Wait…What Happened? : Offsetting Dead Ball Fouls

football, advanced, packers, niners, refs

football, advanced, packers, niners, refs

We did a bunch of these posts last season, and I’m bringing them back again this season because I found them really helpful! I hope you do, too!

Each week, something weird happens in an NFL game. So each Tuesday, we’ll review what happened and break it down in Normal Girl terms. This time around the bend we’ll be talking about the snafu with the refs and the Packers over the weekend.

And it’s not even 2012!

Somehow, someway, the Packers always seem to be on the bad end of a bad call by an officiating crew – regular, replacement, the guy next door – doesn’t matter! These calls have a way of finding the Packers. It’s a hoot.

In this edition, the Packers had a hand in their own demise. Let’s recap the situation:

Packers linebacker Clay Matthews body slammed Niners QB Colin Kaepernick to the ground…out of bounds. That’s clearly going to draw a flag for unnecessary roughness. The unfortunate move by Matthews ignited the fury of Niners offensive lineman Joe Staley, who had a few choice words for Matthews on the sidelines (who, honestly, had it coming, and probably should have been flagged again rather than Staley). That was enough for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for the 49ers. Having two penalties of certain kinds (but not all kinds) can be like multiplying two negative numbers: they negate each other. It’s called having “offsetting penalties,” and that’s what happened on Sunday: Unnecessary Roughness (15 yards) x Unsportsmanlike Conduct (15 yards) = offsetting penalties.

So the refs replayed the down – meaning that everything was reset as it was before the penalties – the Niners were back at Green Bay’s 10-yard line, 3rd and 6. And Kaepernick proceeded to throw a 10-yarder to Anquan Boldin. Touchdown Niners.


Mike Pereira, ruler of all things officiating, commented during the game that offsetting penalties on dead ball fouls (penalties that occur when the ball is not in play) should result in a loss of down, not replaying the down. So because Kaepernick gained 4-yards before getting WWF’d by Matthews, it should have been 4th and 2 from the Green Bay 6-yard line. Which likely would have meant a field goal try for the Niners, not a touchdown attempt.

Head official Bill Leavy acknowledged the mistake after the game, and another acknowledgement from the NFL a year too late could also be forthcoming.

But, as noted above, the Packers had a hand in creating this situation. For one, the hit by Matthews never should have happened. They deserved to be penalized for that – even if it was by a bad call. Also, football is like life: you do your best with the hand you are dealt, whether it’s “fair” or not. The Packers defense was to blame for allowing the proceeding TD to Boldin, not the bad call. The kicker is that the play that caused all the hoopla never would have happened if Packers head coach Mike McCarthy had declined the penalty from the previous play (a 5-yard illegal formation call on the Niners). If he had, it would have forced the Niners into a 4th and 1 (the next down) rather than the 3rd and 6 (5-yard penalty, replay down).

Coach McCarthy was none too pleased with the prospect of discussing the aforementioned decision making sequence:

“We went for third-and-6. Obviously, the play went into another sequence of plays where there were two fouls called. I don’t really think that even factored in the game. So if that’s your criticism, then that’s fine.”

And really, the man’s got a point. Again: football is like life. The what-if’s will drive you crazy if you let them.

But really…what does a team have to do to get a good call around here?!

Author: Beka