What was KJ Henry supposed to do differently?
The Washington Commanders rookie defensive end came off the line completely clean and had New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones squarely in his sights. Jones didn't feel Henry at all and continued scanning the field.
Henry locked in on his target, got both arms around Jones and not only recorded his first sack, but he tallied his first forced fumble, too.
Except, Henry didn't. A yellow piece of laundry sat on the field.
When the referees picked it up and provided the call, they announced a roughing the passer penalty on Henry. So no sack, no fumble and the Patriots were given 15 free yards and a fresh set of downs.
This was flagged for roughing the passer pic.twitter.com/T7d76u5vgJ
— Ben Brown 🌻 (@BenBrownPL) November 5, 2023
Welcome to the NFL, rookie. These are the hard knocks.
Henry is only the latest defender called for a non-existent roughing penalty. Dean Blandino, the NFL's former vice president of officiating, and Fox Sports' lead rules analyst, said during the broadcast that it was a bad call.
Generally, Blandino makes a point to not criticize refs in his analysis, but this was so egregious that he didn't mince words and called a spade a spade.
To answer the initial question about what Henry could've done differently, nothing. Maybe he can call Atlanta Falcons defensive end Grady Jarrett for advice. Jarrett was notoriously called for a phantom roughing the passer penalty against former Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady.
That penalty came with the Falcons trying to orchestrate a comeback that was spoiled by the call. In both situations, the team penalized was hurt beyond just that moment. Atlanta ended up losing the game, and the Patriots' drive ended in a field goal that gave them a 17-10 lead out of the half.
Washington, though, played its way back into the contest with a 33-yard touchdown pass to Jahan Dotson midway through the third quarter and then took the lead with a 30-yard field goal before the period ended. That was enough to push the Commanders to the 20-17 win.
Sam Howell went 29-of-45 for 325 yards with a touchdown and an interception for Washington, and Bijan Robinson had 63 rushing yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. Terry McLaurin had 73 yards on five catches.
Jones went 24-of-44 for 220 yards with a touchdown and an interception for the Patriots. Rhamondre Stevenson had 87 yards and a touchdown on nine carries, and Demario Douglas had 55 yards on five catches. The Patriots are now 2-7 on the season.