49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

September 25, 2007
Terrible towels; terrible calls

Would the 49ers have won Sunday's game if those bad calls hadn't occured? Maybe. Dunno. Probably not. Even if they had scored a touchdown on that fateful drive in the third quarter, they still would have been down by four points and their problems stopping Willie Parker probably would have been exacerbated in the fourth quarter. But it would have been a better game if they didn't have to compete against Parker, Ben Roethlisberger AND referee Gerry Austin. That's quite a triumvirate. To wit:

• On Allen Rossum's kickoff return for a touchdown, there is one blatant block in the back on Keith Lewis and another questionable one on Michael Robinson. Robinson especially was in position to make the tackle.

• On the very late illegal chuck call against Nate Clements, Clements definitely tangles with the receiver, but does so within 5 1/2 yards.

• On the non-intentional grounding call, Austin says that Ben Roethlisberger is out of the pocket when he throws. Out of the pocket? He was still between his guards.

And of course there's the biggy, the "incomplete" pass to Vernon Davis. Austin justified his ruling because Davis never had two feet down and never made a football move. After watching the play over and over (I've studied it more than the FBI did the Zapruder Film) it's clear to me that Davis did indeed have two feet down. And if being catapulted into the air by an NFL safety and crashing to the ground is not considered a "football move" I don't know what is. Davis landed with the ball firmly in his grasp. His elbow, forearm and hand all hit the ground and there was a moment in time - a beat, if you will - before the ball popped up.

Here's the clincher for me. If you go back and re-watch the entire game, there's a rather innocuous play in the second quarter in which Roethlisberger throws a short pass to Hines Ward. Just as the ball arrives, Ward is hit by Mark Roman and slammed to the ground at which point the ball immediately pops out. The official near the play then runs up to the spot and points to the ground, indicating that Ward caught the ball and that it was the ground that knocked it loose. How that completion is any different than the Davis incompletion I haven't a clue.

I thought the 49ers did a very good job roughing up the toughest receiver in the league. Ward was mostly a non-factor and was on crutches Monday with what Mike Tomlin described as a bone bruise.

Once again, I'm going to defend Alex Smith. The guy didn't get much time to throw and he certainly didn't get any help from his receiving crew, which dropped passes (Davis), ran lazy routes (Lelie) or ran the wrong route (Jacobs).

For some reason, the offensive line can't seem to handle stunts or delayed blitzes. It's hard to understand why. Aside from Joe Staley (and the line's struggles are by no means Staley's fault) this is a veteran group that has certainly had enough time to jell.

Why does the back of Michael Lewis' jersey say "Lewis"? Shouldn't it say "M.Lewis"?

-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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