The regular season marks the culmination of an extensive investigation into who your team will be that year. By this point, you’ve gone through free agency, the draft, training camp, and the preseason. You feel good in your decisions insofar as you can create clarity without having played meaningful games. But there are still plenty of uncertainties that remain, whether at the start of the regular season or the end, and new ones continually develop over time.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: T.J. Watt (knowingly) tripped Aaron Rodgers.
Explanation: The Packers had first and goal from the Steelers’ five early in the third quarter when Rodgers saw a running lane and took it, only to seemingly suddenly fall to the ground. It was Watt’s foot that was responsible for the intervention, even though his head was turned. The officials debated calling a penalty for tripping, but ultimately decided against it. Green Bay ended up settling for a field goal after losing yardage on second down and throwing incomplete on third.
Of course he tripped Rodgers on purpose. He had his head turned deliberately to provide reasonable doubt, but the way his leg kicked out was completely unnatural to the pass-rushing process in which he was engaged. He knew where Rodgers was and where his leg would have to be to have a shot at stopping him. He took the chance, made the play, and got away with it. Even got a sack out of it.
Watt isn’t playing at 100 percent right now, dealing with a groin injury, and it’s showed. I think it also came out at another point in the game when he hit Rodgers late after a throw. It was as though he felt he wasn’t getting enough pressure, enough hits, and he decided to take a shot, even if it was late, when he had the chance.
Intent is the key element here, and there’s not enough to establish that Watt was trying to trip Rodgers. The aspect of this play that hasn’t been talked about is that he was being held by the right tackle, who literally had his left arm wrapped around his neck, which basically prevented him from being able to turn to the scrambling quarterback.
Yes, he did jerk his body in the direction of where he perceived the play to be going in the hopes of putting his body between the ball-carrier and the line of scrimmage. He also extended his free arm, but it just happened to be the foot that hooked Rodgers. That was circumstantial, not intentional, and a tripping penalty requires an intentional act. Rodgers did trip over Watt’s foot, but he wasn’t tripped as an NFL rule violation, and the flag was appropriately picked up.