San Francisco linebacker NaVorro Bowman made one of the toughest football plays you’ll ever see on Sunday, stripping Seattle receiver Jermaine Kearse of the ball and holding onto it even as Bowman’s knee blew out in gruesome fashion. And the whole thing was for naught, as the officials inexplicably ruled that it was Seattle’s ball, and the NFL rules prevented the referee from looking at the instant replays that showed indisputably that the officials got it wrong.
After the game, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said he didn’t have much of an explanation for why the NFL’s rules don’t allow a play like that to be reviewed. Harbaugh said he talked to the officials about it but was told nothing could be done.
“They said I could not challenge it,” Harbaugh said. “That’s just the rule, they said. Just a loophole in the rule. Once they rule a fumble, and it’s in the field of play, and the ball is ruled recovered by the Seahawks, then it couldn’t be reviewed by me. I asked, ‘What happens if I do challenge it?’ He said, ‘You’ll lose a timeout and we won’t review it.’ They said they would not review the play.”
It’s a ridiculous rule, and one the Competition Committee should address. If there’s a replay angle that clearly shows that the officials awarded possession of the ball to the wrong team, that should be reviewable. If it’s not, what’s the point of having instant replay at all?