The NFL earns its “No Fun League” moniker sometimes. That was fully apparent this weekend when the refs threw a flag on Carolina Panthers wide receiver D.J. Moore for taking his helmet off after he scored what should have been the game-winning touchdown in the final moments of regulation against the Atlanta Falcons.
Moore hauled in a miraculous 62-yard touchdown catch with 12 seconds left in the game to tie the score and, for lack of a better term, blacked out with elation after the play — which included taking his helmet off, a penalty under the NFL’s current rules.
The 15-yard penalty made the ensuing extra point a bit more difficult for Panthers kicker Eddy Piñeiro and he missed, sending the game into overtime where the Panthers would lose, thanks in part to another Piñeiro missed kick.
Maybe it’s time for the NFL to take another look at that specific rule, or at least the penalty associated with it. The rules in football sometimes fail to grasp the emotional highs and lows that come with playing such an intensely physical game. To go from being on the brink of losing to scoring an improbable game-winning touchdown with seconds to go is in an intense emotional swing. One that just might make you throw your helmet in the air like Bobby Shmurda.
The NFL needs to do a better job of accounting for the possibilities of these moments and they should consider the fact that what D.J. Moore did wasn't a bad thing at all for the league. It adds a face and personality to someone who has their face sitting behind a helmet for the better part of three hours. Just being able to see Moore’s face adds a new level of familiarity for fans trying to get to know the players on the field. It allows viewers to experience that moment with Moore in real time because they can see how much he is being impacted in the moment.
The timing of this next example is a bit different because it happened on the legitimate final play of the game, but when Stefon Diggs threw his helmet off following his walk-off touchdown against the Saints in the 2017 playoffs, it immediately led to one of the more memorable sideline interviews that a player has done in recent years.
These moments are mostly good for the NFL. These guys aren’t crazed barbarians that are going to attack each other on sight. It’s a screenshot of an instance, something that reminds everyone why football is such a beautiful and fickle game, of why they should be tuning into the NFL every Sunday. A business that really cared about spreading the good word on why their product is fun and exciting wouldn’t penalize these moments. Let them ride out.
Sure, the easy answer here is that Moore should just follow the rules and keep his helmet on and make it an easier kick for the Panthers to win the game. It’s just not realistic to expect a human being to act 100% rationally in that exact scenario. Let the emotions play out, create an immersive experience for everyone involved and let these be the plays that tell the stories of the NFL. Besides, is a little WWE bad for what’s already a gladiator sport? Live a little, NFL.