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NFL now says Packers, not 49ers, benefitted from officials’ mistake

Green Bay Packers v San Francisco 49ers

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - SEPTEMBER 08: Clay Matthews #52 of the Green Bay Packers and Joe Staley #74 of the San Francisco 49ers gets into a fight after Matthews hit quarterback Colin Kaepernick #7 late out of bounds during the second quarter at Candlestick Park on September 8, 2013 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

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Referee Bill Leavy admitted after Sunday’s Packers-49ers game that his crew botched a call after Green Bay’s Clay Matthews and San Francisco’s Joe Staley both drew personal fouls, and that the officials’ mistake benefitted the 49ers.

But that’s not quite right.

The NFL now says it was the Packers, not the 49ers, who benefitted from the officials’ mistake on the play, because Staley shouldn’t have been flagged in the first place. The league office reviewed the play and determined that while Matthews was rightly called for a late hit on 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, the official who threw the flag on Staley for getting in Matthews’ face after running over to protect Kaepernick should not have done so.

In other words, if the entire play had been properly called, it would have been first-and-goal for the 49ers at the 3-yard line on the next play. Instead, the officials made it tougher for the 49ers by making them re-play third down after the offsetting penalties. The officials erred in their enforcement of the offsetting penalties, which appeared to benefit the 49ers, but in reality there never should have been offsetting penalties to enforce in the first place. Only the Packers should have been penalized.

Some may say it’s a moot point because the 49ers scored a touchdown on that third-down play anyway. But either way, the league has confirmed that this play was botched, in more ways than one. And because the 49ers scored a touchdown, the two wrongs equaled a right for San Francisco.