Dean Blandino, the NFL’s vice president of officiating, said referees got it wrong when the San Francisco 49ers were called for a crucial roughing-the-passer penalty against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.
San Francisco linebacker Nick Moody was called for the penalty on a third-down play in which he hit Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson as he was throwing an incomplete pass.
The penalty allowed the Seahawks to keep a pivotal drive alive and helped set up the their final touchdown in the 17-7 win. The 49ers (7-7) were officially eliminated from postseason contention for the first time in Jim Harbaugh’s four-year tenure.
Harbaugh was irate on the sidelines following the penalty.
“In looking at it, it was not (the correct call),” Blandino said Monday on the NFL Network. “The rule protects a passer from two types of hits: Hits to the head or neck, or hits with the crown or forehead, which is just below the crown part of the helmet, and that’s what the referee called.
“It’s close, but when you look at it on tape, (49ers linebacker Nick) Moody’s head is up, he hits with more of the side and the facemask to the body of the quarterback, and in our review, with the ability to look at it in slow motion, it’s not a foul.”
Blandino said that if head referee Ed Hochuli didn’t see the play clearly he shouldn’t have made the call.
“Certainly, if he doesn’t see the whole action, we don’t want him to throw the flag,” Blandino said. “Ed was getting into position and he saw him, or what he thought he saw ducking the head and making the contact, so he wouldn’t throw the flag if he didn’t see it, but it obviously happens quick, it’s full-speed, and he doesn’t have the benefit of the slow motion replays that we all do after the fact.”
The 49ers have been impacted in the recent past by other questionable calls at crucial times such as linebacker Ahmad Brooks being flagged for hitting New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees last season. Brooks was called for unnecessary roughness for a blow to the head and neck area of a quarterback. The Saints retained possession, drove for a game-tying field goal and, one series later, kicked a game-winning field goal as time expired.
And then there was the non-fumble/non-recovery by linebacker NaVarro Bowman in the NFC championship game loss to the Seahawks in January. The Bowman play resulted in replay rule change.
Under the new “NaVorro Bowman rule,” officials can now review the recovery of a loose ball in the field of play. In the NFC title game, under the new rule, the officials would have been able to use instant replay to see Bowman stripped the ball. The Seahawks went on to win 23-17 and advance to Super Bowl XLVIII.