Brandon Meriweather: Does the Hit on Todd Heap Warrant a Suspension?

Doug GausepohlCorrespondent IOctober 19, 2010

FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 26:  Brandon Meriweather #31 of the New England Patriots looks on in the fourth quarter against the Buffalo Bills during on September 26, 2010 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The Patriots defeated the Bills 38-30.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

During Sunday afternoon's game between the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens, Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather sent tight end Todd Heap into a heap, literally.

The NFL has recently come out and said that there will be hefty suspensions and fines for "head shots."

Well, after seeing the video, it was certainly a head shot. Heap, the victim of the hit, told reporters it's "one of those hits that shouldn't happen."

While head shots are indeed dangerous, the accidental ones cannot be taken out of the game. It's just impossible at the speed the game is played. But purposeful head shots? They need to be sent to their much-warranted demise.

Which begs the question, was the hit accidental or on purpose? 

The video accompanying this article (thanks to YouTube user TonyL24x7) has several great angles at which to analyze this play.

First Angle: It's a live shot (0:03-0:08 on the YouTube video), and we see Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco throw the ball high, which forces Heap into the air, and into a vulnerable position with one defender on him and another (Meriweather) hot on his heels. From this first angle, it's difficult to see what happens. The camera follows the ball, not the hit, and from the distance the camera is from the playing field and the angle at which the hit was given, it looks like Meriweather and Heap kind of just scrape each other.

At this point, it looks harmless. In fact, it took me a few rewinds just to see the hit the first time.

Second Angle: This angle (starting at 0:38) gives us the view behind the quarterback.  We see Flacco throw, Heap attempt to catch, and this is where it looks scary. Todd Heap is at the climax of his leap, and from this angle Meriweather just looks like a tiger ready for the kill. He sends himself like a missile towards Heap's face, with the very top of Meriweather's helmet smashing right into Heap's facemask.

Now it looks like trouble. Meriweather wasn't trying to tackle Heap, he was trying to decapitate him.

I went back to the first angle to see what Meriweather's reaction was. He stands there and appears to point to himself. Whether that was a "that foul's on me" or a "Who? Me?" point, we'll probably never know.

Third Angle: This one gives us an overhead view of the play. Meriweather is on deep coverage and comes in when he sees Flacco trying to throw it in between Meriweather and the first defender. Meriweather assumes that Heap is going to catch the ball, so he hits him. The problem is that he leads with his head and his helmet, right into Heap's vulnerable head.

After the fourth angle, which is just a replay of the second, Meriweather is holding his arms up in disbelief, as if he didn't mean to do it. Head coach Bill Belichick doesn't seem to buy it, as he rolls his eyes and turns and faces the field.

The final angle (1:30) shows that Meriweather helmet makes contact with Heap's helmet, which drives Heap into Meriweather's elbow and eventually into the ground.

Verdict: It's difficult to say it doesn't look intentional.  According to the comments on the video, Meriweather was head-hunting earlier in the game, but wasn't able to connect. The second angle shows Meriweather waiting for Heap to turn around so he can deck him. 

I understand the game moves at a very fast pace, making it difficult to determine whether or not it was definitely on purpose, and Meriweather did a good job of trying to play the role of the guy that was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, but I'm not so sure that's legit.

The NFL has said "next time, we'll do something."  Well, instead of awaiting the inevitable next time, how about we punish Meriweather this time, so it's less likely to happen?