Rookie defensive end KJ Henry of the Washington Commanders faced a difficult scenario in his NFL debut. With a free road to quarterback Mac Jones of the New England Patriots, he raced off the line and closed in on him. That was hardly the result Henry had hoped for, though. Jones did not seem to notice Henry’s presence as he scanned the field, not sensing the approaching pressure.
Henry persevered until he finally made contact with Jones, putting both arms around him to score his first NFL sack and forcing a fumble. For the young rookie, it seemed like a promising beginning. Henry was excited, but it didn’t last long because there was a yellow penalty flag on the field.
After getting the flag and making their decision, the referees called Henry for roughing the quarterback. Suddenly, his first sack and forced fumble were ruled ineffective, and the Patriots got an extra 15 yards and new down. For the rookie, this terrible turn of events served as a painful lesson and a sobering reminder of how brutal the NFL can be.
Henry is not the first defender to fall victim to a questionable roughing of the passer penalty. Even Dean Blandino, the NFL’s former vice president of officiating and Fox Sports’ lead rules analyst, expressed his disapproval during the broadcast, emphasizing that this was an especially bad call. Blandino, who typically refrains from criticizing officials, did not mince words on this occasion.
So, when contemplating what Henry could have done differently in that moment, the answer is clear—nothing. It was a call that defied logic and fairness. Perhaps Henry could seek solace in knowing that he’s not alone in this predicament. Atlanta Falcons defensive end Grady Jarrett had previously been penalized for a phantom roughing the passer penalty against former Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady. That controversial call significantly impacted the outcome of the game, and the Falcons ultimately lost.
In Washington’s case, the team managed to bounce back from the unfortunate penalty, staging a comeback with a 33-yard touchdown pass to Jahan Dotson in the third quarter. They eventually took the lead with a 30-yard field goal before the period ended, securing a 20-17 victory.
Sam Howell played a crucial role in the victory, completing 29 of 45 passes for 325 yards, along with a touchdown and an interception. Bijan Robinson contributed 63 rushing yards and a touchdown on 18 carries, while Terry McLaurin hauled in 73 yards on five catches.
On the Patriots’ side, Mac Jones went 24-of-44 for 220 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Rhamondre Stevenson had 87 rushing yards and a touchdown on nine carries, and Demario Douglas accumulated 55 yards on five receptions. The Patriots’ season record now stands at 2-7.