For seemingly every week this offseason, the NFL has in some shape or form admitted a mistake made during the Bengals' Wild Card loss to Pittsburgh.
Whether it's reducing Adam Jones' fine, admitting Joey Porter should not have been on the field or saying that Steelers receiver Martavis Bryant's amazing touchdown grab should not have counted (I actually thought it was pretty nice and should count just for the effort made), the NFL seems to be admitting more blown calls in that game than they have in any game last season.
Now, the NFL is changing the rule on illegal hits after the hit Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier put on Giovani Bernard in the Wild Card matchup; going forward, hits like that will be illegal. After initially ruling that Shazier's planting of the crown of his helmet into Bernard's jaw was within the rules, the NFL has now altered the rule so that hit will now be flagged for a 15-yard personal foul. Per the Cincinnati Enquirer, it was because Shazier and Bernard were moving at opposite angles within the field of play, that Shazier's hit was deemed within the rules.
NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino said the league is changing the interpretation of the rule to prevent these kind of concussing hits from happening.
"We look at that hit and it’s not a technique that we want in the game," Blandino told reporters at the NFL Owners Meetings, via My Dayton Daily News. "For the defensive player, it’s not about angles. It’s about lower the head and using the crown of the helmet. So outside the tackle box, that hit will become a foul. So forceful contact, clear crown, regardless of whether there’s angles involved for the defensive player."
Additionally, "the directions to our game officials was very specific in the three elements to that rule: you have to line up your opponent, lower the head, and use the crown of the helmet to make forceful contact. So it really had to be two players moving in the same direction. And, if there were angles involved it wasn't a foul," Blandino said, per the Enquirer.
Too bad it took Bernard lying on the field concussed for this rule to change. At least the NFL is now admitting the rule was flawed and is changing it to prevent these types of hits in the future.
"We still feel that the offensive player, the runner, in many instances is ducking to protect himself so we want to see that line up for the runner and that player who has maybe other options, rather than lining up his opponent," Blandino said. "But the defensive player, the direction to our game officials will be forceful contact, lowering the head, using the crown regardless of whether is an angle involved, it will be a foul."
The bad part about this rule initially was that grey area that allowed Shazier to not be penalized also led to Shawn Williams being penalized for a similar hit on Markus Wheaton. It seems a lot of these 'grey areas' really cost the Bengals in that playoff game.