If you managed to look at the TV after jumping up and down in mass hysteria after San Francisco 49ers linebacker Dre Greenlaw nabbed the game-winning interception, you might have seen that the final play was not blown dead yet.
Greenlaw kept running up and down the field, not taking a knee or going out of bounds, trying to find a path to the endzone. As you may know, doing this can lead to a costly fumble when there is no need to advance the ball. There were less than 40 seconds to go, and the 49ers were up by 3. Even the Fox commentator Greg Olsen was yelling for him to go down.
So, what the hell was that?
It turns out Greenlaw was trying to get a pick-six. He followed the orders of his fellow linebacker Fred Warner, who was telling him to get the pick-six.
“Fred [Warner] told me I had to get a pick six,” Greenlaw said in his postgame press conference. “So it’s kind of his fault. He told me I had to get one, so I was trying to get one every time I had the ball. But yeah, I know I need to go down.”
Well, that raises more questions than answers. Greenlaw knows you’re supposed to go down there, but why is Fred Warner ordering him to get a pick-six with 36 seconds left?
Later on, during his availability, Warner talked about how he thought the whole game was over the moment Greenlaw came up with the ball. First, he’s looking to the crowd to symbolize victory, then he’s looking over to see the play is still live, and Greenlaw is dashing around.
“I went up to him [Greenlaw] afterward,” Warner said. “I’m like, ‘Why didn’t you go down?’
“He’s like, ‘I wanted a pick-six like we talked about.’”
Like they talked about.
At this point, the whole play is just another lucky bit of weirdness at the end of the game. I can’t help but be reminded of a 2010 game against the Atlanta Falcons where the 49ers were ahead by one point, and 49ers cornerback Nate Clements intercepted Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. Clements takes off down the field, and Falcons wide receiver Roddy White is darting right behind him.
Had Clements gone down, the game could have been put out of reach by killing the clock. Instead, White caught up to him and knocked the ball out, and the Falcons had another shot at victory. They’d wind up kicking a field goal to end it.
Thank goodness THAT didn’t happen. Many are wondering if the 49ers should just have an axe guy to tackle Greenlaw should he do it again (he’s done this dance of interceptions before); my counter is, what happens if he’s tackled by a 49er and fumbles the ball that way? Then what happens?
The 49ers beat the Green Bay Packers 24-21 in a game that has raised loads of questions. One of the more important, what the heck was Greenlaw thinking, has been answered.
But really, winning 31-21 rather than 24-21 only helps those who bet on the 49ers (at least those who bet the 9.5 points). It doesn’t erase all the other concerns brought up during that game.