As the 49ers tried to cling to and/or build upon a 10-point lead with less than 10 minutes to play, a big hit near the sideline could have changed the complexion of the game.
On a third and 14 scramble, Chiefs defensive back Rashad Fenton gave 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo a hard shove at the sideline. Garoppolo went flying to the ground well out of bounds, prompting an outcry from some on the San Francisco bench to call for a personal foul.
The FOX broadcast never showed a replay of the hit, opting instead to scrutinize a potential uncalled offside on the front end of the play, when defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon seemed to jump early. It was close on both ends of the play, but the offside would have given the 49ers a third and nine from their 39. A personal foul for unnecessary roughness would have given the 49ers a fresh set of downs from their own 49 — with roughly 9:45 to play.
The non-call on Fenton fell into the gulf of discretion that officials exercise routinely; if the flag had been thrown for the hard shove, the Chiefs would have complained, but it would have been in line with penalties called in other circumstances, especially given the modern sensitivity to protecting quarterbacks even when they become running backs.
The better approach is to treat quarterbacks who become running backs like running backs who are running backs; as long as the hit happens in bounds, it doesn’t matter if the hit sends the player flying hard into the ground on the other side of the white line. Still, in that instant, the judgment call (resulting in the non-call) helped lay the foundation for Kansas City’s offensive explosion.