Wait…What Happened? : Offsetting Dead Ball Fouls

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?!

Preseason Lowdown : San Francisco 49ers

football, preseason, teams, niners

What’s the story? 

The 49ers were good in the first half of 2012. Then starting quarterback Alex Smith sat out for several weeks with a concussion, and the wonder that is current starting QB Colin Kaepernick hit the field with gusto, leading to an appearance in Super Bowl 47. Kaepernick would be the first to tell you not to count your chickens before they hatch – he still hasn’t even played a full season in the NFL yet – but with 9 Pro Bowlers on the roster and no slowing down in sight, it’s hard to imagine the Niners having anything but another competitive season.

Leader and commander:

Jim Harbaugh. He does things like this.

New kid on the block:

Wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who was acquired by the Niners in a fast and strange trade from the Ravens, and who didn’t deserve to be shipped out on a midnight trade to San Francisco. Boldin is an all-around class act as well as being a big-play making machine. He will undoubtedly make a huge impact in the passing game for San Francisco this year, especially with Michael Crabtree being out with a torn achilles.

Last year was…

…the year of (slightly) unexpected surprises: the breakout season of Colin Kaepernick and a trip to the Harbowl, Super Bowl 47. It’s not the same level of surprise if, say, the Jaguars shocked the world and made a Super Bowl run – the Niners were slated to be pretty good at the start of the season – but I don’t know that anyone saw Kaepernick and a near-win at Super Bowl 47 coming.

Survey says:

If the Niners can overcome the competition within their own division, they have a good chance to land right back where they ended last season, hopefully this time with a different outcome. (I would contest that the Packers present a challenge for the Niners to win the NFC title…but we all know how that transpired last season.) The bevy of talent and momentum in San Fran is good enough for the 2nd spot in ESPN’s preseason power rankings.

Divisional Breakdown : NFC West Teams

Hello, NFC West Teams! Today we’re going to visit with you.

The Arizona Cardinals

History: The Cardinals are the oldest existing team in the NFL. They were founded all the way back in 1898 in Chicago. They’ve since moved to St. Louis (1960) and Arizona (1988). For reasons known only to the NFL, they remained in the NFC East Division until 2002. The Cardinals most recent success came with their Super Bowl season in 2008, which they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Current Players to Know: Kevin Kolb/John Skelton at QB. Skelton won the position in training camp but was injured in the first game and Kolb has taken over to great success – a 3-0 start. Larry Fitzgerald is one of the best wide receivers in the history of the game; he can literally catch anything. Vonnie Holliday is a veteran defensive end.

Head Coach: Ken Whisenhunt

2011 Regular Season Record: 8-8

What to Watch For in 2012: The Arizona Cardinals are undefeated. And not by the grace of an easy schedule – they’ve beaten legit teams, the Patriots among them. And they don’t look like they’re about to slow down anytime soon. It will be interesting to see what happens when John Skelton is able to return from injury (any week now) – whether the Cards stick with Kolb or switch back to Skelton.

The San Francisco 49ers

History: The 49ers were founded in 1946. The name “49ers” came from those who flocked to California during the Gold Rush of 1849. They own the distinct privilege of winning every Super Bowl they’ve ever played in (five total). In the 80’s and 90’s they were a super power, home to iconic football figures Bill Walsh, Joe Montana, Steve Young, and Jerry Rice.

Current Players to Know: QB Alex Smith was the first player taken in the 2004 NFL Draft, but had yet to live up those expectations until the past two seasons under the mentoring of head coach Jim Harbaugh. Vernon Davis has also flourished under coach Harbaugh at tight end. Patrick Willis is a constant threat at Linebacker.

Head Coach: Jim Harbaugh

2011 Regular Season Record: 13-3

What to Watch For in 2012: The 49ers are good…a fact which, as a Packers fan, I know all too well. The 49ers beat the Packers decisively in the first week of the season. They trampled all over the Lions in Week 2, but were dealt a surprising loss by the Vikings last Sunday. Make no mistake, though – the 49ers are as good as they come, especially on defense.

The Seattle Seahawks

History: The Seahawks were founded in 1974 and played their first season in 1976. They were originally an NFC team, then became an AFC team in 1977, then switched back to the NFC in 2002. The Seahawks played in their first Super Bowl in 2005.

Current Players to Know: Russell Wilson is a surprise. He’s the shortest quarterback in the league (5’10”) and beat out the highly-sought-after free agent Matt Flynn for the starting job. Marshawn Lynch is a beast of a running back. Brandon Browner is troublesome at cornerback.

Head Coach: Pete Carroll

2011 Regular Season Record: 7-9

What to Watch For in 2012: The Seahawks just won a controversial game…which is a nice way of saying they were awarded a win for a game they had lost. But, controversial or not, the Seahawks are playing well this year, and they’re especially hard to beat at home. The continued development of Russell Wilson should be an asset for the Seahawks.

The St. Louis Rams

History: The Rams started out in Cleveland and lived there for about 10 years before moving to Los Angeles. They moved to St. Louis in 1995. In 1999 the Rams won the Super Bowl with “the Greatest Show on Turf” – a lethal combination of Hall of Fame talent: Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk, Isaac Bruce, and Tory Holt among them.

Current Players to Know: Quarterback Sam Bradford was the first pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. Steven Jackson could run through a brick wall…or ten. Danny Amendola is having a break-out year at wide receiver.

Head Coach: Jeff Fisher

2011 Regular Season Record: 2-14

What to Watch For in 2012: Coach Fisher had a long and successful tenure as the head coach of the Tennessee Titans. This is his first season with the Rams, and all signs point to him having a better season than last year’s 2-14 record. The Rams are definitely in a rebuilding phase, but with Coach Fisher at the helm, they’re likely to improve quickly.