One season after the “Fail Mary” final act from the replacement officials tainted a regular-season game in Seattle, the much-heralded Gene Steratore all-star crew committed a colossal blunder — and replay review inexplicably wasn’t available to clean up their mess.
With the Seahawks facing third and goal from the 49ers’ 10 yard line in the fourth quarter, quarterback Russell Wilson threw a pass to Jermaine Kearse. He caught it, carried it toward the goal line, and fumbled it. 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman clearly recovered the ball while falling to the ground. Bowman somehow held onto it even as his leg being contorted unnaturally.
When Bowman was on the ground, he clearly had possession. A scrum then ensued, Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch somehow ended up with the ball, and the officials gave possession to Seattle.
As FOX rules analyst Mike Pereira pointed out during the game broadcast, the outcome isn’t reviewable. “Recovery of a loose ball that does not involve a boundary line or the end zone” falls within the scope of non-reviewable plays under Rule 15, Section 9, Article 5.
During the regular season, officials erroneously allowed the Jaguars to challenge a similar ruling.
But the football gods saved the NFL from an outcome that would have tainted the result. Seattle opted to go for the touchdown on fourth down, Wilson and Lynch couldn’t connect on a handoff, the 49ers recovered, and San Fran obtained the possession that they should have had.
The league should be happy about that. If the Seahawks had scored a touchdown, the dominant story line over the next few days would have been the failure of Steratore’s crew to realize that Bowman had the ball and was down and the inability of the replay rules to fix the situation.