The strategy of committing intentional penalties, such as the 49ers deployed two weeks ago, will be forbidden if a team does it multiple times, confirmed.

Greg Bedard of Sports Illustrated was first to report on Monday, citing a league source, that the NFL has instructed game officials to call a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct for a “palpably unfair act” and time would be put back on the clock if it happens more than once.

Four different 49ers defenders committed holding penalties two weeks ago against Saints receivers with :08 remaining in the first half with the New Orleans in possession at the 49ers’ 13-yard line.

Quarterback Drew Brees threw incomplete, and although the 49ers were flagged five yards for defensive holding, the Saints had no other option than to kick a short field goal.

“It’s situational football,” 49ers defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil said on Tuesday. “That’s a situation that might come up once every three years. For us, it’s happened twice already for us. You guys didn’t catch the first one. We train our guys and we work hard in those situations. You hope you don’t have to use them, but if they change the rules, then we’ll adjust.”

In Week 2, the 49ers’ defense faced a similar situation against the Carolina Panthers. With :11 remaining in the half, the Panthers had the ball at the San Francisco 21-yard line.


Linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong and defensive backs Tramaine Brock, Jimmie Ward and Keith Reaser each appeared to hold Panthers receivers. Cam Newton threw incomplete, and the officials ignored the obvious penalties and did not throw a flag. The Panthers settled for a 39-yard field goal.