FLOWERY BRANCH -- Adrian Clayborn said Monday that when he was called for roughing the passer in Sunday night’s loss at New England to wipe out an interception by Robert Alford, officials told him it was because he hit quarterback Tom Brady high.
Two plays after the penalty, Brady threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Brandin Cooks and New England led 7-0 early in the second quarter. The Patriots went on to a 23-7 win in a rematch of Super Bowl LI.
“[The official] said it was high, but I don’t know,” said Clayborn, the defensive lineman. “I felt like it was shoulder-to-shoulder, but they’ve got to do their job and make the call. It is what it is.”
This was the second consecutive game in which the Falcons had an interception wiped out by a roughing the passer penalty. Against Miami on Oct. 15, defensive tackle Grady Jarrett was whistled after hitting Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler, whose pass was intercepted by linebacker Deion Jones.
Miami went on to score a touchdown and pull within 17-14 on the way to a 20-17 victory.
“Yeah, that sucked,” Clayborn said of his penalty canceling out an Atlanta takeaway. “It’s kind of like you let the defense down, you let the team down, so if I could take it back I would, but obviously I can’t.”
Falcons head coach Dan Quinn said coaching can reduce the likelihood of defenders making plays like those of Clayborn and Jarrett.
“There is [coaching], much like in baseball, we use the strike zone [to hit quarterbacks],” the coach said. “What we can do is make sure that’s a shoulder hit so there’s not a lowering of the helmet that an official could see as [hitting] a quarterback in a compromising position. [Clayborn’s] hustle and chase was on point, but I think if that’s a shoulder hit I don’t think that foul is called.
“We’re trying to be aggressive and getting the hits are clearly a part of what we want to do affecting the quarterback, but back-to-back weeks to have turnovers come back is clearly disappointing.”