Corey Liuget hit Peyton Manning low with 1:44 remaining in the game as Manning completed a game-clinching 1st down conversion to Demaryius Thomas. The Denver Broncos have officially submitted the hit (shown above) to the NFL to investigate whether the hit was legal. This seems like a argue-for-the-quarterback-at-all-costs situation to me. Take a look: (sorry, NFL video will not allow me to embed the video)
No defensive player who has an unrestricted path to the quarterback may hit him flagrantly in the area of the knee(s) or below when approaching in any direction.
Liuget appears to be blocked by #66 Manny Ramirez before falling into Manning’s feet at the end of the play, which would make the play legal. If the NFL determines that the block impeded Liuget’s path to the quaterback, the hit would be legal. If the NFL determines that Liuget could have avoided the hit, he could face a fine.
The NFL protects its star players (read: quarterbacks) religiously so Liuget could face a penalty simply because Peyton Manning was the recipient of the play. I don’t see this resulting in anything more than a fine if the NFL does decide the hit was avoidable. Manning has had injury problems with his ankles all season so the fact that he came up limping should not factor into the NFL’s decision.
Hopefully the NFL will give Corey a break from their usual stance on hitting quarterbacks because we will definitely need him next week. He has probably been our most effective front-7 player this year and is leading the team in sacks (3, yes, our sack leader has only 3 sacks), and with a horrible defense, losing him for any amount of time would be crucial.
The NFL told Denver Post Reporter Mike Klis that the hit was in fact legal. Here is the explanation Klis received from the NFL:
The league says it was a legal hit because Corey Liuget initially made contact with his helmet to Peyton Manning’s thigh area. Liuget wrapped his arms below the knee, but it was the initial contact above the knee that made it legal.
Even though the hit seemed legal, this is a break for the Chargers. I would not have been surprised at at if the NFL sided with Peyton Manning and the Broncos because the league is so concerned with the “safety” of quarterbacks.