By Jerry McDonald The Oakland Tribune
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — As they packed their belongings Monday, the 49ers weren’t inclined to throw a flag on the officials.
Officiating was a hot-button issue among 49ers fans after a 23-17 loss to the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship game Sunday at CenturyLink Field, but an afterthought in the day-after locker room.
“In games like that, you’re always going to think about the what-ifs, especially on questionable calls,” 49ers center Jonathan Goodwin said. “I could play it over in my head for the whole offseason but it’s not going to change anything, unfortunately.”
Three plays in particular went the way of the Seahawks:
—A running into the kicker penalty against Seattle’s Chris Maragos against the 49ers’ Andy Lee on a fourth-and-10 punt from the 20-yard line in the third quarter.
On the Fox broadcast, analyst and former director of officiating Mike Pereira said since Maragos hit Lee’s plant leg, it should have been roughing the kicker—which carries with it a 15-yard penalty and a first down instead of a 5-yard penalty.
The 49ers declined the penalty, and the Seahawks’ ensuing possessions resulted in the drive which ended in Russell Wilson’s 35-yard fourth-and-7 touchdown strike to Jermaine Kearse.
—A fumble by Kearse which replay showed appeared to be recovered by NaVorro Bowman. Replay, however, is not used in fumble recovery situations. Marshawn Lynch was credited with the recovery.
One play later, a bad exchange between Wilson and Lynch resulted in a 49ers fumble recovery at the 15-yard line, rendering the play moot and giving the 49ers significantly better field position.
—An unnecessary roughness call on 49ers safety Donte Whitner, who broke up a pass intended for tight end Luke Willson. Whitner’s shoulder—not his head—struck Willson’s head. The Seahawks ended up punting on the drive.
Lee, the victim of the call that had the most significant impact, said he wasn’t sure if the play was a penalty or not and didn’t know the interpretation of the rule.
When asked if it should have been a roughing penalty, with the additional 10 yards, Lee said, “From what I understand,” but wasn’t interested in elaborating, not wanting to use it as an excuse.
Tight end Vernon Davis has seen calls go both ways and considers it an unsolved mystery.
“A lot of people will say the officials were on their side,” Davis said. “Maybe they were. Maybe they weren’t. We will never know. Sometimes you have games where (you think) the officials are favoring the opposing team, sometimes they’re on your side. You never know. It’s a tight window to really figure it out.”
Whitner said he made the same play he has made all season and “wasn’t fined one dollar, so we’ve got to do something about this.”
Outside linebacker Aldon Smith felt the responsibility for the end result rested with the 49ers.
“I played in the game so I saw some of the officiating, but I’m not going to blame anybody for how the game turned out,” Smith said. “(The officials) couldn’t play the game. We played the game, so we put on us and the coaches, no blame. Two good teams played and there was a winner.”