PHILADELPHIA -- It's wonderful news that Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Austin Collie looks like he'll make a full recovery from a concussion after he was strapped to a backboard and carted from the field in the second quarter of Sunday's Eagles-Colts game. The Eagles were flagged for unnecessary roughness on a defenseless receiver on the play, and the officials provided a confusing explanation following the game.
Eagles safety Quintin Mikell unloaded on Collie after he appeared to make a catch with 2:23 left in the first half. Mikell led with his shoulder and it appeared to be a clean hit as he made contact with Collie, who then pin-balled into Eagles rookie safety Kurt Coleman. After watching several replays, I'm not sure how Coleman could have avoided the helmet-to-helmet contact, which appeared to cause Collie's injury.
A pool reporter asked referee Carl Cheffers and back judge Todd Prukop for a clarification following the game, and that's when things really got interesting. They both agreed that the penalty was actually on Coleman, who sounded stunned about the ruling when reporters showed up at his locker.
Since Collie appeared to have possession of the ball before the hit caused it to pop out, Cheffers was asked to define "defenseless receiver."
"Well, if he is completing the catch, his second foot is not down yet or it's just down, we still give the defenseless receiver protection. So if it is a bang-bang type play, with his second foot coming down, he still gets protection on that play. The fact of the matter is, is that ball was incomplete. So, he has protection throughout that entire process on that play because we don't even have a completion -- at no time did he have possession and become a runner to where he would have transitioned out of being a defenseless receiver."
Well, that really clears things up. Asked what Coleman did to deserve a penalty, Prukop chimed in, "So, he makes contact with the shoulder to the back of the helmet of the receiver."
If you've watched a replay, you know that's flat-out wrong. Coleman never used his shoulder to hit Collie in the back of the helmet. Eagles coach Andy Reid was very careful with his words following the game because he wanted to avoid a fine for criticizing the officials.
"The way the game is today, close things are going to be called in the safe direction," said Reid. "When you're in the heat of it, do you like it? No. but maybe the longevity of the player down the road and for life after football."
Reid went on to say that it was a "bang-bang" play, but some of his players were a little bit more visceral in their responses.
Cornerback Asante Samuel, who had two interceptions in the Eagles' 26-24 win, joked that the league would soon ask defensive backs to wear flags. Coleman, a seventh-round choice out of Ohio State, was still trying to figure out what happened.
"I never lead with my head," he said. "That protects myself and the other players."
He vowed not to change his style and said he wouldn't become "conservative" in how he makes tackles. But it's not like seventh-round draft choices can afford to pay many $50,000 fines, a figure the league has been enamored with in recent weeks. Perhaps the league will review the play and determine that Coleman couldn't have avoided the contact. But then, it's not like defenders have been getting the benefit of the doubt lately.
It was a bad call, but with so much pressure coming from the league office, you can certainly understand how it occurred. It seems like this officiating crew could use some extra film work this week.