Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco left Thursday night’s game against the Miami Dolphins in the second quarter after taking a vicious — and illegal — hit to the head by linebacker Kiko Alonso. He has been entered into the league’s concussion protocol.
As Flacco was running the ball for a first down. As he begin to slide, Alonso did not pull up, hitting the Flacco as his helmet came off on the hit.
The Ravens’ sideline erupted and several players from each team shoved one another in the wake of the play.
Ravens head coach John Harbaugh came onto the field yelling at Alonso, who was flagged 15 yards for unnecessary roughness.
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Flacco appeared woozy upon getting to his feet. He was immediately taken to the locker room and the Ravens announced that he was entered into the concussion protocol and would not return.
Ryan Mallett took over for Flacco and threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to tight end Ben Watson to put Baltimore ahead 20-0.
Flacco was in the midst of his best game of the season. He completed 10 of 15 passes for 101 yards and a touchdown before leaving the game.
NFL rules allow any player, including quarterbacks, to end a play without contact by declaring himself down. Thursday night, Flacco attempted to do so by sliding feet first. In those situations, according to the NFL rulebook, the ball is dead “the instant he touches the ground with anything other than his hands or feet.”
The rule instructs defenders to “treat a sliding runner as they would a runner who is down by contact” and “pull up when a runner begins a feet-first slide.” It allows flexibility for a defender who might not be able to avoid contact, but still prohibits the kind of contact Alonso initiated on Flacco.
“If a defender has already committed himself,” the rule states, “and the contact is unavoidable, it is not a foul unless the defender makes forcible contact into the head or neck area of the runner with the helmet, shoulder, or forearm, or commits some other act that is unnecessary roughness.”
That’s undoubtedly what referee John Parry saw when he penalized Alonso for unnecessary roughness. The rulebook provides referees with the option to eject players in situations where the contact is flagrant, but Parry elected not to. The NFL defines “flagrant” as “extremely objectionable, conspicuous, unnecessary, avoidable, or gratuitous.”