Bad roughing the passer call keeps 49ers-Seahawks from becoming a blowout

San Francisco 49ers v Seattle Seahawks
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The 49ers beat the Seahawks on Thursday night, nailing down the NFC West championship. At 21-13, it was closer than it should have been.

The dagger should have come with more than 12 minutes remaining in the third quarter. A pass from Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith was intercepted by 49ers defensive back Deommodore Lenoir. He returned it for a touchdown. The extra point would have made the score 28-3.

But there was a flag on the field. Referee Alex Kemp called roughing the passer, on 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa. It was as weak of a call as the one from Sunday night on Dolphins defensive end Jaelen Phillips. And the league has since admitted that the flag on Phillips was erroneous.

Amazon’s Kirk Herbstreit defended the call against Bosa. Rules analyst Terry McAulay didn’t chime in.

Regardless, and with all due respect to Herbstreit, it wasn’t roughing the passer.

But it was, because it was called. And, again, the problem comes from the rulebook, which mandates the throwing of a flag “when in doubt” as to whether roughing occurred.

So the points came off the board. The Seahawks kept the ball, and they ultimately turned what should have been a four-score game at that point into a one-score finish.

It’s another reason why these plays must be subject to replay review. Or, ideally, why the “when in doubt” language should be expunged from the rulebook.

The end result was a game that remained closer than it should have been, and that became closer as the second half played on. While the Seahawks could have roared back in any event, there’s a huge difference psychologically between 28-3 and 21-3.

The good news is that it ultimately didn’t affect the game. The better news (for the league) is that the game remained interesting far longer than it should have been.

Still, the rule needs to be addressed — before it mars the outcome of a playoff game or, even worse, a Super Bowl.

The league has acknowledged the fact that, in the offseason, potential changes will be discussed. Here’s hoping that’s just not idle talk aimed at getting past a short-term controversy while still clinging to a longer-term obsession with sacrificing the integrity of the game for ensuring that as many quarterbacks as possible remain healthy.

29 responses to “Bad roughing the passer call keeps 49ers-Seahawks from becoming a blowout

  1. Visa is literally tackling a player in possession of the ball. His hit on Smith is what forced the errant throw that became the interception. Sure, then Bosa completed his tackle but he also was quick to hop off rather than pound Smith and he did so as soon as he knew that Smith no longer possessed the football.

    In this case, Bosa was a football player making a football play. The NFL is in a play-calling mess that has become chronic. And everything they do just makes the mess worse.

  2. I could not agree with you more…when there are bogus calls, the integrity of the contest is challenged. Please spend the funds needed to have Full Time, Competent officials.

  3. I had turned off the game before this “phantom” call. However, I did see a play where Geno Smith was pushed out of bounds while running with the ball. However in my humble opinion, the defender went overboard with his take-out of smith out of bounds. The former official who was commenting stated that it wasn’t a penalty because the defender started the take down in bounds. If you watch the play closely there was no need for the SF player to knock Geno over to the degree he did out of bounds. It was an obvious penalty, he was too zealous and had time to ease up but chose not to. Imho, an obvious missed call.

  4. A joke of a call. Purdy once again showed he’s better than Mac Jones though.

    Patriots should have drafted Trey Lance.

  5. Absolute joke of a penalty call. Idk how that ref or crew keeps their jobs. And horrible lay down by the booth announcers to not even question it.

    NFL is so lame.

  6. Reviewing these calls is not the end all be all. These officials need to be held more accountable. Stopping this “you will be fined for criticism the refs” is a good first step

  7. Conspiracy theorists will say the call was made to keep a prime time game close. But the flag is thrown before it’s known that it will be even a pick let alone a pick-six. Keeping the audience might be why it wasn’t picked up, however.

  8. Some QB’s get erroneous roughing calls, and some do not get blatant ones. All the fans want is for refs to be consistent, and they are far from it.

  9. The Bosa hit wasn’t vicious, but it was, by the letter of the law, absolutely roughing the passer. He tackled Smith and landed fully on top of him with all his weight, without any bracing with his arms or trying to roll off. His next sack was picture-perfect for what the rules want you to do. Maybe we don’t want this hit to be illegal, but it wasn’t at all a questionable call. And Bosa proved he knows exactly what to do to avoid the penalty.

  10. Simple – a full 87% (!!) of public bets were on the 49ers against the spread. This means the league’s betting partners were on the hook for a LOT of money if the 49ers covered the 3.5 pt spread (they did anyway). These questionable calls are going the direction of the league’s betting partners 70+ percent of the time.

  11. The NFL is a big business, and it’s being financed to a large extent by sponsors. TV revenue pays the bills, and TV ratings determine how much money sponsors will pay for commercials. That’s simple. Blowouts kill TV ratings. That’s simple, too. I don’t think it can be made any more obvious. It really struck home last year when I realize just about every single playoff game was decided on the final play of the game. Coincidence? Nope. Smart business. It’s still entertaining, even when you know what’s going on. That’s why they refuse to have a modern replay system that gets every call right without delaying the game. That’s simple, too.

  12. You’re missing the point. The flag was thrown IN ORDER TO PREVENT a four score blowout and keep it a competitive game. I don’t think the NFL is trying to fix games, they are just trying to keep eyeballs fixed to televisions, and if that game gets to 28-3, everyone but 49ers fans is turning the game off. Period.

  13. That was even worse than the Miami call. He just tackled him. As Charles Barkley would say…Turrible, just Turrible!

  14. Clean, well-timed tackle by Bosa. I won’t even call it a hit. He tackled Geno. Absolute trash call to keep it close. 100%

  15. I’m the furthest thing from a 49ers fan you’ll find, but that was one of those “Huh?” flags. It’s my belief that there’s a “when in even a tiny amount of doubt and the flag could help keep the score tighter, DEFINITELY throw the flag” unwritten rule regarding judgment call flags. Consider how much the league is crowing about the number of one-score games, not to mention the new network carrying the Thursday night games and the league’s desire to make those more competitive. (Note: they generally haven’t been.)

    Of course, it could just be me and there’s no such unwritten rule. On the other hand, am I the only one who thinks that? It’s the fan complaints driving the possible rule change. I could also see the calls rarely being overturned, as with the pass interference reviews a few years ago because the officiating department got its nose out of joint about the change making them reviewable.

  16. Worse than the ref getting the call wrong was Herbstreit defending the call. The ref has to get it right in real time. The announcer gets to sit there and watch the replay over and over. Herbstreit’s defense of the call made him look afraid of running afoul of the NFL. He came off like a real bootlicker in that moment.

  17. I am becoming convinced these games are rigged to stay close. I was shocked they gave Purdy the first down with 2:16 left. I thought for sure they would make them punt just to increase the drama, but I guess the fact that McCallie called it a first down on TV forced their hand.

  18. Textbook tackle by Bosa. Considering that most QB’s are good athletes (some of them exceptional), it has become extremely difficult to take them down. I guess that the next step, to ‘protect QB’s’ would be to stop tackling them and apply flag-football rules? NFL is losing its way.

  19. I’m all for protecting the QB – without decent QBs, the NFL product suffers. But that was a terrible call.
    I’m with Bill Belichick – make EVERYTHING reviewable. Give teams 2 challenges and that’s it. Within 2 minutes, too. Add a runoff penalty or something if they lose it under 2 minutes (with concurrence from the opposing team, since teams could challenge just to lose AND get a runoff, hurting a comeback – thinking like BB there). This is getting ridiculous.

  20. One may also state that the 49ers (backup QB and all) should’ve blown the Seahawks out of the stadium well before that call. But, they didn’t. Refs have been missing calls for decades yet we still blame them for everything. I don’t care how egregious the miss, do your job and win the game. Because if you look at the tape, on the one 49ers TD half of the line was holding.

  21. Yes it was a textbook tackle for any player other than a QB. The rules are unfortunately different for QBs. The league is a joke!

  22. I jsut saw the replay of this and even my wife said textbook tackle. We cant have this in the NFL please fire these refs for gross incompetnece. It still called tackle football unless we just want to make ot flags and be done with any contact. Player safety of course.

  23. According to the rules, it is roughing the passer. You cannot tackle the quarterback slam him on the ground and have the full weight of your body land on top of him. That is the rule. You may say that it’s a bad rule, but the refs were calling the game according to the rule. There have been a number of quarterbacks who been injured severely being tackled this way after they threw the pass that is why they turned it into a roughing the passer rule. Just because you have a man crush on Kyle Shanahan, doesn’t mean that every call that goes against the 49ers is a bad call .

  24. Time to let QBs be football players again, or start stopping the play by calling the QB “in the grasp” so phantom penalties like this one can be avoided.

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