Pivotal misplay of the week? Definitely Clay Matthews’ flying neck tackle of Colin Kaepernick early in San Francisco’s eventual 34-28 win over Green Bay at Candlestick on Sunday. Not because of what Matthews did — but rather how the officials completely botched the penalties afterward.
Bad officials! Bad!
Despite Troy Aikman’s blithering in the video above, Matthews’ play where he launched himself at Kaepernick out of bounds was a pretty blatant cheap shot, meant to send a message by a guy who has built a reputation doing just that.
The 49ers scored a touchdown following offsetting penalties to take a 14-7 lead, no thanks to officials who botched the enforcement not once, but twice. Matthews got a flag for the hit, of course, but SF offensive lineman Joe Staley also drew one for getting in Mathews’ face and shoving him in retaliation … before more players from both teams got into the act.
But today the NFL said that the refs screwed up on two fronts. Staley should not have been flagged for the retaliation, said NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino. So the correct result should have been SF with a first-and-goal at the 3. Instead, officials ruled that the offsetting penalties meant the down should be replayed, making it third-and-six on the 10. (The 49ers then scored on a 10-yard TD pass from Kaepernick to Anquan Boldin).
But that was wrong also. Since both penalties occurred in a dead ball situation, the down should have counted.
In other words, a total cockup by the zebras.
But back to the original penalty. Niners coach Jim Harbaugh, who played for Bo Schembechler and probably spends vacations headbutting bison at Yellowstone, rather uncharacteristically called out Matthews on the hit, and the dustup with Staley. Harbaugh:
“That young man [Matthews] works very hard on being a tough guy. He’ll have some repairing to do on his image after that slap.
“I looked at it with my own eyes and I saw two punches thrown to Joe’s head. Well, one punch and one open slap. Which if you’re gonna go to the face, come with some knuckles, not an open slap.”
Harbaugh said he thought the play was “certainly a cheap shot”, and ESPN is reporting that Matthews faces a fine.
“Colin scrambles out of bounds, you get the personal foul play,” Harbaugh said. “You talk about launching, you talk about a clothesline to the neck area when our quarterback is 6-7 feet out of bounds.”
Oooh. That’s uncharacteristic because Harbaugh usually plays these things a lot closer to the vest. I’m sure he’s always thinking that certain opponents are girlie-men, but it’s rare that he comes out and says it.
Video of Harbaugh’s comments here.