groves had speared (i.e., used his helmet) to hit Stafford.
Stafford disagreed, apparently. Groves said the Lions quarterback came up to him after the penalty and said, “Good hit.”
“To my knowledge it was a clean hit,” Groves said. “To him, it was a judgment call.”
In today's NFL, judgment calls will go against the defender almost any time a hit is high or even appears to be high. It might be past time for defensive players and coaches to adjust, because as Groves said, players have to play by the rules.