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Leavy’s 3rd & 6 should have been 4th & 2. Wait, make that 1st & goal



I’m sure referee Bill Leavy would just as soon have everyone stop discussing the play, but the league has made two separate statements regarding it, making the approved ruling look more like a Wikipedia entry.

The play in question was a double foul on the Packers and the 49ers. Leavy’s crew offset the two penalties, but replayed the down. When the two fouls are dead-ball fouls, the down counts. 

  • Vice president of officiating Dean Blandino said on NFL Network that he spoke to Leavy after the game, and Leavy realized the error a few plays later — too late to make a correction. The 49ers should have faced 4th and 2 instead of 3rd and 6 again.
  • Later in the day, Blandino was reported by to have found that the foul on 49ers lineman Joe Staley should not have been assessed. Therefore, only the Packers should have been penalized, making a 1st and goal situation for the 49ers.

I would assume that Blandino also spoke to the crew to get the full read on the play. By declaring the Staley foul incorrect solely based upon video evidence would ignore the totality of the foul. If, for instance, Staley was warned for earlier chippy play, then a flag may be warranted in this situation. Also, the network microphones are shut down on an out-of-bounds play to avoid picking up fleeting expletives, so we can’t evaluate if there were any verbal taunts in there.

I understand answers are sought immediately in our current rapid-reaction environment, but in this case, the league should have done the due diligence it expects of its crews. By announcing a verdict of the play and then amending it a few hours later gives the faint air of indecisiveness even at the officiating command center. 

Accountability and transparency are thoroughly welcomed by us, but a microwaved answer sometimes winds up being half cooked.

Ben Austro is the editor and founder of Football Zebras and the author of So You Think You Know Football?: The Armchair Ref's Guide to the Official Rules (on sale now)