During the Arizona Cardinals' Week 1 victory over the Carolina Panthers, Cam Newton had a record breaking performance with 422 yards passing -- the most ever by a quarterback in his debut. However, 41 of those yards came after a very questionable call. Cardinals cornerback Richard Marshall hit Newton late in the second quarter as he was throwing the football and was flagged for a roughing the passer call. The result of the play would have been an interception by Daryl Washington.
The Panthers scored two plays later to give the Panthers a seven-point lead.
The play at the time was considered questionable. Marshall didn't hit Newton after he threw the ball, he didn't hit him in the helmet and he led with his shoulder rather than his helmet. Some claimed that it had to have fallen under the "no-launching" rule. Even still, it caused a lot of controversy, especially with Cardinals fans. The call was voted by Cardinals fans as the "bonehead play of the game."
Marshall himself never got an explanation about the hit, but did get good news. He announced via his Twitter account that the NFL reviewed the play and ruled that the hit was legal and that he would not be fined.
This, of course is good news for him, but it doesn't change the fact that the call was wrong. If Marshall is not flagged, Newton's line is not so impressive. Instead of 422 yards, two TDs and a pick, it would have been 381 yards, one TD and two picks. It's a ton of yards, but more picks than touchdowns looks a lot more like Drew Bledsoe than Peyton Manning.
The NFL's crackdown on illegal hits is a good idea, especially considering how damaging head injuries can be. However, when the hits are legal, they certainly should not be flagged.
That flag changed the momentum of the ballgame. The Cardinals eventually pulled away, thanks to Kevin Kolb and Patrick Peterson, but had things gone the other way, the "exoneration" Marshall got would have only been insult to injury.
Thank goodness that didn't happen.