By Eric D. Williams The News Tribune
MIAMI — Given a second chance, Earl Thomas said he’d do it the same way all over again.
Of course, he’s talking about the roughing the passer penalty in the fourth quarter that provided the Miami Dolphins new life, and was the most pivotal play in the game.
On first and goal from Seattle’s 7-yard line with 8:37 to play in the fourth quarter, Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill scrambled to his right and threw back against his body toward the middle of the field, attempting to force the ball to tight end Anthony Fasano into tight coverage.
Tannehill’s throw was an awful decision by the rookie quarterback, and Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner picked off what appeared to be his second interception of the day.
“Just a bad, bad play by me,” Tannehill said after the game. “The Good Lord was looking out for me.”
Thomas was flagged on the play for roughing the passer. While attempting to block the Tannehill pass, Thomas appeared to fall on top of the Miami rookie quarterback.
Mike Pereira, former director of NFL officials who now works for Fox Sports, said via twitter that he thought the call was “marginal at best but you error on the side of safety and he was hit in the head.”
And in a game of close plays, Thomas’ inability to defy the law of physics may have cost his team a win.
“I definitely felt like the ball was still in his hands,” Thomas said, when asked if he left the ground before or after Tannehill released the ball. “And I even tried to turn by body kind of over, not to even land on him. But when I’m going at my speed, I can’t just stop in mid air like magic. So it’s just definitely frustrating, and that definitely changed the game.
“We had an interception on that play. They definitely can’t slow the game like that for us, and take the game like that from us.”
After the penalty, the Dolphins got the ball first and goal at Seattle’s 3-yard line, and running back Daniel Thomas plunged over the goal line to tie the score at 14-all.
Thomas said he believes the officials had a direct affect on the outcome of the game.
However, both Thomas and Seattle head coach Pete Carroll also have to acknowledge that the play provides yet another example of some of the borderline, undisciplined plays that continue to cost Seattle games this season. The Seahawks were flagged 10 times for 59 yards, and are one of the most penalized teams in the league.
“It was a tough loss, but the refs definitely need to get out of the way when it’s a crucial situation like that,” Thomas said. “They control the game, and that was a great example right there.”
Carroll agreed with Thomas.
“He had to land somewhere,” Carroll said. “That’s a very, very big call. (That’s) a very big call to make when the guy wasn’t intending to hit the quarterback.”
Thomas said the roughing the passer call was a microcosm of how the contest was officiated overall.
“The whole game, it seemed like we weren’t getting a lot of calls our way,” Thomas said later. “The first play when Bobby Wagner got the interception, I blitzed. And I got mauled, with my jersey hanging off, but they don’t see that.”