The Baltimore Ravens emerged victorious on Sunday in a hard-fought matchup against the San Francisco 49ers, and Niners cornerback Richard Sherman felt that challenge from beginning to end. He and the rest of the defense had an especially hard time managing Ravens QB Lamar Jackson.
Ravens head coach John Harbaugh wasn’t thrilled with how some of the 49ers defenders were tackling his multi-talented quarterback — specifically the Jimmie Ward hit on Jackson that happened at the sideline — and he let Sherman know about it on the sideline after that play. The two were jawing at each other and had to be separated, which isn’t something you expect to see from a head coach and a cornerback from the opposing team.
After the game, Sherman explained the spat, and why it’s actually the NFL’s fault.
“[Harbaugh] was saying like it was a dirty play on Lamar. The quarterback is running just like a running back, and if you don’t touch him, he runs up the sideline for 80 yards, and if you touch him, then everybody is throwing a hubbub like he wasn’t going to run it.
“That’s a thing where the league has got to clarify it. As a defensive player, you don’t want to hit the quarterback, you want to stay off him. But when a quarterback’s about to run, there’s a fine line to thinking he’s getting out and getting an extra 6 or 7 yards.”
Sherman made some very good points. He (and the vast majority of defensive players) doesn’t want to hit the quarterback, since that’s against the rules. But when the quarterback starts to run — especially at the sideline, where the QB could step out or try to gain more yardage — the rules should change.
The anger that Harbaugh had over what Sherman and his teammates were doing to Jackson is born from the murkiness in the rules. Sherman wants to do his job well and stay within those rules, but the NFL has to define them better for quarterbacks who could run or pass at any moment like Jackson.
Of course, the uncertainty in those rules is one of the reasons why a dual-threat quarterback like Jackson is so attractive to GMs and head coaches. He has the ability to make those split-second decisions and use his legs to gain yardage when other quarterbacks would just step out.
Despite the (real or perceived) roughness on Jackson, the Ravens got the win. The 49ers will have to figure out how to stop him if they happen to meet again in the Super Bowl, a matchup that should be the fervent wish of every fan who loves amazing, competitive football.
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