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Packers-49ers rough play foul enforcement half a second from being right



Packers at 49ers (video)


Post updated to include pool report with referee Bill Leavy.

During a third-and-6 scramble by 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, a muddled enforcement where the difference was milliseconds wound up being a difference of four points. Packers linebacker Clay Matthews was flagged for a late hit on Kaepernick well after Kaepernick had stepped out of bounds. The two teams engaged in a small scuffle afterward, when the 49ers were hit with unnecessary roughness foul.

Because the Matthews foul was two steps after the ball was dead, the fouls were on the dead-ball side of the ledger, and the proper call is to offset the two fouls and the down counts. That would have given the 49ers a fourth down and a likely field goal situation.

Instead, Bill Leavy and the crew offset and replayed the down. The 49ers took another shot for the end zone, and they scored.

The change in enforcement is clearly defined, but a foul a half-second earlier would have a different enforcement. If the Matthews foul was a live-ball foul with Kaepernick in bounds (a different penalty, of course), and it is paired with the 49ers post-play foul as part of the continuing actions, then the fouls offset at the previous spot. Third down. Literally two steps made the difference on enforcement.

Leavy spoke to a pool reporter after the game.

Pool report interview with Bill Leavy

Q: What happened?

Leavy: On the play where the quarterback went out of bounds and was hit late out of bounds and then there was a subsequent hit by a San Francisco player. The down should have counted. The penalties were both dead ball, and they should have offset at the spot where the runner went out of bounds. And it would have been fourth down.

Q: So, it should have been 4th and 2, then?

Leavy: Correct.

Q: Instead of a replay of 3rd and 6?

Leavy: Correct.

Image: Fox Sports/NFL

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)