GREEN BAY – On paper, and in live speed, Connor Cook’s third-and-five incompletion last Friday night in Oakland looked just like, well, a standard incompletion. At the 3-minute mark in the first quarter of the Raiders’ 13-6 preseason victory over the Green Bay Packers, the Raiders backup quarterback attempted to hit wide receiver Dwayne Harris but the ball fell to the turf, and the Raiders punted.
Statistically, it was one incompletion for Cook and a quarterback hit for Packers safety Kentrell Brice.
That was it.
Which is telling, because Brice drilled Cook in the midsection as he delivered the ball – likely forcing the incompletion. But play moved on. There was no flag. With a modified rule on the use of the helmet, along with an emphasis on not landing on a quarterback after he delivers the ball, the fact Brice was able to hit Cook square, and cleanly, might have been the biggest development on that play.
The Packers' coaching staff thought so.
“They kind of used it as an example, I would say, just because the flag wasn’t thrown or anything like that,” Brice said. “And I mean, if a flag was thrown, I couldn’t see why. It was a bang-bang play. I couldn’t let go or he would’ve still been standing up. You’ve got to play football at some point.”
Prior to the play, Brice came down from his safety spot and covered a receiver flexed to the defense’s left. As the snap, Brice looped inside and around two defensive linemen in a blitz defensive coordinator Mike Pettine will undoubtedly use again given the success he had.
Brice’s rush was perfectly timed and no one laid a finger on him.
“He (Pettine) always preaches don’t be surprised when you come free on a blitz,” Brice said. “I ran it like I was going to be there the whole time, that somebody can’t block me. I was able to get there and it was a blessing.”
Brice wasn’t the only Packers safety to deliver a clean shot on a Raiders quarterback last week. Raven Greene’s hit on a scrambling EJ Manuel was also allowed to play out, and the result was a forced fumble the Packers recovered.
Heading into Thursday’s preseason finale in Kansas City, the Packers have not been called for any penalties for use of the helmet, although each opponent they’ve faced has.
“It was good to be able to still hit people hard to make plays and be able to get away without getting a flag or worry about a fine,” Brice said. “We’re trying to make the plays where we can still be aggressive but not get fined.”