Xtra Points: Don't pin Packer loss on officials

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Tim Seeman
Sunday, September 8, 2013

San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh overflows with bravado.

He paces the sideline during games with his heart on his sleeve, often looking for an official to berate. Every postgame handshake with an opposing coach turns into a showdown, sometimes ending with Harbaugh's counterpart chasing after him for a fight—though it should be said that Detroit's Jim Schwartz has his own brand of crazy.

Pertinent to what happened Sunday, another part of that bravado is Harbaugh's propensity to make unorthodox decisions most NFL coaches wouldn't even consider.

Let's get to the critical point in Sunday's game. You might remember Clay Matthews pouncing on Colin Kaepernick after the 49er quarterback already stepped out of bounds short of the first-down marker on 3rd and 6. The penalty for the late hit was flagged, which would've resulted in an automatic first down, but offensive lineman Joe Staley grabbed Matthews, voiced his displeasure with the hit and got flagged himself for unsportsmanlike conduct.

It was announced that the fouls offset and that no yardage penalty would be assessed either way. The teams replayed third down, and the 49ers scored on a touchdown pass from Kaepernick to the unstoppable Anquan Boldin.

Except, as everyone knows now, it shouldn't have been third down again. Since the fouls were after the conclusion of the original third-down play, the play should've counted and the next down should've been 4th and 2.

Conventional wisdom dictates a field goal try in such a situation, but as we know, there's nothing conventional about the way Harbaugh coaches a football game.

Who can say that Harbaugh, encouraged by the roaring crowd that just watched its team get into it with the opponents, wouldn't have thought, "You know what, we can pick this up!" And who's to say the 49ers wouldn't have gotten that first down and eventually scored that touchdown anyway?

Before Packer fans get to blaming the officiating, I would suggest looking first at the 400 yards passing Kaepernick put up and then at the two turnovers Green Bay committed, especially Eddie Lacy's fumble that led to another 49er touchdown.

Yes, it's unfortunate this group of referees made this mistake, but there were plenty of things the Packers could've done before and after that point that could've helped them win the game.

Alas, on to Washington.

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