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Clarifying illegal bat rule from 49ers-Seahawks blocked punt

The 49ers and Seahawks were involved in an odd play following a blocked punt. We break down the rule.

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

One of the big plays in the 49ers 19-17 win over the Seattle Seahawks was Kassim Osgood's blocked punt. The 49ers had backed the Seahawks into a 4th and 24 situation at their own 17. Osgood burst through the line and got a piece of the ball. The 49ers could only manage a field goal after the block, but given the final score, those three points were huge.

The blocked punt also featured a loophole in the rules. After the 49ers blocked the punt, Seahawks special teamer Chris Maragos swiped at the ball and knocked it 17 yards forward. The ball was about to go out of bounds, and Maragos batted it with his hand. The officials threw a flag for an "illegal bat", but the 49ers elected to decline the penalty.

The 49ers had two choices on the play. Had they accepted the penalty, the Seahawks would have been penalized ten yards, and given the opportunity to re-kick. In declining the penalty, the 49ers took over after where the ball went out of bounds, following the illegal bat.

It's an odd loophole that one would think the competition committee could close fairly easily. Why not make the penalty a loss of downs penalty? They don't even necessarily need to add on the penalty yards. Instead, they could make it a spot foul, with loss of down and the ball is spotted where the player swiped at it. I would have been happy with additional penalty yardage, but wouldn't a simple spot foul with loss of down be fine?

And for those wondering why Kassim Osgood was active over Quinton Patton, it's for plays like this. Osgood made a mistake in hitting Saints return man Darren Sproles after a fair catch, but for the most part, Osgood has been a key cog on special teams. He wasn't a high profile addition, but he's been a big addition to the team.