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Sunday, December 5, 2010
Suh and the price of a forearm shiver

By Kevin Seifert

DETROIT -- Honestly, I don't get what all the fuss is about on the latest Detroit Lions penalty controversy.

On the play, referee Ed Hochuli whistled Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh for unnecessary roughness after an 8-yard run in the fourth quarter by Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler. The Bears were already in excellent shape and would have faced a second-and-2 at the Lions' 14-yard line.

I'll grant you this much: The penalty gave the Bears a first-and-goal at the Lions' 7, and they scored the winning touchdown on the next play of their 24-20 victory. Whether the Bears would have scored anyway is moot.

Watching the play live, you saw Suh throw his right forearm at Cutler from behind, after which Cutler immediately fell to the ground. Replays indicated Suh hit Cutler in the back and might have grazed his helmet. But Hochuli said in a postgame interview that he felt it was "an unnecessary non-football act -- a blow to the back of the runner's helmet in the process of him going down."

You could argue against Hochuli's interpretation or debate whether Suh actually came into contact with Cutler's helmet. Regardless, it was an entirely preventable penalty that rests on Suh's shoulders.

Look, I've celebrated Suh's nastiness as much as anyone. But simply using proper tackling technique in this instance would have eliminated the issue.

If you're chasing a quarterback from behind, wrap him up with your arms and drive him to the turf. Punch at the ball while you're doing so if you want to try to force a fumble. But when you throw a forearm shiver, especially at a quarterback, you're inviting activist referees like Hochuli to make judgment calls against you.

That was clearly on Hochuli's mind Sunday.

"When you tackle people," he said, "you come in and you wrap up and come with our arms and things like that. I felt he delivered a blow to the back [of the] runner ..."

Of the play, Suh said: "I was just going out there to make a play, get the ball out. We were in a tight situation in the red zone. We have to stop them some way from getting a touchdown. Obviously, he broke a tackle. I had a great angle to make a play and get the ball out, and that's what I went after."

Bottom line: There are other ways to accomplish the same goal.