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Referee Carl Cheffers defended roughing the passer call against Chris Jones

He may be the only person on the planet who thinks it was the right call

NFL: AUG 20 Preseason - Cowboys at Chargers Photo by Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Seldom are there moments in sports that unite an entire viewing audience. But when Chris Jones was flagged for roughing the passer on quarterback Derek Carr in the second quarter of the Kansas City Chiefs’ 30-29 win over the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday, virtually every person watching was incredulous as to how that was a penalty.

Referee Carl Cheffers had as good a view as anyone. After all, he’s the one who threw the flag on Jones. As is customary, Cheffers spoke to the pool reporter, ESPN’s Adam Teicher, after the game to clarify why the flag was thrown and if he stands by the call that was made.

If you were looking for contrition, you came to the wrong place.

“The quarterback is in the pocket and he’s in a passing posture,” Cheffers explained when asked why Jones was penalized for his sack on Carr. “He gets full protection of all the aspects of what we give the quarterback in a passing posture. So, when he was tackled, my ruling was the defender landed on him with full body weight. The quarterback is protected from being tackled with full body weight.”

What made the call even more confusing to many watching, was that Jones had also stripped and recovered the football from Carr on the play. Wouldn’t the fact that Jones was in possession of the football affect the notion that he was roughing the passer?

“No,” Cheffers responded. “Because he still gets passing protection until he can defend himself. So, with him being in a passing posture and actually attempting to make a pass, he’s going to get full protection until the time when he can actually protect himself. The fact that the ball came out and was subsequently recovered by the defense is not relevant as far as the protection the quarterback gets.”

Let’s pump the brakes for a moment. So, even though Carr was no longer in possession of the football when Jones landed on him, he’s still being treated as a passer?

“Just as if he had thrown the ball, he still gets protection,” Cheffers persisted. “It’s the same here. It’s just a loose ball of another sort, but he would still get protection that is afforded to players in a passing posture. That extends after he’s no longer in control of the ball.”

This call, according to Cheffers’ explanation, appears to hinge on the fact that Jones landed on Carr with his full body weight, which officials have placed an increased emphasis on in recent years. What remains to be unanswered, however, is how a 310-pound human moving at full speed is expected to shift his body weight off of the person he is (successfully) attempting to tackle while also holding the football in one of his hands.

It is unclear if we’ll ever receive an adequate answer to that question. Perhaps the NFL will take a step back and reassess how they should be legislating plays like the one we saw on Monday night. Or perhaps defenders would be better off politely asking quarterbacks for permission before delicately placing them on the turf.

Fortunately for Kansas City, it was still able to escape with a win, making that questionable call a frustrating footnote rather than a justification for why they lost. But as these head-scratching penalties continue to make headlines across the NFL, explanations such as the one delivered by Cheffers aren’t going to quell many concerns about how this sport is being officiated.

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