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49ers think they got a bad call on intentional grounding safety

San Francisco 49ers v St. Louis Rams

ST. LOUIS, MO - DECEMBER 2: Janoris Jenkins #21 of the St. Louis Rams pressures Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers into intentional grounding the ball for a safety at the Edward Jones Dome on December 2, 2012 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Rams beat the 49ers 16-13 in overtime. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

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One of the pivotal plays in a game the 49ers would go on to lose in overtime came when quarterback Colin Kaepernick was flagged for intentional grounding in the end zone, which by rule is a safety. But the 49ers think that safety was a bad call.

Kaepernick said after the game that he believes his pass reached the line of scrimmage, which would mean there would be no intentional grounding penalty. Referee Carl Cheffers, however, made the call in conjunction with the other officials, and they agreed that the ball didn’t get to the line of scrimmage.

He said it didn’t make it to the line of scrimmage,” Kaepernick said, via “I think it did.”

Many fans and members of the media agreed with Kaepernick, although Cheffers said after the game that he and his crew stood by the call.

“It was an intentional grounding,” Cheffers said. “The quarterback rolled out of the pocket and he needs one of two things: He either needs a receiver in the area or he needs to throw the ball beyond the line of scrimmage. The official on that side of the field came to me and reported that neither of those things took place. So we have intentional grounding. And because he threw the ball from the end zone, by rule, that penalty is enforced and the result of the enforcement is a safety, by rule.”

Cheffers also said he couldn’t have used instant replay to get another look.

“No aspect of that is reviewable,” Cheffers said. “The result of the play is not a scoring play, it’s a penalty enforcement that results in a score. There’s just no aspect of that play that, by rule, is challengeable.”

Whether the play was ruled correctly on the field or not, the NFL’s rule is dumb: If all scoring plays are supposed to be reviewable, and if the Rams scored two points on the play in question, why shouldn’t the referee be able to use instant replay to review whether those two points should have counted? The NFL would be wise to re-think that aspect of the instant replay rule, so that a review could be used to determine whether the ball really did reach the line of scrimmage.