As the AFC title game seems to entail the officials letting the defensive backs push and shove in the secondary and the Broncos receivers run what Shaun King has flagged on Pro Football Talk on NBCSN as illegal pick plays, the message to the 49ers receivers for the late game becomes even more clear.
If the Seattle secondary plans to go old school (as cornerback Richard Sherman recently has explained it) and manhandle the 49ers’ pass-catchers, the 49ers’ pass-catchers need to do some manhandling of their own.
That could be the only way to effectively counter the Seahawks’ apparent strategy of repeatedly committing fouls against receivers with the understanding that only a fraction ever will be called. With tough, physical guys like Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis along with a long-armed Michael Crabtree, the Niners need to push and shove and interfere and do whatever the Seahawks do, if it’s not going to be called.
That said, there’s a chance it will be called by referee Gene Steratore’s crew. The league seems to be focused on ensuring that the rubber match between Seattle and San Francisco won’t get out of hand the way last Sunday’s 49ers-Panthers game did.
But there’s a difference between post-whistle antics and things that happen during the play. Until the flags fly, the 49ers need to be ready to answer Seattle’s tactics with the exact same behavior.