The Atlanta Falcon were winning the game in the third quarter of the Thursday night matchup againt the Carolina Panthers when two moves by two separate Falcons defender managed to injure Teddy Bridgewater and get one defensive lineman tossed from the game.
Late in the third quarter, Bridgewater dropped back to pass when Dante Fowler Jr. stuck out his leg while trying to get around a blocker. I’d expect Fowler to address that after the game, but watching a couple of replays it certainly looked like he was sticking his leg out on purpose. He got hit with a tripping call on the play, and whether it was purposeful or not it was obviously not a great move.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of it. While Bridgewater stumbled to the ground, Charles Harris made the fateful decision to go in for the hit. Again, it’s not clear whether Harris knew Bridgewater was already well on his way down when he made that decision, but he ended up crunching the quarterback’s head and neck on the play. Harris was immediately ejected from the game.
The Falcons held the Panthers to a field goal on the play and we’re hoping Bridgewater is okay, but it was an ugly sequence for a defense that needed a clean stop and wound up committing two egregious penalties on a single play. I’m not entirely sure Harris deserved to be ejected—I think he thought Bridgewater was going to keep going—but the league’s focus on protecting quarterbacks made it inevitable and Fowler got a justified call for the trip that set it up. He may be heading for a major fine after the league reviews that play this week.
Bridgewater did re-enter the game in the fourth quarter, thankfully.