The Los Angeles Rams arguably received the break of the NFL postseason on a controversial hit from Eric Weddle during their wild 30-27 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. Holding on to a 27-13 lead in the fourth quarter and facing a fourth-and-14 at the Rams’ 36-yard line, Tom Brady threw an incomplete pass to Mike Evans that resulted in a turnover on downs.
But Rams safety Eric Weddle was flagged for a late hit on Evans that appeared to give the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a first down, but here’s the catch. Weddle hit Evans after the ball hit the ground, meaning it was a dead-ball foul for unnecessary roughness and the penalty was enforced between downs. Instead of the Buccaneers getting 15 yards and an automatic first down at the Rams’ 21-yard line, Los Angeles maintained possession. The Rams were penalized 15 yards and started the next possession at their own 21-yard line instead of at their own 36.
The officials ruled the illegal hit on Weddle as a post-possession penalty, which ended up being a huge break for the Rams early in the fourth quarter of a 27-13 game. In a pool report provided by the Buccaneers, referee Shawn Hochuli went straight by the book when explaining why the call was made.
“By rule, in a defenseless receiver hit like that, we treat it as a post-possession foul,” Hochuli said. “It’s a dead-ball foul and it’s enforced from the succeeding spot.”
The NFL may change the rule in the offseason to eliminate another circumstance where a defenseless receiver can get hit after the play, but Weddle and the Rams caught a break on that penalty.