The San Francisco 49ers 23-14 loss to the Arizona Cardinals was upsetting on a number of levels. One such level was the penalties handed out by the off officials. The 49ers had their share of stupid penalties, but they also found themselves in an uphill climb on questionable calls when they would hit quarterback Drew Stanton.
Midway through the third quarter, the 49ers led 14-13, and the Cardinals started a drive on their own 34 yard line. On the first play of the drive, Andre Ellington rushed for four yards. On the next two plays, the Cardinals gained 7 yards on a QB scramble, and a combined 30 yards on a pair of roughing penalties. On 2nd and 6, Drew Stanton scrambled for 7 yards, and an alleged late hit by Dan Skuta added 15 yards to the run. On the ensuing 1st and 10, Stanton fired an incomplete pass, but Patrick Willis was tagged for roughing the passer by using the crown of his helmet.
Dan Skuta hit (regular speed)
Dan Skuta hit (slow motion)
At regular speed (in fact, maybe even a little sped up), Skuta is making his move as Stanton is just beginning to slide. In the slow motion replay, he is starting to lower his shoulder just as or a fraction before Stanton is beginning to slide. Naturally, Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians was out to defend his quarterback:
Arians called 49ers LB Dan Skuta’s hit on QB Drew Stanton was "cheap shot....no doubt he was sliding. That could have ended his career."— Kent Somers (@kentsomers) September 22, 2014
And you know you have a problem when FOX officiating guru Mike Pereira thinks it is a bad call.
Patrick Willis hit
This Patrick Willis hit was penalized for Willis using the crown of his helmet as he hit Stanton. This isn't the greatest view, but it's the best option available from the FOX replays. As you can see, Willis is basically looking at Stanton's chest on the hit. The facemask of the helmet is not the crown of the helmet, in case you were wondering.
I am not at all surprised either play was called as they were. The NFL has swung wildly toward protecting players they deem to be "defenseless". NFL officials are going to err on the side of calling the penalty and being wrong, rather than missing it when they should have called it. I suppose NFL officiating is not a fan of Blackstone's formulation to let 10 guilty people escape, rather than let 1 innocent person suffer!
If the NFL actually cared about getting things right, this kind of thing would be reviewable. My suggestion has always been to make any penalty worth more than 10 yards reviewable. A turnover is reviewed because it can swing a game. A 15-yard personal foul penalty, or a spot of the foul pass interference call that results in a huge gain should be reviewable. If you do not give a team additional challenges, why not make more players reviewable? Because it might slow the game down a little? Considering the 49ers blow through challenges anyway, I don't think it is really that big an issue. But, the NFL really does not seem to care about getting it right, for some reason.
And so the 49ers are left facing a moving target. Their defensive players apparently are left to err on the side of caution, because the NFL wants more points on the board to keep fans interested. And the 49ers are not the only team that face this, but given that we focus our attention on them, of course we're going to point specifically to BS penalties against them.
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