Quick explanation of 49ers-Panthers 12-man on the field non-call

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sport

We take a look at the 49ers 12 men in the huddle non-call against the Panthers, and why it probably was fine not to be called. New to Niners Nation? Sign up here and join the discussion!

Shortly after the Carolina Panthers offense took the field to start the second half, former NFL official Mike Pereira raised an issue about the 49ers from the second quarter. Pereira works for FOX as an "expert" on referee matters, and provides analysis on the refs.

With 37 seconds left in the second quarter, the 49ers send Adam Snyder and Daniel Kilgore out to the field as extra blockers. The 49ers had a 1st and goal at the Panthers 1, and they went heavy to try and get Frank Gore in the end zone. He did not get in, and on the next play, Colin Kaepernick found Vernon Davis in the back of the end zone for the go-ahead score.

After the third quarter started, Mike Pereira pointed out that the 49ers had 12 men in the huddle when Snyder and Kilgore came onto the field. He said the 49ers should have been assessed a 5-yard penalty, thus making it 1st and goal at the 6-yard line.

It turns out Pereira likely was wrong. After the game, lead official Carl Cheffers talked to the media about the call.

"I saw the player (McDonald) come off, but I had not yet marked the ball ready for play, so that is why I did not call it as a foul. The ball was not in play, yet. That's why I didn't call the foul on the play."

I had James GIF something up from what the FOX broadcast showed after the half:


As we see here, Vance McDonald runs off the field when he realizes he's the extra man. Cheffers is in the white hat on the right side of the GIF. We see him raise his hand and then pull it down. The NFL rulebook states in Rule 5, Section 2, Article 1:

There can never be more than 11 players in the offensive huddle while the play clock is running.

When I first watched the GIF, I thought Cheffers' signal would indicate to start the play clock. If it was, then maybe he gave McDonald the benefit of the doubt on a close call. Or, the hand signal has nothing to do with the play clock, and the play clock had not begun. Whatever the case, no penalty was called.

NFL officiating can be incredibly inconsistent from week-to-week, and even from play-to-play in a single game. When the 49ers and Seahawks square off on Sunday, the officiating will be as important to watch as anything else. These are two incredibly physical teams, and we have had plenty of discussions about the Seahawks secondary. As we've heard over and over again, the Seahawks secondary is likely to test out their limits early and often. If the refs give them an inch, they'll look to take a mile. If that is the case, hopefully the 49ers respond in kind.

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