In the age of hot shots and hyperbole, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and declare something is “the worst.” On Thursday night, many people were quick to point out that the Saints may have been hit with the worst penalty of the 2023 NFL season, and … actually, they may be right about this one.
During the third quarter of New Orleans ’27-17 loss to Dallas, Saints tight end Garrett Griffin was penalized for a blindside block while trying to protect quarterback Taysom Hill from Los Angeles’ defensive back. Cowboys, Jayron Kearse. Hill completed a pass to Deonte Harris for a first down, but the play was erased by the flag, pushing the Saints deep into their own territory. They hit the ball three plays later.
MORE: Playoffs update after the Cowboys win over the Saints
After 11-yard pass to Harris, penalty to Griffin for blind side blocking#Cowboys 13 #Saints 10 Q3 pic.twitter.com/mPN6xLp8Zd
– Sports 24/7 (@ Sports24x7_) December 3, 2023
So what does the NFL consider a blocking from the blind side? From the league’s rule book:
It is a foul if a player initiates a block when his path is towards or parallel to his own baseline and he makes forced contact with his opponent with his helmet, forearm or shoulder.
Note: It is not a foul for a blind side block if the forced contact occurs in “tight line play” before the ball leaves that area. The ball is not considered to have left that area if the player taking the snap, either from a shotgun position or from below the snap, retreats to the pocket immediately or with a slight delay and hands the ball to another player. , or run with the ball itself. This exception does not apply to any action other than a designed play. Any forced contact in “close line play” is still subject to crackback and peel back block restrictions.
Saints coach Sean Payton clearly disagreed with Griffin’s interpretation of the lock, as he could be seen during Fox’s broadcast yelling at anyone wearing stripes.
“That’s a terrible decision,” said Fox analyst Troy Aikman. “I don’t blame Sean Payton. Just one terrible phone call.”
After the game, Payton told reporters that he did not receive an explanation for the penalty, apparently dodging questions to avoid being fined.
“I’m not very familiar with that kind of blocking in that situation,” Payton said.
Unlike Payton, everyone in the NFL’s Twitterverse didn’t hold back. Several former NFL players criticized the umpire team, including veteran offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz, who said the blindside blocking penalty was “the worst decision I’ve ever seen.”
I watched this in real time and made a note that I might want to highlight this block tomorrow because it’s awesome.
– Geoff Schwartz (@geoffschwartz) December 3, 2023
DID THEY CALL THIS A BLINDSIDE BLOCK?!? My god 😂 pic.twitter.com/hogkx8ufig
– Will Blackmon 🍷 (@WillBlackmon) December 3, 2023
Glad to be retired, sorry to all of you guys
– Shawne Merriman (@shawnemerriman) December 3, 2023
Members of the media were equally taken aback by the call.
Of all the questionable calls of the entire season, that may be the worst of all.
– Rich Eisen (@richeisen) December 3, 2023
If Jayron Kearse was trying to avoid the blocker, by definition, it can’t be a block from the blind side.
– Jeff Howe (@jeffphowe) December 3, 2023
Look at how blindly this running back goes after the quarterback in the pocket, how could you imagine a blocker could show up? pic.twitter.com/wH94EC4mhz
– Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) December 3, 2023
The Saints lost about a quarter of a soccer field to a standard block that was called the “blind side.”
– Steve Palazzolo (@PFF_Steve) December 3, 2023
Again, the NFL recently redefined the “blind side” block to mean any block thrown with the blocker’s back facing the offense’s goal line. It doesn’t really mean “blind side” anymore.
Still, that wasn’t all for the Saints there. Horrible penalty.
– Gregg Bell (@gbellseattle) December 3, 2023
That whole trip went from bad to worse starting with the blind side blocking call
– Katherine Terrell (@Kat_Terrell) December 3, 2023
Blind side blocking when players look at each other hahaha
The only thing blind was the ref https://t.co/2yAyFmx7Wj pic.twitter.com/a7soQLx1kp
– Jonah Tuls (@JonahTulsNFL) December 3, 2023
Did the umpires want Griffin to let Taysom fly for the DB on that play? Like seriously, what do umpires want, man?
– Chris Rosvoglou (@RosvoglouReport) December 3, 2023
That penalty wasn’t the only reason the Saints lost: Hill threw four interceptions, including a six pick late in the fourth, but it certainly didn’t help their cause.