Umpire Garth DeFelice (I believe that was his job tonight) made a momentum-changing call when he threw a flag on 49ers DE Justin Smith for unnecessary roughness. Smith was jawing with Chargers tight end Kris Wilson after the play and the referees got in between the two players to separate them. Thanks to the power of YouTube we've got the video of the sequence of events leading up to Justin Smith's ejection. (Video Link if embedded video isn't working)
On the one hand, Smith clearly puts his hand on the referee to push him out of the way. After the game Smith stated that even though he didn't see that it was a referee, he recognized that it was a black and white rule. Although the ref is in front of him, Smith does appear to be looking at Wilson and in the heat of the moment these things can happen. Matt Millen made a point that DeFelice is considered one of the tougher refs in the league (Millen's one useful comment all night), so it's not surprising the flag went up.
On the other hand, I've seen much worse shoving by players that has NOT resulted in a flag. When players are going at it in a scrum for a fumble we see players pushing and shoving and I've seen refs end up on their backside courtesy of a shove. In the heat of the moment, Justin Smith pushed a referee, but I don't understand why DeFelice couldn't have simply issued a warning. Instead he threw the flag and after the flag appears to be doing his own jawing at Smith. I suppose that's human nature, but if refs are supposed to be some kind of objective bystanders, I call BS on that as well.
Justin Smith spoke briefly with reporters after the game and indicated that he did understand the rule that if issued a flag for touching the ref he'd be ejected. However, when asked if he expected a fine and his thoughts on the nature of the play, he stated several times that, "It is what it is." Watching him say that you could tell he thought it was a bogus call without calling it that.
I bring all this up in part based on a previous Garth DeFelice moment. I don't know how many of you remember this play, but here's some video of DeFelice tackling Rams running back Kenneth Darby. (Video Link if embedded video isn't working)
Now I realize that sometimes a ref just reacts in the moment when a player is coming at him. I'm amazed more refs don't get laid out on plays across the middle of the field. At the same time, this play shows DeFelice dropping the Rams running back two seconds after he sees him coming in his direction. Instead of stepping out of the way in some form or fashion, he engages the player while the play is going on. I'm sure some will argue DeFelice couldn't get out of the way, but I just don't buy that.
These are two distinct plays and involve different results, but for me they show a referee who seems to have some problems when dealing with players in some form or fashion. It's entirely possible I'm over-reacting. It doesn't make me any less pissed off by what I view as a bogus overreaction to something that isn't exactly a rare occurrence in the NFL.
Fooch's Note: Site Decorum is ON for this thread. No swearing please. You can take that to the previous recap thread.