Referee Jerome Boger said Atlanta Falcons defensive lineman Grady Jarrett “unnecessarily” threw Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady to the ground as part of his explanation for the roughing the passer call on a key third down late in the Bucs’ win Sunday.
The Falcons were down by six with 3 minutes, 3 seconds to play when they appeared to stop the Buccaneers at midfield on Jarrett’s third-down sack of Brady, but Boger threw a flag, allowing the drive to continue and Tampa Bay to run out the clock in its 21-15 win.
Jarrett had wrapped Brady up and then rolled to the ground, bringing the quarterback along with him.
“What I had was the defender grabbed the quarterback while he was still in the pocket and unnecessarily throwing him to the ground,” Boger said in a postgame pool report. “That is what I was making my decision based on.”
Boger said, “No, not necessarily,” when asked whether he was instructed to watch for takedowns of quarterbacks like Jarrett’s on Brady following the injury to Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa earlier this season.
Brady shrugged when he was asked about the call, saying, “I don’t throw flags,” while Jarrett declined to speak with reporters after the game, a rarity for one of the Falcons’ longest-tenured players.
Falcons coach Arthur Smith said he didn’t talk with the officials following the call but he was caught by television cameras on the sideline with an animated reaction. Asked whether he thought it was roughing the passer, Smith sidestepped the question.
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“I’m not going to get into that,” Smith said. “I haven’t seen the film, and I got to worry about how to coach that.”
Tampa Bay right tackle Tristan Wirfs joked about Brady’s age — he’s 45 — but said, “I think with Tom being who he is, he’s gonna get those calls more than not.”
Buccaneers coach Todd Bowles, however, said he didn’t think the call was made just because the quarterback in question was Brady.
“I saw that one being called. I saw it against Tua since he got it. I saw it in the London game this morning,” Bowles said. “So I think they’re starting to crack down on some of the things, slinging back, I don’t know. Right now, the way that they’re calling it, I think a lot of people would have gotten that call.”
Falcons outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter, who was facing Jarrett and Brady as the sack occurred, said, “It looked like football to me. It looked like football. We just played aggressive.”
The roughing the passer was one of six penalties against Atlanta on Sunday for 55 yards. Tampa Bay was flagged six times for 45 yards.
Earlier on the final drive, Falcons cornerback A.J. Terrell was flagged for a defensive holding call on wide receiver Mike Evans that negated another third-down stop. Terrell said he had made contact with Evans at the line.
“It’s something I can’t control with the call, but they just called it in a clutch situation,” Terrell said. “Trying to get off the field.”
Bowles said there was an understanding, with the attention on league safety, about how the game might be called.
“League safety is at an all-time high, as it should be,” Bowles said. “Anything close — we understand going into the ballgame, they’re going to call it.”
ESPN’s Jenna Laine contributed to this report.
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