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Published on 08/24/2011 at Wed Aug 24 16:15.
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One wonders if Steve Atwater could have functioned in today’s NFL at all.

Denver Broncos safety Rahim Moore has been fined $20,000 for his hit on Buffalo Bills WR Donald Jones Saturday, 9 News Denver reports. Moore, the Broncos’ second round draft choice, didn’t launch himself at the receiver, and he led with his shoulder as taught. But the collision was powerful, Jones was defenseless, and was shaken up on the play. Moore was flagged with a personal foul and penalized 15 yards for the tackle.

The issue here isn’t whether the NFL is getting soft, or whether we agree or disagree with the recent rule changes protecting players. Moore laid Jones out, but what about the tackle was inherently illegal? If Jones gets up without incident, is Moore still fined? Let’s go to the rulebook.

This is obviously a hot topic in NFL circles right now, so care must be taken to make sure we have all of the facts. There is no one single resource with this information we could find (even the Rulebook on is merely a “Digest” and didn’t offer much). But based on numerous articles we’ve found explaining these violations (here, here, here…), there are three main issues in play:

  • Whether Moore launched himself with both feet at a defenseless receiver.
  • Whether Moore led with his helmet or even lowered his head.
  • Whether initial contact was made with the receiver’s helmet/neck area.

Clearly Moore did not launch himself at Jones. And clearly Moore did not lead with his helmet. He even turned his body away from Jones during the hit. So was Jones’ head the first area hit?

We’ve looked at the video a dozen times, and we say no. We’ve even fast-tracked it to the best replay angles we can find for you to see if you agree. It’s clear to us Moore strikes Jones in the chest and shoulder pads, which causes Jones’ head to jolt and then make contact with Moore’s helmet and shoulder. Granted, this all happens in the span of less than a tenth of a second (it was a violent hit), but it was a clean hit nonetheless.

“I didn’t even know I was flagged until I ran to the sideline,” Moore said. “If it was the wrong thing to do, I apologize, but at the end of the day, I mean no harm to nobody.”

“I don’t think it was helmet to helmet, I’ll have to go back and view it,” head coach John Fox said following the game, “but either way, they viewed it as a penalty.”

Again, the NFL needs to clarify what is and isn’t an illegal hit. Players’ helmets are constantly making contact with other players after a tackle has begun — that’s why they wear helmets at all, isn’t it? Penalizing a big hit simply for the fact that it was a big hit is the exact direction football fans have been fearing the NFL has been heading: a soft one.

Again, we’re not debating whether the NFL is getting too soft. We’re debating whether Moore broke the rules as they are written now.

Our take: Moore hit Jones right in the numbers. Our take: if Jones gets right up, we doubt a flag is thrown or a fine levied. Our take: Moore should appeal this fine. Do you agree?

  • jdkchem

    Yes!  Good hit.  More of the same nonsense from the No Fun League.

  • Estes2SD

    I need to find a Moore Jersey for my 3 year old son.

  • Josh Temple

    The problem with this is that the NFL wants to instate a rule that it can't.  They want to take violent hits like this completely out of the game but it's a fundamental part of football.  Therefore we have a ton of borderline wishy washy rules setup around the issue that they point to creating circular logic.  The flag was going to be thrown on that play no matter what.  I watched it live, great play, I cheered, I knew the yellow was coming, I still booed.  

    How do you enforce a rule you can't put in place?  Make helmet to helmet illegal.  Anyone who has played football knows that helmets smack together when you make half of your tackles.  If that doesn't cover it, especially in this case, call it a defenseless receiver.  What defines a receiver as defenseless?  The NFL says that it's a receiver that is in the motion of catching a pass and can't protect himself.  That would be all good and fine, but they still levied a fine on John Lynch when he laid out Dallas Clark.  Clark took two steps after catching the pass (defined as a “football move”) and wasn't defenseless.  He should've been considered a ground runner at that point so helmet to helmet doesn't come into play by their rules.  Fine appealed, fine stands.   

    I still haven't seen an NFL official answer this simple question.  How does a DB make a play on the ball in that situation?  Under the current rules he can't.  He either can do what Moore did and place as clean a hit as possible on the receiver, it will still be nasty and violent and dislodge the ball.  Mission accomplished.  It's still against the rules according to the NFL because they are enforcing something that can't be written.  The only other option would be to completely force the receiver out of bounds.  Oh yeah, that's illegal as well and it still stands as a reception.

  • john

    There was nothing wrong with the hit. Keep doing it just the same way, the players know it's clean. This is how you get the reputation like the ravens, steelers, etc. Like we used to have.
    Pay the fine, take the 15 yards and ask for a raise every year.

  • John

    Good play – should definitely appeal.  Does the NFL want him to wait and see if the receiver caught the ball and then gently touch him with two hands?  Or we can have all players wear flags attached by velcro

  • Jc

    If you get fined and penalized everytime, there is something wrong with the hit because you are hurting your team.  Interesting how people who don't have to tae the hit encourage those to lay someone out who can't defend themselves.  How was 19 supposed to defend himself? I guess he could have not tried to catch the ball and just went man vs man onhe collision and see who got up.

  • Cougs_suck

    How about you complain to the QB that threw the ball that put him in that spot?  What is Moore supposed to do?  Let the guy catch the ball and THEN make the tackle?  Football is a violent sport if you don't wanna get hurt then don't play.

  • Dbaumga797

    This assumes we accept the “defenseless receiver” argument…which I don't. The WR's job is to catch the ball. The DB's job is to keep that from happening. The “rules” are stupid. These guys get paid a lot of money to play a violent sport (by design). I agree that Atwater couldn't play in today's league…he delivered many hits much harder than Moore's and was rewarded for it instead of fined.

    My answer to “how does he defend himself” is stay at home and watch it on T.V. There are plenty of other guys waiting in line behind him to take his spot.

  • Mountaindave

    I have no issue with taking a launched, helmet to helmet hit out of the game, but some kind of reason has to prevail here.  Sure, just going “head hunting” is dangerous and not very effective unless it results in taking the player out. That ought to be a violation.  However. as stated above, helmet to helmet happens all the time, contact in the chest with pads often brings the defenders helmet into contact with the offensive players chin or head.  Lower the target, and bring the hit as hard as you can. That  should not be a foul!  Throw arms, elbows or aim pads at the head, I am ok with a foul, but not a hard hit aimed at the shoulder pads that eventually ends up on the head. that cannot be helped, especially in the NFl where guys can physically tackle high and bring a guy down.  This is not high school ball and htese are not kids.

  • Kevboat64

    Bottom line, he leveled a defenseless receiver. I agree the NFL has way too much discretion to decide when to fine and when not to. Safety is top priority right now in NFL. You lay out a receiver with everything you've got on an overthrown ball and you are getting the flag and fine every time.

  • Mike Birtwistle

    Like Josh said above, great play but there was always going to be a fine and a flag involved.  I'd take it like I'd take a parking fine, you don't want to pay it but you're better off smiling and just getting on with life.

    I played Lacrosse when I was a teenager and we were getting taken to the cleaners by one guy who was running round everyone.  I got the opportunity to flatten him with a hit from behind.  I got a penalty and he got winded.  But after he got up he wasn't interested in playing anymore and disappeared completely from the game.

    So now that this hit is on tape it will be shown across the league, all of the Broncos opponents will see it.  I bet Darius Heyward-Bey and Jacoby Ford have seen it a few times already.  Maybe they'll think twice about going across the middle to catch a floated pass from whomever wins the Oakland Quarterback Lottery Competition this year.

  • DBinKC

    If the ball was overthrown I would agree with you.  If the ball had bounced off his hands and the hit came a step or two later I would agree with you.  If the receiver had caught the ball and the hit dislodged it, then it would have been ruled incomplete and no penalty would have been called.  On a bang bang play like that the WR is not yet defenseless he was in the act of catching a ball.

  • Colodevil

    Appeal the fine!!! Within 10 years it will be touch football. we will be watching SALLY BALL not football!

  • Colodevil

    Hey Kevboat Tennis is a good sport to watch if you like non-contact sports

  • TD30isMVP

    Problem was, he needed to hit lower.  I gotta tell you my biggest fear was going up for a ball and having somebody take my legs out, you are so top heavy with the shoulder pads and helmet…it just aint gonna end well either way.

  • TD30isMVP

    the ball hit both of his hands, so it was high but not overthrown, I would agree with you, but that was a catchable ball…the safety did his job.

  • herc_rock

    It was a catchable ball, but you right.  You hit a guy anywhere near his head and lay him out you're getting a fine.  Period.

  • Awsome246

    yea thats what i wanna see huge hits like that nice job moore we need more nast plays like that to get back to the oarnge crush days

  • herc_rock

    It was a catchable ball, but you right.  You hit a guy anywhere near his head and lay him out you're getting a fine.  Period.

  • Awsome246

    yea thats what i wanna see huge hits like that nice job moore we need more nast plays like that to get back to the oarnge crush days

  • Jon

    Waist. That’s where coaches teach you to tackle, too.