There are a lot of Seahawk fans that remember (and probably a certain Cowboys player that doesn’t) one of the best NFL blocks of the season, delivered by Golden Tate. The Dallas player that took the hit was linebacker Sean Lee, who ended up hurt on the play. There was some debate in the commentary booth at the time on whether or not the block was legal, especially considering a flag went down around that time of the play.
It was correctly ruled a legal hit (as you can see the hit by Tate was directly to the chest of Lee and perfectly squared) and the flag was a separate issue, but there were several other types of hits like this that were a point of contention throughout the last several seasons. A rule has been added on “peel back” blocks to try and protect defenders that don’t see the hit coming. There were two rule changes passed to improve player safety yesterday, so here’s the excerpt from NFL.com:
"Teams will no longer be allowed to have more than six players on either side of the snapper at the snap of a point after or field goal attempt. This “overloading” one side strategy was deemed to be unsafe and unnecessary. You can no longer hit an offensive lineman low, and the snapper now is considered a defenseless player.This was a fairly simple fix. A slightly more complicated rule passed Tuesday banning “peel-back blocks,” making those low-blocks illegal even if they occur in the tackle box. This likely will be known as “The Brian Cushing rule” after the Houston Texans linebacker suffered a serious injury on a peel-back block in 2012."
Of course we’re focusing right here on the second rule and again, it’s a rule that I totally agree with. Another huge point to the rule that isn’t mentioned is that you cannot reverse field, (coming back to your own goal-line) to make a block below the waist outside the tackle box. Previously that was allowed and we all saw some really ugly looking plays that at the very least really put a defender in jeopardy of losing a knee cap last season. Going back to a previous rule in place, it is also not allowed to hit a player in this instance above the shoulders, just like a safety can not hit a receiver above the shoulders.
So would Golden Tate’s block now be flagged under the new rule provisions?
The answer is a resounding “NO”, it is still a legal hit. You can still throw a “peel back” or “crack back” block outside (or inside) of the tackle box, if the hit is square to the shoulder or chest of the defender, meaning you will still see big hits but they won’t often result in a potential season or even career threatening injury. Another move that is good for the game but still allows for football plays.