The game between the Eagles and the Bills on November 26, 2023 had some very physical moments. One of which involved Hasson Reddick breaking free and delivering a massive tackle on Josh Allen whereby he grabbed both the front and back of Allen and pulled him to the ground with enough force to tear the front of Allen's jersey. In an effort to avoid a sack, Allen threw the ball forwards and ended up being flagged for intentional grounding. (video of the play for however long it lasts)
Several news organizations have described this as a blatant missed call for a horse collar tackle and that included the announcers during the live broadcast as well as the rules analyst (I think it was Gene Steratore).
I had always understood a horse collar tackle to be grabbing the pads of someone by the rear and pulling them down. From my understanding of various takedowns, this can be a very dangerous way for someone to fall as it causes your knees to buckle and can cause you land on your coccyx with a lot of force.
The NFL rule book says (emphasis mine):
No player shall grab the inside collar of the back or the side of the shoulder pads or jersey, or grab the jersey at the name plate or above, and pull the runner toward the ground. This does not apply to a runner who is in the tackle box or to a quarterback who is in the pocket.
Note: It is not necessary for a player to pull the runner completely to the ground in order for the act to be illegal. If his knees are buckled by the action, it is a foul, even if the runner is not pulled completely to the ground.
My interpretation is that this was not a horse collar because:
- Allen was still in the pocket (he's not when it's in slow-mo, but initial contact has him in the pocket);
- While a grab did occur on the back of the collar, there was also a grab on the front of the collar, and it was the one in the front that caused the force to pull Allen down (as evidenced by the ripped jersey);
- Allen's knees did not really buckle at all by this motion by virtue of the fact that the manner he was brought down involved Reddick flinging him in a cartwheel motion to the ground.
Was this a correct no call by the officials?