The San Francisco 49ers lost a tough one to the New York Giants on Monday Night Football, but they had a shot in the closing seconds. After giving up a touchdown to fall behind 27-23, the 49ers took over at their own 25 yard line with 49 seconds on the clock. Nick Mullens drew a roughing the passer penalty on the first play to pick up 15 yards. He then completed a six-yard pass to Kendrick Bourne over the middle of the field. They hustled to the line, where Mullens spiked the ball to stop the clock with 34 seconds on the clock.
Unfortunately, Mike McGlinchey was over the line of scrimmage at the snap and flagged for false start. The 49ers used their final timeout rather than take a ten second runoff.
Except, as is often the case in the NFL, a referee appears to have made a bad call on the play.
Is this a necessary movement of the ball by the umpire? Under 40 seconds in the game. Spots ball, picks it up, shifts it back & RT is now past LOS. Penalty the 49ers their final timeout. pic.twitter.com/kydr9wNfOm— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) November 13, 2018
The referee makes a sizable move of the ball from where it was spotted. Warren Sharp slowed it down to show the difference from where the play ended and where the ball was moved by the ref.
Here’s some slow motion. The ball may have been spotted 1 foot too far, but he moves it back over 1 yard, spotting it well shorter of where it should have been, causing this penalty. pic.twitter.com/WxihsaZm2I— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) November 13, 2018
On Tuesday, head coach Kyle Shanahan said the team did not get any explanation on the move. Naturally he was frustrated by the play.
“Usually they spot the ball in the right spot and don’t change their mind right before the ball is snapped. I don’t know if there’s supposed to be a rule. I think you’ve just got to do it right the first time. But, yeah, if that’s going to happen, I think there should be something. But, you try to yell and get an answer in the heat of the battle while the time clock’s going, eventually you’ve got to call a play and move on with your life.”
An extra timeout wouldn’t have guaranteed anything the final 34 seconds of the game, but it wouldn’t have hurt! They spiked the ball with 18 seconds left after Trent Taylor caught 12-yard pass, and then again with one second left after Marquise Goodwin caught a 26-yard pass. The 49ers likely get at least one more play, and maybe another depending on what they draw up after the timeout.
At some point, I would like to hope the NFL eventually has chips to track the exact location of the football. In a hurry-up situation it would be a little more difficult to get things sorted correctly, but spot of the ball is one area where referee subjectivity could easily be overcome with some kind of computer chip option. Who knows if the 49ers end up winning the game with the extra timeout, but it would be nice for referees to be a little more on point with their work.