Lewis defends Bengals penalties, agrees with call on Browns’ Peppers

Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis on Monday defended a pair of plays that drew penalty flags in Sunday's 30-16 victory against Cleveland.

Lewis said the unnecessary roughness penalty against Vontaze Burfict was “a legal play.” And he on the Cethan Carter penalty that wiped out Adam Jones’ 55-yard punt return for a touchdown, Lewis said, “I don’t think it was a block in the back at all.”

The Burfict penalty was similar to the one in the preseason that drew a five-game suspension which was later reduced to three

On the fourth play of the game, Cleveland wide receiver Corey Coleman ran a drag route to the left as quarterback DeShone Kizer scrambled to the right, and Burfict knocked Coleman to the ground with forceful, but not violent, hit.

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Referee John Hussey said Burfict was penalized for “contact to a defenseless player.”

Lewis said that’s wrong because of where Coleman was, within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage, and how Burfict hit him.

“The guy is running at 4 (yards from the line of scrimmage), he sees Vontaze, alters to 3, Vontaze hits him with his shoulder on his shoulder, and that’s legal football,” Lewis said. “The quarterback is in the pocket. It’s unfortunate to have that penalty.”

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Burfict was fined $50,000 for his hit against Baltimore tight end Maxx Williams in the 2015 season finale. On that play, Williams was beyond 5 yards and on the other side of the field from where the ball went.

The preseason hit on Kansas City fullback Anthony Shermanthat drew the suspension also was within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage but came after Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith had thrown the ball and appeared to involve some helmet-to-helmet contact.

It was Burfict’s second unnecessary roughness penalty of the season. He also drew one two weeks ago at Tennessee and was ejected two plays later for making contact with an official. While both penalties are finable, the NFL did not fine for Burfict for either.

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If the league fines Burfict for Sunday’s hit, the minimum amount on the NFL fine schedule for a hit on a defenseless player is $24,309.

›› Running total of Vontaze Burfict fines

Lewis called the Carter penalty "a shame" because of how well the rookie tight end had played in the game, and because it cost Jones a touchdown the day after the birth of his son.

“Cethan was so productive throughout the day on special teams, and it’s a shame that that clouded it yesterday,” Lewis said. “You can’t put your hands on a guy’s back, which, in this case he didn’t.”

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As for the 15-yard penalty on Cleveland’s Jabrill Peppers that gave the Bengals a first down following an incompletion on third and 5 late in the fourth quarter, Lewis said that was the correct call.

And a sign of the times.

“My take on it is that there were still pictures of it that showed the helmet being hit — helmet-to-helmet — which is unfortunately the rule,” Lewis said. “It used to be a good football play, but it’s no longer a good football play. Jabrill has to come over and try to dislodge the ball from the receiver by keeping his hat out of it. That’s the way the rules are intended now. That’s part of playing defensive back in this era.”

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