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Physics professor on Matthews roughing call: "I don't see anything he could have done"

Posted at 10:13 PM, Sep 24, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-25 09:33:32-04

It's the controversial call everyone is talking about: Green Bay Packers Linebacker Clay Matthews flagged for roughing the passer during Sunday's game against the Washington Redskins. 

The season has barely started and already fans are in an uproar over this new emphasis of a longtime rule. But is it possible to take the quarterback down without landing on him, from a physics perspective? 

Sunday's penalty was the third for Matthews, but he's not alone. NFL referees have handed out more than 30 roughing the passer penalties in just the first two weeks of the season. 

Roughing the passer was put in place to protect the quarterbacks from injury, but this season the league is emphasizing specific language in the rule that says:

"The defensive player must strive to wrap up the passer with the defensive player's arms and not land on the passer with all or most of his body weight."

"Obviously when you're tackling a guy from the front, you're going to land on him," said Matthews during a post-game news conference. 

Matthews says he understands the spirit of the rule but he believes the hit was a fair football play. 

"I agree with Clay Matthews," said MSOE Physics Professor Bob Olsson. "He's really big, and he's really fast. You take his mass, how much he weighs and his speed, that's called momentum, so he hits him with a ton of momentum." 

Olsson says by wrapping your arms around the quarterback, there's really only one thing that can happen. 

"The quarterback can't bounce off, he's stuck," said Olsson. "Now Clay Matthews' mass, his weight, is being forced downwards because he hit him on an angle. Now the quarterback has to fall backwards at the same angle." 

"From a football point of view, I don't see anything he could have done," added Olsson. 

In case you're wondering, Olsson says he has an objective opinion on the matter, because he's actually a Chicago Bears fan. 

"I guess somewhere out there, someone's gonna say he could have turned as he was hitting him, I don't think so. He was basically almost in midair as he hit him. Once you're in mid air, you cant change the direction you're hitting."