Packers star Clay Matthews hopes controversial calls in playoffs will spur change

As fans of the New Orleans Saints know all too well, one flag – or a flag not thrown – can completely alter the course of a season. 

By now everyone has seen or heard about the blown call during the NFC championship game between those Saints and the Super Bowl-bound Los Angeles Rams. The NFL has admitted that the refs made a mistake and subsequently fined Rams defender Nickell Robey-Coleman for targeting on the play.

However, no amount of apologizing can halt what has already begun – a demand for the NFL to change the rules surrounding pass interference. And unfortunately for the league, that wasn't the only questionable rule or play that the masses took notice of during championship weekend. 

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During the AFC championship game, Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Chris Jones was penalized for roughing the passer after grazing the face mask of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. The Patriots were able to continue the drive and score a touchdown.

The call looked all too familiar to Clay Matthews of the Green Bay Packers.  

"It's definitely unfortunate and one I can relate to and obviously one where I'm on the defender's side," Matthews told AOL.com on behalf of Verizon

"Especially in a game of that magnitude and that type of play, it looked as if the ref didn't even see it and just assumed – and that's when you get into a little bit of trouble."

Matthews, who was the subject of several controversial penalties at the beginning of the season, says he feels like the league has "overcorrected" with quarterback protection rules.

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Clay Matthews called for questionable penalty against Washington
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Clay Matthews called for questionable penalty against Washington
LANDOVER, MD - SEPTEMBER 23: Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith (11) is tackled by Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews (52) who was called for roughing the passer in the fourth quarter on September 23, 2018, at FedEx Field in Landover, MD. The Washington Redskins defeated the Green Bay Packers, 31-17. (Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Sep 23, 2018; Landover, MD, USA; Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews (52) sacks Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith (11) in the third quarter at FedEx Field. Matthews received a roughing the passer penalty on the play. The Redskins won 31-17. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 23, 2018; Landover, MD, USA; Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews (52) sacks Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith (11) in the third quarter at FedEx Field. Matthews received a roughing the passer penalty on the play. The Redskins won 31-17. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 23, 2018; Landover, MD, USA; Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews (52) sacks Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith (11) in the third quarter at FedEx Field. Matthews received a roughing the passer penalty on the play. The Redskins won 31-17. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
LANDOVER, MD - SEPTEMBER 23: Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews (52) reacts after being called for a personal foul roughing the passer on a sack of Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith (11) during third quarter action at FedEx Field. (Photo by Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post via Getty Images)
LANDOVER, MD - SEPTEMBER 23: Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews (52) and cornerback Jaire Alexander (23) reacts after Matthews was called for a roughing the passer penalty in the fourth quarter on September 23, 2018, at FedEx Field in Landover, MD. The Washington Redskins defeated the Green Bay Packers, 31-17. (Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
LANDOVER, MD - SEPTEMBER 23: Clay Matthews #52 of the Green Bay Packers reacts after being called for a penalty in the third quarter against the Washington Redskins at FedExField on September 23, 2018 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Sep 23, 2018; Landover, MD, USA; Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews (52) reacts after being called for a personal foul against the Washington Redskins during the second half at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
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"After last year, losing a number of quarterbacks to injuries, it degrades the game a little bit," he said. "But I feel like we've swung the pendulum in the other direction to the point where you can't touch a quarterback without getting a flag."

The NFL's overtime rules were also called into question after the Patriots defeated the Chiefs in sudden death without Kansas City's offense ever getting the ball – another contentious rule Matthews can relate to. 

"[The Packers] lost two playoff games in overtime and we didn't even have a chance to get the ball back," he said, citing college football's rules as a much more exciting (and fair) way to decide a game's winner. "I would love to see rules swing into the favor of letting both offenses have a chance to have the ball."

Over the 2018 offseason, the NFL changed several notable rules, including a clarification of what constitutes a completed catch, new kickoff rules and additional protections against helmet-to-helmet hits. Executives may be resistant to making additional game-altering modifications this offseason so soon after such a hefty overhaul – Matthews says the league tries to avoid going "overboard" with corrections every single year – but owners, coaches and players alike are already calling for change

"I think what you saw with that pass interference call is completely out of the norm of what's acceptable in regards to human error," Matthews said. "There could be another team playing in the Super Bowl right now because of one call."

There likely won't be any changing Super Bowl LIII at this point, much to the chagrin of New Orleans, but there's a chance that the heartbreaks felt by the Saints and Chiefs could come to alter the NFL as we know it. 

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